Ask Yourself

An edited version of the following items (some were deleted and some new ones were added) will appear in the margins of the next edition of TICB but can be used with Messages or with the early chapters in Human Communication. These items present students with interpersonal communication choice points that are related to the chapter content and, most important, ask them to examine possible interpersonal communication choices, to assess potential consequences, and ultimately to make their own interpersonal choices. I’ve called these items “Ask Yourself.”
I had a few goals in mind in designing this feature (which I also used in Essentials of Human Communication and want to make a feature in all my books): to demonstrate that the material talked about in the text is directly relevant to the student’s life, to demonstrate that the text and the study of interpersonal communication offer some pretty good suggestions as to what can be done in a variety of situations, to offer suggestions for classroom discussion (students are sure to come up with very different ways of handling each of the situations which should prove interesting), and to encourage active reading, active involvement with the material discussed in the text—it’s as close to interactional as I can come (I think).

Chapter 1 (Universals of Interpersonal Communication)
ASK YOURSELF. Personalizing the Study of Interpersonal Communication
Throughout this text you’ll find marginal items labeled “Ask Yourself,” which depict specific interpersonal situations that call for some kind of communication choice. These items are designed to encourage you to stop for a moment and ask yourself how this material applies to you, what options for communication do you have in these situations, and what you would do in the situation. Allow the situations depicted here to suggest alternative situations, perhaps even actual ones in which you’ve participated, and ask yourself what you might do in these other situations as well.

ASK YOURSELF. Lessening the Negative Impact
You write a gossipy e-mail about Ellen (revealing things that you promised to keep secret) to your mutual friend Elle but inadvertently send it to Ellen herself. Ask yourself: What options do you have to correct this problem? What seems your best option?

ASK YOURSELF. Making Relationships Exclusive
You’ve been dating someone for the last several months—almost every weekend—and you want to make the relationship exclusive. Ask yourself: What options do you have available to achieve this goal? What options would work best for you?

ASK YOURSELF. Reducing Relationship Ambiguity
You’ve gone out with this person for several months and want to know where this relationship is going. You need to reduce your ambiguity about the future of the relationship and discover your partner’s level of commitment. But, you don’t want to scare your partner either. Ask yourself: What are some things you can say or do to find answers to your very legitimate questions?

ASK YOURSELF. Communicating an Image
At work, a new position is opening and you want it. Your immediate supervisor is likely the one to make the final decision. Ask yourself: What can you do to help secure this new position?

ASK YOURSELF. Strengthening Similarities
You’re dating this person you really like but you are both so different—in values, politics, religion, and just about everything else; in fact, you’re almost direct opposites. But, you enjoy each other more than you do with any other person. Ask yourself: What can you do to encourage greater similarity while not losing the excitement created by the differences?

Chapter 2 (Culture)
ASK YOURSELF. Misusing Linguistic Privilege
You enter a group of racially similar people using terms normally considered negative to refer to themselves. Trying to be one of the group you too use such terms only to be met with extremely negative nonverbal feedback. Ask yourself: What are some things you might say to lessen this negative reaction and to let the group know that you don’t normally use such racial terms?

ASK YOURSELF. Violating Cultural Norms
You’re invited to a party by people you recently met at school. Having lots of money yourself and not knowing much about anyone else, you buy a really expensive gift. As the gifts are being opened you notice that everyone gave very inexpensive gifts—a photograph, a book, a scented candle. Your gift is next. Ask yourself: What can you do to lessen what is sure to seem very strange to everyone else?

ASK YOURSELF. Putting Your Foot in Your Mouth
At work you tell a race-oriented joke only to discover that it was resented and clearly violated the organizational norms for polite and unbiased talk. Ask yourself: What might you say to make this situation a little less awkward and potentially damaging to your work experience?

ASK YOURSELF. Clashing Cultural Rules
Your friend is pressed for time and asks you to do the statistical analyses for a term project. Your first impulse is to say yes since in your culture, it would be extremely impolite to refuse someone you’ve known for so long a favor. Yet, you’re aware that this is considered unethical at colleges in the United States. Ask yourself: What might you say that would enable you to help your friend but not involve behavior that would be considered deceitful and may be severely punished?

Chapter 3 (Self)
ASK YOURSELF. Understanding Rejection (68, end of self-awareness)
You’ve ask several different people at school for a date and so far all you got were rejections. Something’s wrong; you’re not that bad to deserve so many rejections. Ask yourself: What might you do to gain insight into the possible reasons for the rejections?

