A student of Paul Siegel, who uses Essentials of Human Communication at the University of Hartford, found an error in one of my key word quizzes. It occurs on page 135: b should be 8 and f should be 3--I had them reversed in the answer key. I thank Paul and his student and apologize to all for this. It should not have happened and won't again.
Here is a revision of a little quiz to introduce the topic of height in a nonverbal or other communication class. It contains both historical and contemporary personalities and should play well in the classroom.
Try estimating the heights of the following famous people whom you’ve probably read about or heard about (but probably not seen in person) by circling the guessed height. In each of these examples, one of the heights given is correct.
1. Baby Face Nelson (bank robber and murderer in the 1930s): 5ʹ5ʺ, 5ʹ11ʺ, 6ʹ2ʺ
2. Ludwig Van Beethoven (influential German composer): 5’6”, 6’0”, 6’5”
3. Kim Kardashian (media personality): 5’2”, 5’5”, 5’8”
4. Buckminster Fuller (scientist, credited with inventing the geodesic dome): 5’2”, 5’10”, 6’3”
5. Bruno Mars (singer): 5’5”, 5’8”, 5’10”
6. Mahatma Gandhi (Indian political leader whose civil disobedience led to India’s independence from British rule): 5’3”, 5’8”, 6’0”
7. Jada Pinkett Smith (actor): 5’0”, 5’6”, 5’9”
8. Joan of Arc (military leader, burned for heresy at age 19, and declared a saint) 4’11, 5’4”, 5’10”
9. T. E. Lawrence of Arabia (adventurer and British army officer) 5’5”, 6’0”, 6’5”
10. Salma Hayek (actor): 5’2”, 5’5”, 5’8”.
This exercise was designed to see if you would overestimate the heights of a number of these people. Fame seems to be associated with height, and so most people would think these people were/are taller than they really were/are. The specific heights for all are the shortest heights given above: Baby Face Nelson, 5¢5ʺ; Ludwig Van Beethoven, 5¢6ʺ; Kim Kardashian, 5’2”; Buckminister Fuller, 5¢2ʺ; Bruno Mars, 5’5”; Mahatma Gandhi, 5¢3ʺ; Jada Pinkett Smith, 5’0”; Joan of Arc, 4¢11ʺ; T. E. Lawrence, 5¢5ʺ; and Salma Hayek, 5¢2ʺ.
I wrote this little piece to respond to some concerns voiced on the Basic Course List and I thought it might be relevant more generally.
The recent posts about increasing class size and the new student learning objectives/outcomes are alarming. And, as the economic pressure on colleges continues, it only looks like it’s going to get worse. Now may be the time to reconsider and reconceptualize the basic course.
Traditionally, the basic course in communication has been a course designed to teach the skills of public speaking. Then in the early 70’s courses in interpersonal communication were developed, again to teach basic skills. For those who wanted a broader spectrum of skills, there was the hybrid course, designed to teach the skills of interpersonal communication, interviewing, small group and leadership, and public speaking—with varied emphases.
These skills courses are most departments’ “bread and butter.” Consequently, it’s not an easy sell to argue against courses that at least in many instances sustain a department by supporting additional, more advanced, courses and, in many ways, make a graduate program possible by providing teaching assistantships.
But, there are several built-in difficulties with the basic skills-focused course and this has subjected communication departments to problems and criticism from a number of sides.
One of the most difficult of all conversational tasks is to ask someone for a favor. Of course, it depends on the favor and on the relationship you have with the person from whom you want the favor. If it’s a close friend and the favor is relatively easy to perform, there is little difficulty and little conversational awkwardness. If the favor is to a superior, say a work supervisor, and the favor one that would be difficult or time-consuming to perform, there would be much difficulty and much conversational awkwardness. Asking a total stranger poses still other problems.
Yet, despite these many differences, some general suggestions may be offered. So, how do you ask for a favor? Here are a few steps:
First and foremost, select an appropriate communication context. Consider the time, place, and medium of communication—at the very least. Is this the appropriate time? Is this the appropriate place? Is this the most appropriate channel (email, Facebook, Phone call, Face to face)? Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Second, give appropriate feedforward. Tell the person you need to ask a favor. Avoid overly long feedforwards where you talk all around the intended favor but take too long to get to the point. Don’t procrastinate.
Ask the favor. Be honest about what you’re asking. Avoid the annoying ploy of asking for a small favor and then when that is granted ask for a somewhat larger one: for example, asking for a loan of $20, getting it, and then before you leave, asking if another $20 would be possible. This may actually be effective in getting you $40—perhaps even more effective than asking for the $40 right at the start. Yet, it seems a bit sneaky and underhanded and is not likely to work a second time.
Some writers would argue that somewhere along the process of favor asking, you compliment the potential favor-giver. Again, this is likely to prove effective. People respond very favorably to flattery, even when that flattery is perceived to be strategically motivated—in this case to get the favor. And yet, this strategy too seems a bit less than totally ethical. A related strategy is to touch the person gently on the arm. This gesture is also a compliment but one that communicates a closeness, a connection.
Give some reason for why you need the favor. This strategy works; people are more apt to comply with a favor request if they are given some reason for it. Studies have even shown that they will comply if the request is prefaced by a reason that doesn’t make sense. For example, in one study a confederate of the researcher broke into a line of people who were waiting to photocopy various items. The confederate was offered less resistance when the request was phrased something like: Can I get ahead; I have to photocopy something than when no reason was offered—even, as in this case, when the reason wasn’t really a reason.
Provide an easy exit; make it easy for the person to refuse. This suggestion is the polite way to go. It enables the person to save what is called negative face—the need to be autonomous, to have the right to do as one wishes, to not be forced into anything. However, it may well be ineffective. In fact, it’s likely to hinder your getting the favor. Yet, it seems the ethical way to go.
The other half of this equation is responding to favors, also an often difficult task.
If the request is refused, accept the refusal graciously or as graciously as you can. In some cases, repeating your urgent need for this request may actually prove effective. Often, however, it damages the relationship—making one person feel guilty and the other rejected.
If the favor is granted, express thanks both verbally and nonverbally. Say something like “I really appreciate this” or simply “thank you,” smile, allow your face to express your satisfaction, and perhaps shake hands, hug, or kiss—depending on the request and your relationship.
In addition to expressing thanks you might also explain how this is going to help you. Something simple is best: This will save me paying a large penalty or Now I’ll be able to buy that text.
If appropriate—as in the loan of money—a promise to pay it back should accompany the acceptance. It should also accompany the request, of course. If the favor is not one that involves a clear repayment, then offer to do the same on another occasion or in some way show that you are prepared and willing to reciprocate.
Express thanks again. A simple “thank you” is often sufficient and ends on a positive note.
Get Ready to Study Interpersonal Communication
This post is designed for users of my Interpersonal Communication Book but the idea can easily be adapted to any text you might be using.
To explain: In revising my Interpersonal Communication Book, I developed an introductory feature that opens the discussion of the chapter by asking students to consider a how the contents of the chapter relate to their own experiences. Pearson—the publisher—thought this feature would interfere with the learning objectives—that the student would be confused between these items and the learning objectives. At any rate, I eliminated the feature from the text—maybe it would have been too much introductory material, though I doubt that any college student would be confused between these questions and the learning objectives. Yet, I still think this is an excellent way to open the discussions for each of the various chapters.
These “Get Ready” items follow the revised edition which is currently in production—we used to say “in press” but there are so many interactive elements being inserted into the text that “in press” no longer seems very descriptive. Note that the listening chapter now follows the verbal and nonverbal chapters—a change I made that will make the discussions of lying (in Chapter 4) and lie detection/listening to lies (in Chapter 6) flow more logical. Each of the bullets refers to one of the major heads in the chapter. Feel free to use this as is or revise it to suit your own purposes.
Chapter One Foundations of Interpersonal Communication
Get ready to read about interpersonal communication by thinking about:
· What do you want to accomplish in this course? What do you want this course to do for you?
· How would you describe your interpersonal communication behavior? With whom do you interact? Through what channel? What do you communicate about?
· How effective an interpersonal communicator would you consider yourself?