ASK YOURSELF. Refusing to Self-Disclose
You’ve dated this person for three or four times and each time you’re pressured to self-disclosure your past experiences and personal information you’re just not ready to talk about at least not at this early stage of the relationship. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you can say or do to resist this pressure to self-disclose? What might you say to discourage further requests that you reveal yourself?

ASK YOURSELF. Presenting Yourself
At an interview you’re asked about your competence with Microsoft Excel. In truth you have no competence but you are extremely fast in learning computer programs and Excel should be no exception. Ask yourself: What might you say to convince the interviewer that you’re the person to hire?

Chapter 4 (Perception)
ASK YOURSELF. Reversing First Impressions
On your first day at work, you tried too hard and came off as a complete fool—trying to make everything anyone said into a joke. This is not who you really are. You want to change this first negative and false perception. Ask yourself: What can you do to undo (or minimize or redirect) this initial perception?

ASK YOURSELF. Overattributing
Your friends seem to (over)attribute everything you do to your being deaf. You need to set them straight. Ask yourself: What can you say to make them realize that being deaf does not influence everything you do or say?

ASK YOURSELF. Stereotyping
Your partner is wonderful except for being blinded by stereotypes, for believing that all members of a group are the same. All athletes, all lawyers, all gay men are seen as the same. Ask yourself: What can you do help your partner see the diversity within groups and therefore profit from the individuality each person offers?

ASK YOURSELF. Explaining Yourself
You’ve finally decided to dye your hair; it was making you look too old, you thought. At any rate, it came out horrendous; it’s a bad hair day to the Nth degree. At work, your colleagues look strangely at you, but say nothing. Ask yourself: What might you say that would make you feel less like the idiot you feel now?

Chapter 5 (Listening)
ASK YOURSELF. Combating Homophobic Language
At work, homophobic language is rampant in small groups but totally absent in formal meetings. You want to point out this hypocrisy but don’t want to make enemies or having people think you’re going to make legal problems for them.
Ask yourself: What options do you have for accomplishing what you want to without incurring any negative reactions?

ASK YOURSELF. Giving Listening Cues
Repeatedly you’re asked by the speaker if he or she is getting through or making sense. It seems they doubt that I’m listening. But, usually at least, I am. Ask yourself: What might I do to show people I’m listening to them and interested in what they’re saying?

ASK YOURSELF. Respecting Communication Norms
As a gift for your three roommates, you buy them each a lottery ticket. Big surprise: one of them wins (over $250,000) but says nothing beyond “thank you,” nothing about sharing the winnings or even taking you out to dinner. None of the other roommates has said anything. Ask yourself: What might you do to get some understanding and closure on this without wrecking the friendships?

ASK YOURSELF. Listening Actively
Your six year old son comes home from school crying, saying his new teacher hates him and he hates her and that he doesn’t want to ever go back to school. Ask yourself: Instead of saying, “What did you do wrong?” or some similar expression, you decide to use active listening. What do you say?

ASK YOURSELF. Giving Anti-Listening Cues
One of your friends is a story teller; he tells endless stories—about things that happened a long time ago that he finds funny (though no one else does). You just can’t deal with this any longer. Ask yourself: What can you do to get yourself out of these situations?

Chapter 6 (Universals of Verbal and Nonverbal Messages)
ASK YOURSELF. Packaging Messages
You’re often reacted to with notions of disbelief or with questions such as Do you mean that? Did that really happen? You suspect that you may not be packaging your messages appropriately. Ask yourself: First, what might you be doing to present contradictory messages? Second, how you can more appropriately integrate your verbal and nonverbal messages to produce consistent meanings?

ASK YOURSELF. Increasing Directness
You’ve been told that you need to become more direct in your communication, especially if you’re to be promoted to a managerial position. Ask yourself: What might you do to make yourself more direct without seeming to be overly bossy or dogmatic?

A good friend asks you to lie; it’s a small lie—signing a petition saying you will vote for a particular candidate when you really won’t. You really don’t want to lie but neither do you want to disappoint your friend. Ask Yourself: What might you say to make it easier for you to decline to lie? What one thing do you think would work best?

ASK YOURSELF. Projecting Confidence
You’re joining a new company and want to project the image of a truly confident (but not cocky) analyst. Ask yourself: What kinds of verbal and nonverbal messages will help you project this image?

ASK YOURSELF. Talking Assertively
Everyone tells you that you are unassertive and that that is the reason why you’ve been passed over for raises and promotion; you’re not perceived to have leadership potential. Ask yourself: What might you do to begin to do to make your communication more assertive?

ASK YOURSELF. Confronting a Lie
You ask about the previous night’s whereabouts of your romantic partner of two years and are told something you know beyond any doubt to be false. You don’t want to break up the relationship over this but you do want the truth and an opportunity to resolve the problems that contributed to this situation. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you might say to achieve your purposes? What are some types of messages you’d want to avoid?

ASK YOURSELF. Rejecting Directly
A colleague at work continues to ask you out on a date but you’re just not interested. You’ve used every polite excuse in the book and now feel you have to be more direct and more honest. Ask yourself: What ways can you express your feelings to achieve your goal and yet not alienate or insult your colleague?

Chapter 7 (Verbal Messages)
ASK YOURSELF. Criticizing
You’re supervising a group of five interns who have been doing just about nothing. You don’t want to discourage them or criticize them too harshly but at the same time you have to get them to do some work. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you can say to help turn this group around? What are some of the things you should probably avoid saying?

ASK YOURSELF. Discouraging Disconfirmation
For the last several months you’ve noticed how disconfirming your neighbors are toward their pre-teen children; it seems the children can never do anything to their satisfaction. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you might say (if you do decide to get involved) to make your neighbors more aware of their communication patterns and the possible negative effect these might have on their children?

ASK YOURSELF. Discovering Ethnocentricity
You’ve been dating this wonderful person for the last few months but increasingly are discovering that your “ideal” partner is extremely ethnocentric and sees little value in other religions, other races, other nationalities. Ask yourself: What are some things you can do to educate your possible life partner?

ASK YOURSELF. Using Inappropriate Cultural Identifiers
Your parents use cultural identifiers that would be considered inappropriate among most social groups—not because of prejudice but mainly through ignorance and habit. You want to change these patterns. Ask yourself: What kinds of messages might help you achieve your goal? What kinds of messages would you want to avoid?

ASK YOURSELF. Apologizing
You borrowed a friend’s car and got into an accident and, to make matters worse, it was totally your fault. Ask yourself: What might you say that would help you explain the situation, alleviate any anxiety your friend will have over the accident, and pave the way for your asking to borrow the car again next week for the most important date of your life?

Chapter 8 (Nonverbal Messages)
Your supervisor is an extremely touchy person and touches just about everyone. You don’t like it and want it to stop—at least as far as you’re concerned. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you can do to help eliminate this unwanted touching?

ASK YOURSELF. Inviting and Discouraging Conversation
Sometimes you want to encourage people to come into your office and chat and at other times you want to be left alone. Ask yourself: What might you do nonverbally to achieve each goal?

Your colleague in the next cubicle wears extremely strong cologne that you find horrendous. You can’t continue smelling this horrible scent any longer. Ask yourself: What options do you have to correct this situation? What option seems the most logical to try first?

ASK YOURSELF. Demonstrating Credibility
At work people just don’t attribute any credibility to you, although you’re probably as competent as anyone else. You need to increase the credibility cues you give off. Ask yourself: What nonverbal cues communicate competence and ability? How might you begin to integrate these into your own communication?

ASK YOURSELF. Remaining Silent
(w/interpersonal silence)
Your college roommate has developed a small business selling term papers and uses your jointly owned computer to store them. Though you’ve remained silent about this for some time, you’ve become increasingly uncomfortable about this and want to distance yourself from what you feel is unethical. Ask yourself: What might you say to distance yourself from this operation? What might you say to severe your connection entirely from this practice?

ASK YOURSELF. Confronting a Misconception
You’ve been doing exceptionally well in English—after two previous very undistinguished semesters. In a conference on you’re “A” paper, the instructor implies very indirectly that your paper look plagiarized. You definitely did not plagiarize the paper and you want that made clear. Ask yourself: What are some of the ways you can make this clear without appearing to be guilty for protesting too much?

ASK YOURSELF. Criticizing with Kindness
A close friend is going to an important job interview dressed totally inappropriately and asks “How do I look?” Ask yourself: What are some of the things you can say to your friend to help with the interview presentation and also to bolster your friend’s self-esteem?

Chapter 9 (Conversation)
ASK YOURSELF. Prefacing to Extremes
One of your friends who you talk to on the phone fairly regularly seems to take phatic communication to a new level—the preface is so long that you just want to get off the phone and frequently you make excuses to do just that. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you can do to change this communication pattern?