Chapter Two Cultural and Interpersonal Communication
Get ready to read about culture and interpersonal communication by thinking about:
· How would you describe your culture and its influence on your current attitudes and behaviors?
· From your experience, how do you see cultures differing from one another?
· How would an effective intercultural communicator act?
Chapter Three Perception of the Self and Others in Interpersonal Communication
Get ready to read about perception of self and others by thinking about:
· How well do you know yourself? How do you value yourself; what’s your level of self-esteem?
· What image of yourself do you want to project to others? What specifically do you do to project this image?
Chapter Four Verbal Messages in Interpersonal Communication
Get ready to read about verbal messages by thinking about:
· How would you describe your style of using language?
· How effective are you in getting others to understand what you really mean?
· How would you describe your language in terms of cultural sensitivity?
Chapter Five Nonverbal Messages
Get ready to read about nonverbal communication by thinking about:
· In what ways do you communicate without words?
· What do these nonverbal messages do—that is, what meanings do they communicate?
· What makes for an effective nonverbal communicator?
Chapter Six Listening in Interpersonal Communication
Get ready to read about listening by thinking about:
· How would you rate yourself as a listener? What makes you a good or bad listener?
· What do you see as the barriers to your listening effectiveness?
· What 3 adjectives would others use to describe your style of listening?
Chapter Seven Emotional Messages
Get ready to read about emotional communication by thinking about:
· How important is expressing your feelings to others?
· How would you describe what happens when you experience strong feelings?
· How effective are you in communicating your true feelings? How effective are you in responding to the emotions of others?
Chapter Eight Conversational Messages
Get ready to read about conversation by thinking about:
· How good a conversationalist would your friends and associates say you were?
· What makes you a good or bad conversationalist?
· How comfortable are you with small talk? Introducing others? Making excuses? Apologizing? Giving and receiving compliments? Giving and receiving advice?
Chapter Nine Interpersonal Relationships Stages, Theories, and Communication
Get ready to read about interpersonal relationships by thinking about:
· How would you describe the way you communicate when you develop, maintain, and dissolve relationships?
· What do your relationships do for you?
Chapter Ten Interpersonal Relationship Types
Get ready to read about the different types of relationships by thinking about:
· What do you mean by “friendship,” “love,” and “family?”
· How would you describe the communication that takes place in the workplace?
· What has been your experience with or observation of jealousy and relationship violence?
Chapter Eleven Interpersonal Conflict and Conflict Management
Get ready to read about interpersonal conflict by thinking about its role in your own life:
· How would you define interpersonal conflict?
· What seem to be the main causes of conflict in your own relationships?
· How do you usually deal with conflict?
Chapter Twelve Interpersonal Power and Influence
Get ready to read about power and influence by thinking about how these operate in your own life:
· How would you describe your own power and influence among your interpersonal relations?
· How does power and influence operate in your interactions?
· Do you experience or observe any unfair use of power?
Here’s an article on body language that you should avoid; body gestures that can create a negative impression in another person. It's best to look at these gestures as creating negative impressions under certain circumstances but, certainly, not in all situations:
1. Crossing your arms across your chest can indicate defensiveness.
2. Leaning forward can indicate aggressiveness.
3. Breaking your eye contact too early in the interaction.
4. Putting your hands on your hips when standing can indicate aggressiveness.
5. Taking a step or two back when asked a question or for a decision.
6. Putting your hands behind your back or in your pockets can make you look overly stiff.
7. Nodding more than usual can make you look less than serious.
Here’s an interesting article on lying and the nonverbal cues that often (but, not always) reveal that a person is, in fact, lying. The author correctly points out that the first thing one needs to know is how the person behaves normally—what we call establishing a baseline of behavior. Deviations from this baseline are the most revealing. Here are the 11 signs.
1. Liars change their head position more than truth-tellers
2. Liars' breathing changes
3. Liars stand still
4. Liars repeat words and phrases
5. Liars provide more information than needed
6. Liars touch or cover their mouth
7. Liars cover vulnerable body parts
8. Liars shuffle their feet
9. Liars find it difficult to speak
10. Liars stare without blinking
11. Liars point a lot