ASK YOURSELF. Chatting for Free
A casual friend, who has a cell phone with free unlimited long distance calling, now calls you several times a week just to chat about nothing you’re really interested in. You don’t want to offend this person or kill the friendship but you don’t want to spend a few hours a week on the phone. Ask yourself: What can you do to eliminate these calls or perhaps lessen their frequency and length?

ASK YOURSELF. Interrupting
You’re supervising a group of six working to revise your college website. But one member interrupts so much that other members have simply stopped contributing. It’s become a one-person group and you can’t have this. Ask yourself: What are some of the things that you might say to correct this situation without coming off as the bossy supervisor?

ASK YOURSELF. Expressing Yourself
People have told you that they can never tell what you’re thinking. While you think this may well be an asset you also want to have the ability to allow what you’re thinking and feeling to be clear to others. Ask yourself: What might you do to make yourself more expressive in, say, work relationships? In first meeting another person? In meeting someone you may easily develop feelings for?

Chapter 10 (Universals of Interpersonal Relationships)
ASK YOURSELF. Coming Clean
You’re going to meet someone you’ve only communicated with online and you’re going to have to admit that you lied about your age, weight, and relationship history. Ask yourself: What do you have to come clean with most immediately? What are your best options for introducing these “cleansing” messages?

ASK YOURSELF. Ending the Relationship
You want to break up your 8-month romantic relationship and still remain friends.
Ask yourself: What are the possible contexts in which you might do this? What types of things can you say that might help you accomplish your dual goal?

ASK YOURSELF. Confronting Fear of Risk
You’re very much in love but your partner—who also loves you very much—is high risk-aversive and fearful of increasing relationship intimacy. Ask yourself: What might you say to make increased intimacy less risky for your partner? Ask also, what ethical obligations do you have in this type of communication?

ASK YOURSELF. Refusing a Gift Positively
You’re becoming friendly with a coworker who you think you might like to date. Without any warning, your coworker gives you a very intimate gift which you think is too much, too soon. Ask yourself: What might you say to refuse the gift but not close off possibilities to begin dating?

ASK YOURSELF. Meeting the Parents
You’re dating some one from a very different culture and have been invited to meet the parents and have a traditional ethnic dinner. Ask yourself: What might you do to make this potentially difficult situation go smoothly?

ASK YOURSELF. Moving through Relationship Stages
Your recent romantic partner seems to be moving too fast for your liking. You want to take things a lot slower yet you don’t want to turn this person off; this may be The One. Ask yourself: What might you say (and where might you say it) to get your partner to proceed more slowly?

ASK YOURSELF. Asking THE Question
You’re so in love that you can’t see straight. You have to know if your partner feels the same way. Ask yourself: How might you secure the information you want?

Chapter 11 (Interpersonal Relationships: Growth and Deterioration)
ASK YOURSELF. Projecting an Image
You’re entering a new job and want to be perceived as likeable and friendly but also serious and conscientious. Ask yourself: What types of messages which help you achieve your dual goal? Which might you try first?

ASK YOURSELF. Achieving Equity
After thinking about equity, you realize that you put in a lot more effort into the relationship (you pay much more than half the costs) than your partner. You want this imbalanced to be corrected. Ask yourself: What might you say to help to make the relationship more equitable?

ASK YOURSELF. Complaining
Your partner complains constantly; regardless of what the situation, your partner has a complaint. It’s becoming painful to listen to this and you want to stop it. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you might do to help lessen these complaints? Alternatively, consider what you might be doing to encourage these complaints and therefore what you might stop doing?

ASK YOURSELF. Leaving the Group
You’ve decided to quite your job after 10 years; you’re just fed up with the job and everyone you work with. You want to exit gracefully but also without a lot of phony good-byes. Ask yourself: What are some things you might say to help you achieve this goal?

Chapter 12 (Friendship, Love, Family, and Workplace)
ASK YOURSELF. Developing Friendships
You seem to have few friends, at least as compared with people you observe and see in television sitcoms. You’d like to increase your circle of friends. Ask yourself: What kinds of messages might contribute to the development of friendships? What messages would work against the establishment of friendships?

ASK YOURSELF. Discovering Personal Information
You’re becoming romantically involved with someone at work but before this relationship goes any further, you want to know about this person’s HIV status and safe sex practices. Ask yourself: What are some of the things that you might say that will get you truthful information but at the same time not create a rift in the relationship.

ASK YOURSELF. Confronting a Friend
You’re one of five close friends who hang out together. One of these is always late; no matter what the occasion, this person is from 10 minutes to 2 hours late. Everyone is fed up but no one says anything. Ask yourself: What might you say to the person who is always late to deal with this problem? What might you say to the other friends?

ASK YOURSELF. Asking a Favor
You need to borrow $200 from your roommate and you have no idea of when you’ll be able to pay it back. Ask yourself: What are some of the ways you might ask for this loan and at the same time not put your roommate into an awkward and uncomfortable situation?

ASK YOURSELF. Establishing Family Communication Rules
You hope to begin your family in the very near future and this notion of family communication rules seems intriguing and you begin to wonder what types of rules you’d like to see in your own soon-to-be family. Ask yourself: What goals do you want to achieve in your family communication? What rules would best contribute to achieving these goals? What rules would work against these goals?

ASK YOURSELF. Apologizing
You’ve been very successful in the Stock Market and so when you got the best tip ever, you shared it with three of your colleagues at work. Unfortunately, the stock tanked, your colleagues lost several thousand dollars each, and the situation at work is uncomfortable at best. Ask yourself: What might you say to these colleagues to reduce the tension and get things back to the way they were?

Chapter 13 (Conflict)
ASK YOURSELF. Talking Aggressively
Your partner is becoming more and more verbally aggressive and you’re having trouble with this new communication pattern. You want your partner to realize that this way of communicating is not productive and may ultimately destroy the relationship. Ask yourself: What options do you have for trying to lessen or even eliminate this verbal aggressiveness?

ASK YOURSELF. Avoiding Conflict
Your work team members all seem to have the same conflict style: avoidance. When alternatives are discussed or there is some kind of disagreement, they refuse to argue for one or the other or even to participate in the discussion. You need spirited discussion and honest debate if your team is going to come up with appropriate solutions. Ask yourself: What are some of the things you can do to change this pattern of communication? Which would you try first?

ASK YOURSELF. Confronting a Problem
Your neighbor never puts out the garbage in time for pickup and so the garbage—often broken into by stray animals—remains until the next pickup. You’re fed up with the rodents the garbage draws, the smell, and the horrible appearance. Ask yourself: What might you say to stop this problem and yet not have your next door neighbor hate you?

ASK YOURSELF. Escalating to Relationship Conflict
Your own interpersonal conflicts often start out as content conflicts but quickly degenerate into relationship conflicts and that’s when things get ugly. Ask yourself: What types of things might you do to keep the conflict and its resolution focused on the content and not become relational?

Chapter 14 (Power)
ASK YOURSELF. Harassing Behavior
You notice that your colleague at work is being sexually harassed by a supervisor but says nothing. You bristle inside each time you see this happen. Ask yourself: What are some of things you can do (if you think you should do anything, that is) that might help end this harassment?

ASK YOURSELF. Losing Relationship Power
After reading about the principle of less interest, you realize that you’re the person with the greater interest in preserving the relationship and that’s the reason you have little power in your relationship. You’re not happy with this imbalance in power. Ask yourself: What can you do (or do you think nothing can be done) to redress this lop sided power imbalance?

ASK YOURSELF. Asking for a Date
You decide to ask the most popular person on campus for a date—the worse that could happen, you figure, is that you’ll be rejected. Ask yourself: What options do you have for asking for this date (consider, for example, the types of dates you might propose, the channels for communicating your desire for a date, the actual messages you’d use in asking for a date)? What option would you be most likely to select?

ASK YOURSELF. Confronting Power Plays
At work, one of your colleagues uses the power play of “yougottobekidding,” regardless of what you say. In one form or another, this colleague makes whatever you say appear inappropriate, unusable, or ill-conceived. Ask yourself: How might you phrase a cooperative response to help put an end to this pattern of unfair communication?

ASK YOURSELF. Explaining an Awkward Situation
You’re at your boss’s house for dinner and are severe shrimp which makes you violently ill. Ask yourself: What can you say to explain the situation and at the same time to not make your boss feel bad?

ASK YOURSELF. Taking a Position
Your close friend John is from a high power distance culture and can’t get himself to participate in class discussions especially those that involve arguing for different points of view. As a result John risks getting an extremely low grade in the course. Ask yourself: What can you say that might help John (or the instructor)?

ASK YOURSELF. Lowering Self-Esteem
My brother has entered a relationship with someone who constantly puts him down and has lowered his self-esteem to the point where he has no self-confidence. If this continues you fear your brother may again experience severe bouts of depression. Ask yourself: What options do you have for dealing with this problem? What, if anything, would you do?

No comments: