A somewhat different take on plagiarism (at least from the kind of plagiarism that we talk most about in our classrooms) is this little graphic in USAToday (12/29/09): In a survey of 444 workers, 29% said that a co-worker at some time took credit for his or her ideas. And perhaps more surprising, 51% did nothing about it.


Buzzwords of 2009

Here is the New York Times buzzwords of 2009; it includes a variety of "communication" terms, for example, sexting (texting sexual messages), vook (a digitized book with video), social distancing (standing away from others to avoid catching or spreading the flu), orphan books (books that are out of print, still in copyright, and whose copyright holders can't be found), and netbook (a small portable, personal computer).


Loneliness is Contagious

Here's an interesting report of a recent research study finding that loneliness is contagious. We often talk about emotions being contagious but somehow loneliness rarely seems to be mentioned. This would, I think, make for a great interpersonal communication discussion. Conveniently, there's a link in the NYTimes article to the original research article.


Elections and Money

One thing is clear from the case of billionaire Michael Bloomberg who won the election for mayor of New York City after spending over $102 million ($175 per vote), outspending his opponent, City Comptroller William Thompson, Jr., 10 to 1—elections can be and are often bought. The media see to that. A candidate gets media time and media attention by buying the time, by spending more than anyone else. And that’s what wins the election; it’s as simple as that. And it’s scary and it’s frightening to think that our political leaders—who make decisions that affect our everyday lives--are not necessarily the best qualified, the most intelligent, the most credible, the most noble; they’re simply the richest.

So what do we tell our students about the relative importance of knowledge versus money? Clearly, if you want to be a politician in the United States money is the more important—at least that’s what got lots of others elected. But here’s the really frightening thing: we put these people in office. We did and do what the media tell us to do.

Yes, to paraphrase Pogo who said it a long time ago, we have met the enemy and it is us.


Eye Contact

While at a restaurant trying to signal the server that I would like the check, I noticed what I guess was always the case, that some servers walk through the restaurant looking at the floor while others (and I'm happy to say, the majority) scan their tables for signs that, perhaps, someone might want more water or bread or that the diners are ready to order or that someone might simply want to ask a question. Don’t we teach this in nonverbal communication? Don’t we teach this at culinary schools? Perhaps some enterprising graduate student will study eye gaze of servers in a restaurant and the relationship it bears to tips. Then, when it’s clear that eye contact is positively related to the size of the tip, servers will look at their diners, at least occasionally.


Nonverbal Communication: Scent

Here's a brief article on a soon-to-be-published article on scent and memory. In this study students examined scented and unscented pencils and a ten-point list of the pencil's attributes (i.e., its selling points). The study found that students better remembered (after 2 weeks) more of the attributes of the pencil when it was scented (3.27 out of the 10) than when it was unscented (.87 out of 10). The researcher, Aradhna Krishna of the University of Michigan, concludes: "What we're saying is, it's not just the smell that people remember. It's other things associated with the smell: the brand name, or the shape of the product's box."


The New Celebrity

Thumbing through the latest issue of TV Guide I see celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis and am reminded of the great popularity of cooking shows and the emergence of the chef as the new celebrity. It may not be time to dismiss Britney Spears and George Clooney but they sure have to make room for Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, Paula Dean, Guy Fieri, Sandra Lee, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Emeril Lagasse, and a host of others. What’s so surprising about this is that the chef has achieved celebrity status in a society that doesn’t cook! It reminds me of what Lazarsfeld and Merton (writing in 1948) called the narcotizing function of the mass media: “The individual reads accounts of issues and problems [or watches television cooking shows] and may even discuss alternative lines of action. But this rather intellectualized, rather remote connection with organized social action is not activity. The interested and informed citizen can congratulate himself on his lofty state of interest and information [for example, knowing the difference between a shiitake and chanterelle or bordelaise from Bolognese] and neglect to see that he has abstained from decision and action [say, buying uncooked food and actually cooking it].”
In short, it seems that watching television cooking shows (or subscribing to Everyday with Rachel Ray or buying a cookbook) and knowing the celebrity chefs (parasocially, of course) is an adequate substitute for cooking.



Here is a wonderful history of the use of the term communicology. I had titled the first 2 editions of Human Communication, Communicology but the term was not well understood at the time and the editor's decision to change the title prevailed. Perhaps it's time for another textbook to be titled Communicology--the study of human communication.

Leadership Styles

Here is an interesting discussion of leadership--perhaps a view that business students in communication courses will relate to more than the traditional systems we use in small group courses.



Here's a really different take on self-disclosure. Here you mail in your secrets anonymously and they're posted for all to see. Because it's anonymous, this wouldn't be called self-disclosure, as we normally think of it. And yet it is a form of self-disclosure and probably serves many of the same purposes (at least intrapersonally) that interpersonal self-disclosure serves. According to its counter there have been over 277 million visitors to the site.


Annoying Phrases

Here's an interesting little graphic bit from USAToday--the most annoying phrases in conversation. Here are the five top (from a survey of 938 adults):
"Whatever" 47%
"You know" 25%
"It is what it is" 11%
"Anyway" 7%
"At the end of the day" 2%
It seems an interesting way to introduce verbal messages--their denotations and connotations, cliches, conversational fillers, and lots more.


Religion and Free Speech

Here's an interesting opinion piece that addresses what are called "blasphemy laws"--laws restricting speech that might antagonize religious groups. By extension, would this limit the freedom of speech of religious groups who attack alternative life styles? Regardless of how you feel on this issue, it's a perfect case for discussion in any communication course dealing with free speech.


Speech of Apology

Here is a great and recent example of a brief and effective (I think) speech of apology, no matter that it's in print; it's still a speech. It offers lots of classroom possibilities for public speaking--comparing this one with Iacocca's classic speech apologizing for Chrysler's disconnecting odometers or with Bill Clinton's "apology" or estimating its effectiveness on different audiences. In the hybrid course it provides a useful connection between interpersonal and public speaking (something that's not always easy to make--between the interpersonal communication discussion of the apology and the public speaking discussion of special occasion speaking. And, of course, there's lots to discuss in terms of the media's role and effectiveness in presenting apologies like this.


Hybrid and Public Speaking

Just searching some college websites and found (again)Maui Community College's (U of Hawaii)speech website--there's lots here for anyone teaching the hybrid or the public speaking course--handouts, student testimonials, guides, and more. I think it would be a great exercise to have students search academic communication websites and bring something they felt interesting back to the classroom to share with others who have done likewise. It's also a good exercise for the instructor--it ensures that you stay in touch with what others are doing in similar courses.


Perceiving Nonverbal Cues

Here is an interesting article--something quite different from what we normally see about nonverbal communication. The article (in the October issue of Smithsonian) discusses a course given to police brass to help them analyze crime scenes. The course is called, "The Art of Perception"--though "Perceiving Nonverbal Cues" might be a better title--and in it the instructor--Amy Herman--has police officers describe what they see in paintings. The idea is help police officers to "fine tune their attention to visual details" though I would think it would be equally valuable for health care workers, teachers, social workers, and a host of others who need to become more observant. It's an interesting way to teach sensitivity to nonverbal cues and also has enormous practical application.


Public speaking

A recent letter to the editor (regarding the op-ed piece in the New York Times where a variety of professors gave advice to students and posted recently), makes the point that amid all this good advice, no one mentioned the importance of public speaking. "One piece of advice that I didn't see," wrote this emeritus professor biology, "was that students should take a course and gain as much experience as possible in public speaking. No matter what career students pursue, they will have to stand up and speak to a group of people sometime, and they are usually not well prepared to do so." Of course, this is something we know but it's nice to see that people in other field also recognize the importance of public speaking.



While we teach our students the principles of research and the importance of consulting reliable sources, we read (New York Times, 9/11/09, B5)that several of the most important medical journals published articles actually written by drug company researchers but used the names of respected academics as authors. For example, it’s estimated that the New England Journal of Medicine published 10.9 percent ghostwritten articles—the highest among the journals surveyed and one of the best medical journals in the world. Not only does this create obvious problems for the MDs and patients, it also raises the question of academic fraud—these professors were apparently earning bonuses, promotions, and tenure on the basis of articles they never wrote.


College Advice

Here's a great series of op-ed pieces--advice for the college student from people like Stanley Fish, James MacGregor Burns, Harold Bloom, and my favorite from Carol Berkin--"Don't Alienate Your Professor." These should be required reading for all college students.


Making Numbers Real

In a recent ad to defeat the debt there’s an interesting example of using statistics (just numbers, actually) and making the numbers real for the audience, something we always tell our public speaking students. In this example, the $9 trillion debt for the next ten years is made real in this way: How big is a trillion? Well, one million seconds equals 12 days; one trillion seconds equals more than 30,000 years.
Of course we can expand that and say that 9 trillion seconds would equal 270,000 years.
Regardless of what you think of the political implications of this ad, it illustrates very clearly how large numbers can be made meaningful to an audience.


Intercultural Communication: Gaining Weight?

Here's an interesting example of the differences in meaning for a simple comment about gaining weight between English and Japanese. This example can easily be related to bypassing and the differences between connotation and denotation.

100 Best Hacks

Here is some good advice (100 ideas, actually) for the college student, starting or returning to college. And this Online Universities Website seems a useful one, more generally.



If you're looking for an up-to-date book on the rules of politeness, take a look at Robin Abrahams' Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners: Master the Slippery Rules of Modern Ethics and Etiquette (Times Books/Holt, 2009). What I particularly like about the book are the great communication examples throughout.



An article published in the New York Times, “Moving into a digital future, where textbooks are history,” discussed the changes taking place in education, specifically the move from written textbook to e-books. A flood of letters/responses are presented in the Times of August 16, 2009, many lamenting the rise of the e-book. Almost all, in my opinion, miss the point.
E-books will, without a doubt, replace the traditional printed textbook, largely because it is a more efficient medium for communicating information. Just consider what a change this will make in the teaching of communication. Just for starters: Videos of speeches can be inserted in strategic places in the public speaking e-book, interactive communication models can be presented in human communication, and a variety of dialogues—from film, television, and real life—can be integrated into the discussions of interpersonal communication concepts and principles. Generally, it seems that the more channels of communication that are used to present information, the greater the chances of communicating effectively. The traditional printed text presents information through one channel; the e-book from several. And that alone makes the e-book superior. After all, not all students learn in the same way; some will learn more about effective speech delivery from watching a video of a well-presented speech while others might learn more from reading a series of dos and don’ts. We need to provide students with learning options and the e-book provides a lot more options than does the traditional printed text.
The textbook writer will still be needed (I’m happy to say) but will have to adjust to a digital world and will have to present material in a way that capitalizes on the enormous capabilities of computer mediated communication. Actually, this is one of the things that makes textbook writing the interesting and creative experience that it is.


In the discussion of self-disclosure, we often mention the process of outing which essentially is disclosure by some third person. Originally the term was used to refer to disclosing someone’s homosexuality as a way of preventing him or her from discriminating against the gay community. So, if a politician advocates homophobic policies, outing him or her, effectively strips the person of influence.
A somewhat different form of outing occurred in an article, “Beirut, the Provincetown of the Middle East” (New York Times, August 2, 2009). Author Patrick Healy wrote in detail about gay life in Lebanon. Unfortunately, homosexuality is illegal in Lebanon and the article, as a writer from Beirut noted, “effectively outed the entire underground gay scene in a country relatively hostile to homosexuality”. I’m not sure what the motivations of the writer or of the NYTimes were in publishing such an article, but it seems the article can have enormous negative consequences for gay people and for gay establishments in Lebanon. Did the author and the NYTimes want to cause problems for the gay community? Did they want to encourage the Lebanon police to crack down on gay meeting places? Did they just want to sell newspapers? This is a good example of how revealing private information about others can have serious consequences and raises important issues about the responsibilities of the media.


ABCD Ethics Again

Re: My post of September 9, 2007 on ethics:
The one question that caused the most disagreement was the last one; it read: "My behavior is ethical when the effect of the behavior is more beneficial than harmful."
This was a bit ambiguous and perhaps the reason for the confusion. I should have said: My behavior is ethical when it benefits more people than it harms.
The explanation as to why the 5th statement is more false than true (...the burning of witches, for example, was in the interest of the majority as was slavery and discrimination against gay men and lesbians, certain religions, or different races)is even more appropriate to the rewritten statement.
Interestingly enough, the other night on Medium there was an application of this notion of ethics. Briefly, a teenager was persuaded by some malevolent character to force people to commit suicide. But, these were not just ordinary people; they were people who were going to commit horrendous crimes, e.g., killing everyone at a diner. The teen’s argument was that he was doing good work; after all, he was only killing one person to prevent that person from killing a whole group of people. When Allison protested, he told her to “do the math”—one life instead of 16. Of course, the information Allison receives in Medium is based on dreams which are often misleading. But, the argument was made very clear. If you could kill one person and in the process prevent the killing of several others, would you do it? Would that be ethical? If you find that behavior is ethical when it benefits more people than it harms,then you’d be forced to argue that killing an innocent person (and the person would be innocent at the time he or she is killed) would be ethical. Of course, we cannot predict with complete accuracy if this innocent person will really carry out the dastardly deed or not (and so the connection with Medium is certainly not perfect). And yet, we engage in pre-emptive wars, not very different from the situation depicted on Medium.


Blue and Communication

Here's another interesting article on blue and communication. Thanks, Peggy, for sending this to me.


The Meanings of Color

Here's a brief article that might prove useful in introducing the topic of the meanings of varied colors and the role of research findings in establishing any connection between specific colors and specific meanings. For the most part, the research literature says very little, as I understand it. I did find it interesting that blue is thought to be the color of communication.


Deception and Nonverbal Communication

If you’re teaching a course that includes a section on deception, take a look at the current issue of National Geographic (August 2009, Vol. 216, pp. 70-87). Here you’ll find an excellent article, “The Art of Deception,” by science writer Natalie Angier, with magnificent photos by Christian Ziegler illustrating how animals “deceive” their potential predators. The photos would make for a great introduction to the topic of deception in nonverbal communication.


No Boxed Gifts

I only recently learned what “no boxed gifts” means on an invitation—it means that money is the expected and appropriate gift—cash, check, and perhaps even gift cards but no blenders, toasters, or picture frames. Here’s a good example of insulting the guests before they even arrive and is a clear illustration of impolite behavior that violates negative face needs—the need and desire for autonomy, to do as one wishes without being told what to do.

Teacher Bias?

Here's an interesting summary of a study that was just brought to my attention by a recent NYTimes article--it's a better summary than provided in the Times. It concerns, among other things, possible teacher bias and especially the role of physical attractiveness (less important than we may have thought), personality (most important for female students), and grooming (most important for male students) as predictors of grades in high school--and perhaps in college and in the organization.

Content and Relationship Communication

Take a look at this letter to Dear Abby. In my opinion she completely misses the point and in doing so provides a great illustration of the importance of communication concepts in understanding a complex interaction. In this letter, a wife complains that her husband makes all the decisions about gifts and about how expensive they should be. In this case, he decided on a $100 bond for a grandchild. So, the wife correctly asks, shouldn't she have had some say? Btw, both husband and wife work full time or so it seems. But, Abby primarily addresses the content message--yes, Abby agrees, the bond is the better choice. It wasn't about the bond, Abby! And she misses the point because she doesn't see the difference between content and relationship messages. The content message was about the bond and that's the message that Abby addresses. But, the more important message was a relationship one that commented on their relationship in a way the wife found objectionable--he was the boss and he would make the decisions unilaterally.
Another way of looking at this is through the lens of equity--from what appears in the letter, I'd assume that both husband and wife contribute equally to the costs (they both work full time) but that the husband is deriving more of the rewards (making important decisions) with the result that resentment and relationship dissatisfaction develop.
I think this letter provides a useful way of showing students the value of seemingly academic (and therefore useless) terms in understanding everyday issues.



Here's an interesting site for material on communication that we don't often see in our textbooks. Especially interesting are the lists of the ten best and worst speakers of different years. This, and much more on this site, will make for interesting class discussions. A great assignment in public speaking--perhaps advanced public speaking--would be to have students prepare a speech on a contemporary speaker he or she would nominate for the best or the worst speaker of the year and, of course, explain why. It would be an interesting way to discuss the qualities of an effective speech.

Obama Inaugural Address

Here's an interesting discussion of President Obama's Inaugural Address which should make an effective outline for a discussion of this speech or speeches in general.


Carter's Malaise Speech

Here is a book review of What the heck are you up to, Mr. President: Jimmy Carter, America's 'Malaise,' and the speech that should have changed the country. It will make for an excellent discussion in political speech courses or in public speaking courses in general.


From Dating to Mating

Here's a great article on patterns of pursuit with some really excellent advice on moving from dating to mating.


Revealing Secrets

In the latest issue of Communication Monographs (June 2009)Tamara Afifi and Keli Steuber have an article on the strategies that people use to reveal their secrets. What I like best about this article is the extensive list (25 items) of these strategies and the great idea this suggests for a class discussion/exercise: how do you reveal your secrets? Or create scenarios and ask students to explain how they'd reveal the secret. Self-disclosure is always one of the great classroom topics. The main categories identified in the Afifi-Steuber study are:
1. Preparation and rehearsal (e.g., testing out the secret with other people)
2. Directness (e.g., telling the person)
3. Third party revelations (e.g., telling one person who would likely tell the target person)
4. Incremental disclosures (e.g., revealing the secrets in small parts)
5. Entrapment (e.g., revealing the secret in anger or in an argument)
6. Indirect mediums (e.g., disclosing the secret in email)

It Makes You Wonder (Again)

Thanks to the media's reminder, let's add still Senator and still married David Vitter, an acknowledged client of a Washington madam, to our list of relationship hypocrites. While he patronized prostitutes, he voted to ban same-sex marriage and to ban gay adoptions. Again, you have to wonder how these people deal with these disconnects. Their definition of "family values" must be a really strange one.

Friendship, Gay and Straight

Here's an interesting article on friendship between gay men and straight men, a little researched area of interpersonal relationships. The largely anecdotal article covers the difficulties in such relationships and the advantages of such relationships.


Sanford and Family Values

Let’s add one more name to our list of hypocrites—Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina. He has now admitted to an affair while at the same time voting to ban adoptions by gay men and lesbians and is on record as being against same-sex marriage and even against civil unions for same-sex couples. Apparently, betraying his wife and three children—to say nothing of the people of South Carolina and the country as a whole—is consistent with his idea of “family values”. Sanford, you’re a great poster boy for Bigots, Inc.
This is just one more bit of support for the hypothesis advanced earlier: people who find fault with the relationships of others (in this case, to the point of voting to make them illegal) are those experiencing dissonance and dissatisfaction with their own relationships.

Gender Bias

Here's an interesting article arguing that there is discrimination against female playwrights BUT the discrimination is the work of women, not men. Briefly, identical scripts with male and female names attached were submitted for evaluation. Men rated the scripts with male and female names exactly the same; women rated the scripts by women lower and those by men higher. Even if we know the word is not the thing, the label is not the item, the map is not the territory, we seem to act as if they are one and the same.


It Makes You Wonder

Everyone has by now heard of Nevada Senator John Ensign’s admission that he had an affair with a campaign staffer, Cynthia Hampton, whose salary as a staffer doubled and whose 19 year-old son was put on the payroll when the affair began. Not unrelated to this is Ensign’s attack on same-sex marriage and his defense of the Federal Marriage Amendment. It makes you wonder if there’s not some connection between those with relationship “problems” and their condemnation of the relationships of others, especially those relationships that differ from what they want people to think they have or believe in.
Long married, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who was caught not so long ago for solicitation in a men’s airport bathroom (he pleaded guilty to “disorderly conduct”), was also an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage and of general civil rights for gay men and lesbians. It makes you wonder.
And of course we all remember the case of Jimmy Swaggart, media minister and outspoken critic of fellow media minister, Jim Bakker, for his indiscretions, and who spoke long and loud against civil rights for gay men and lesbians, was caught with prostitutes more than once—even after his tearful speech of apology: “I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.” WOW! It makes you wonder.
As a working hypothesis, I wonder if this would work: Those with relationship dissonance are more critical of the relationships of others (especially relationships that are different from their own) than are those without relationship dissonance, with the degree of dissonance experienced being positively correlated with the quantity and forcefulness of their criticism. Alternatively, one might hypothesize that relationship satisfaction and the criticism of others’ relationships (that is, the degree of dissatisfaction with the relationships of others) would be negatively correlated; the more satisfied one is in one’s own relationship, the less critical that person is likely to be toward the alternative relationships of others.
Yes, it makes you wonder. Why are people like Ensign, Craig, Swaggart—and these are just three (who are familiar to us because they made the front pages) out of a likely host of others—so against the granting of civil rights for gay men and lesbians? What are they trying to protect?


To Catch a Liar

Here's an interesting update on the ever-present question: can you really tell when someone is lying? The article appears in Communication Currents and is written by Tim Levine from Michigan State.


Listening Doctors

An article entitled “If all doctors had time to listen” in Sunday’s NYTimes makes the point that patient care would be improved if doctors had the time to listen—no doubt. But, they also need to be taught the skills of listening, a competence that I suspect many doctors consider too obvious to even consider learning and likely believe they already have such competence. Of course, the rest of the world knows differently. Imagine a doctor who listens actively!


According to a survey conducted by Technorati and reported in Sunday’s NYTimes, 133 million blogs were created since 2002. But in the last 4 months, only 7.4 million have been updated. That's less than 6%!

Communication Currents

The June issue of Communication Currents is now online and includes essays on online free speech, women's rights, and the ways in which secrets are revealed--among other things. Take a look.


Free Speech

The recent decision of Liberty University to not recognize the college’s democratic club is frightening. Here is a clear example of religious belief trumping free speech and free inquiry. For this to happen at a flagship school makes this all the more frightening. Liberty University’s policy, which was included in the e-mail to students of the club informing them of this decision, reads, in part, as follows: “All such clubs or organizations and their activities or events must be consistent with the University’s mission, and must be and remain in compliance with the Liberty Way, the Honor Code, and any policies or procedures promulgated by the University.” And the Democratic Club, according to the e-mail, is an arm of the Democratic Party Platform which “is contrary to the mission of LU and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeat of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the ‘LGBT’ agenda, Hate Crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.).” Sounds an awful lot like “free speech is not allowed here” but “bigotry is welcomed” to me. Colleges and universities that fail to support free speech and promote discrimination should lose their accreditation. It’s as simple as that.


Commencement Speeches

This is a great source for commencement speeches, a listing of the top ten, a chance to vote, and lots more.


Advertising as News

It seems advertising is more and more disguising itself as news. We now have advertisements on the covers of magazines. We have advertisements for network programs inserted into network news stories. And we have advertisements in magazines and newspapers that are designed to look like articles—despite the small print that says “advertisement”.
One of the most misleading occurs on CNBC, a network devoted to financial news. Yet, it allows advertisements on financial issues to appear as if they are just another segment of the ongoing show. The CNBC example is especially disturbing because it seems to me to be directed at people who are anxious about their financial situation and who are consequently more likely to be taken in by the advertiser’s claims, perhaps not evaluating the claims as logically as they might if they were in better circumstances. Shame on you CNBC (and all the other stations and media who allow similar types of advertisements that are disguised as news)! You’re better than that, CNBC.
All of these instances seem to me to be designed to mislead the reader and viewer and are therefore unethical. All provide good examples (and a good project in media literacy) of how the media are looking to make a buck rather than present advertisements for what they are—advertisements. Apparently, money comes before truth and honesty.


Communication in Business

Here's an interesting interview with CEO James J. Schiro (of Zurich Financial Services). In answer to the question, "What is the most important leadership lesson you've learned?", Schiro says: It's the ability to listen, and to make people understand that you are listening to them. And, in answer to the question, "Is there a skill you're looking for in job candidates now more than you did, say, five years ago?", Schiro says: Interpersonal skills and a sensitivity to people are key.


Civility in the Classroom

Here's a particularly thought-provoking discussion on classroom politeness by P. M. Forni, one of the outstanding writers on the topic of civility and politeness, generally.


Strange Courses

Take a look at the 15 strangest college courses. They make you wonder.


Religion and Religiousness

One surprising finding from a poll on religious affiliation among Americans that you may want to add to your public speaking discussion of religion and religiousness in audience analysis finds that about half of all adult Americans change their religious affiliation at least once. The poll and lots of other interesting material on religion useful in audience analysis discussions may be found at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life at http://pewforum.org/.

Success with Communication

You'll notice that I added a link to Success with Communication (listed at the right as Interpersonal Communication Skills) at the request of Joel Seah. Joel's masthead reads: Through techniques from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), The Enneagram and daily life experiences, I will share with you simple yet powerful tips to enhance the way you communicate and increase your influence! It seems to offer a different take on communication which I thought some of you may be interested in. Joel, if you'd like to add a comment, please do.


Parade magazine this week raised the question of how do you tell a partner you have an STD and that you might have passed it on to him or her. One of the means suggested to use is the e-card that tells your partner that you discovered you have an STD (pull-down menus enable you to be more specific) and that he or she should get tested and treated if necessary. The e-card is certainly preferable to not revealing this—after all, there is an ethical obligation to disclose your possible part in transmitting an STD to another person. But, there are other ways and the ways one uses seems to depend on the relationship between the people and on the personalities of the person’s involved. You obviously wouldn’t tell a one-time affair partner in the same way or through the same channel that you’d tell a life-time partner (about the one-time affair and the possible STD consequence). I’m not sure a relationship partner of 10 or 20 years is going to respond well to an e-card. It’s similar to breaking up by post-it note. At any rate, I thought this would make an interesting question to use in class to illustrate that effective communication is situational.

Politeness at the Health Club

In the interest of completeness, I offer this simple post on politeness at the health club—some of it having very clear relevance to communication and some not so much.

The ever-popular health club generally follows the rules of politeness of the general society but has a few additional rules that are unique to the gym. And violations of these rules—as you may remember from a classic Seinfeld episode—are severe. When George peed in the shower, he was banned from the gym. The most important and most general rule to follow in all these kinds of situations is to observe the customs operating in your specific health club. If the club has specific written rules, read them and follow them. Here are several more specific rules that some health clubs expect members to follow.
1. Know the equipment—learn how to operate the equipment. Generally, avoid asking another member to help you; this only imposes on that person’s time and attacks that person’s need for negative face. When in doubt ask a club trainer. If you can’t find a trainer and you feel you have to know how to do something, then wait until the person is resting or between sets. At the same time, don’t offer advice if you aren’t asked; resist the temptation to offer suggestions even when you know your suggestions are exactly right.
2. Wipe your sweat off the machine when appropriate. Carry around a workout towel and use it to be polite to your fellow members.
3. Avoid hogging the machines and spending more time on a machine than is customary. If the club has time limits for certain equipment, observe them.
4. If you use weights or other portable equipment, put them away after using them. If you don’t someone else will have to. Also, if you use heavy weights remove them after your workout; the next person may not be able to lift your 200 lb plates. The same goes for towels; put them away.
5. Don’t bring your child and use the gym as a babysitter. Most people don’t enjoy having children gawk at them as they’re lifting or running.
6. Avoid leering or ogling other members—they may look great but in many cases it just makes the other person uncomfortable. Wait until you get to the juice bar to flirt or hook up.
7. Moderate your noise level. While not a college classroom or theatre, the gym is still a public place and depending on the number of people and the acoustics, noise can be a problem. Keep your exercise-related screaming and grunting to a reasonable decibel level. And avoid dropping your weights on the floor with a thud; this may tell people you’re using heavy weights but it’s annoying.
8. Allow work-ins if appropriate. When an exercise requires machine workouts spaced by rest periods, your club may encourage working-in where you and another person share the same machine—one working the machine while the other is resting. It’s considered polite to ask to work-in if the club is crowded or that machine is in high demand. And it’s considered polite to invite someone to work-in with you if you sense this person would like to.
9. Beware the cologne. Many club members who fear offending others by their sweat will pour on cologne to the point where it is worse than any other body odor could be. Try to control both sweat and anti-sweat cologne so that neither proves too offensive.
10. Be friendly. If small talk is the customary form of interaction, then try to engage in it. Even if this is not your general way of interacting, it may be expected at your club.
11. Observe the nonverbal rules or customs, for example, don’t take up space with your gym bag or clothes (you probably have a locker), don’t touch others unless requested, don’t stare at members as they work out, don’t stand too close to people (respect their space).


Teaching Children Politeness

Politeness is simply a way of communicating respectfully and as such is a useful communication skill to teach children, your own or those you teach. Of course, the best way to teach children anything is to model it yourself. In most cases, they’ll pick it up from you; they’ll do as you do, talk as you talk, say please and excuse me as you say please and excuse me. Part of this involves treating your child politely. If you’re trying to teach your child not to interrupt another’s conversation, don’t you interrupt the child either. If you want the child to say please and excuse me, then use these phrases yourself when talking to your child. But, there are a variety of things you can do to teach politeness skills in addition to setting the right example. Here are ten suggestions:
1. Teach your child the values of politeness. All children want to be liked and thought attractive; politeness will increase the likelihood that they will be liked and will be seen as attractive. Make that clear to children.
2. Teach your child the value of listening. Children often like to be the center of attention; teach them that listening is a great way of making someone else the center of attention. And, very likely, that person will return the favor and make you the center of attention.
3. Teach your child not to interrupt others. Of course if your child sees you interrupting others, this will be a tough lesson to teach and to learn. And explain the difference between back channeling cues (cues that say you’re listening—I understand, I don’t get it, For example?-- but that don’t take the speaker’s turn away from the one talking) from interruptions in which you take over the speaking turn.
4. Teach the value of politeness tags, phrases such as thank you, excuse me, you’re welcome, and please. Again, if you use them, your child is likely to use them as well.
5. Expose your child to a variety of social situations gradually. If you’re going to a restaurant with a small child, review the situation at home—let the child know what to expect and what is expected of him or her. It may even be useful to stage a mock restaurant at home. The diners next to you will greatly appreciate this.
6. Explain the distinction between polite and impolite behavior—perhaps as you’re both watching television. Point out behavior that’s impolite and that should be avoided as well as polite behavior that can be emulated.
7. Reward your child when he or she is polite, sometimes something as simple as: That was really nice of you to say please. At the same time, don’t hesitate to correct your child when he or she acts impolitely. Do it gently (you don’t want to have the kid detest any mention of politeness) and do it privately (never criticize the child in public). And be sure you explain not only what was impolite, but what the polite alternative would be: I notice that you called our neighbor Harry, maybe because you hear me calling him that. But children should call him Mr. Smith. When you get older and you’re an adult yourself, then you’d call him Harry. Realize that children just haven’t had the time to learn the rules of politeness (and they're surrounded by so many poor examples)so proceed in small steps and take pleasure in small improvements.
8. When appropriate, point out cultural differences in politeness. This is easily done while watching a movie or a television show, for example, See how the Japanese businessman is being polite by bowing.
9. Teach your child to answer the phone properly. It’s a simple skill that all adults know but children have to learn. Modeling appropriate phone behavior and spelling out the steps in polite phone behavior should teach even very young children to answer the phone without annoying the caller.
10. When dealing with boys it may be necessary to explain that politeness is not just for girls—a belief that many young boys have. Often they see politeness as a feminine way of behaving, a way of communicating that is more girl-like than boy-like. So, in your teaching include this and, for example, point out politeness examples from superheroes and, in general, those people the boys admire, are identifying with, or want to emulate.


Relationship Research and Same-Sex Marriage

Congratulations to both Iowa and Vermont for making justice prevail and granting same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples. Research on relationships has failed to find any negative effects that same-sex marriage might have on the family, on children, on opposite-sex marriages, and on society as a whole—effects that opponents of same-sex marriage claim exist but have never been able to prove. It’s the fallacious argument that Stuart Chase called the Thin Entering Wedge (same-sex marriage will open the doors to all sorts of catastrophes) and perhaps more popularly known as the fallacy of the Slippery Slope (once you allow same-sex marriage, everything else is down hill). The added difficulties that same-sex couples and their families face and ultimately surmount seem attributable to bigotry and discrimination.
With all the money these opponents spend in their advocacy for legalizing discrimination against gay men and lesbians, you’d assume that if there was such evidence, they would have found it. They haven’t. And these folks are very dedicated people; they’re willing, even anxious, to spend a good deal of their money, time, and talent to institutionalize discrimination. And so they resort to creationist beliefs (especially interesting from a rhetorical point of view) in their support of legal discrimination (the utterly stupid Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, the type of argument you’d think would be restricted to the audience attending The Jerry Springer Show)—a belief that even many of the states that still discriminate have rejected, at least as a scientific explanation of our current state.
And, it’s also clear, that legalizing same-sex marriage will have numerous benefits for both gay and straight, something New York and New Jersey need to consider as they prepare to make their decisions. But that’s another post.


Politeness in the Classroom

Politeness in the classroom is one of the topics that seem almost too obvious to mention; of course, people will be polite in a classroom, just as they’re polite in a place of worship or at a job interview. But, the classroom is a bit different; it has its own rules of politeness. And, to complicate matters just a bit, these rules are modified in various ways by different institutions and by different instructors. Some instructors, for example, prefer to be addressed by their first name while others prefer to be addressed as Professor. Some allow eating and drinking in the classroom, others will tolerate coffee in early morning classes, while still others ban all food and drink.
And of course such rules vary from one culture to another. The classroom in the United States does not follow the same rules of politeness as the classroom in Japan, Russia, or Saudi Arabia. And, so, to persons from other cultures, the politeness rules for American colleges can be quite confusing.
One thing for sure: politeness in the classroom is not too obvious to mention. In fact, a search of the Internet uncovers a variety of politeness instructions from a wide variety of academic institutions. Impoliteness is apparently a problem. Some instructors, in fact, write politeness rules into the syllabus. Some schools post their rules on their website and expect all classes to follow them. Rarely do the rules address instructor politeness; almost all are addressed to students.
Here, then, are ten rules of politeness addressed to both students and instructors, some of the dos and don’ts of politeness in the classroom. Discussion of these ten rules—and any others that should have been mentioned--between students and instructor seems a logical way of establishing the rules for classroom politeness.
1. Arrive on time. Whether you are instructor or student, late arrival is disturbing to everyone who arrives on time. Being habitually late signals a lax attitude toward the college experience which doesn’t help anyone. So, arriving on time is a clear demonstration of politeness and respect for the others in the room, whether students or instructor.
2. Leave only at the end of the hour. Students should not leave until being dismissed by the instructor but the instructor should not keep the students late and have them then be late for their next class. Leaving early, like arriving late, only disturbs those who leave on time. If you must leave early for some emergency, tell the instructor or students (if that’s the custom) and, if a student, take a seat where you’ll disturb the fewest number of people.
3. Wear cologne in moderation. Strong cologne or after shave lotion can trigger discomfort and resentment in those who are forced to smell this. And while the wearer often thinks the cologne smells just great, others will not necessarily share this opinion. This suggestion is especially true in large lecture classes where competing smells are likely to create real unpleasantness.
4. Students should avoid talking to neighboring students. This not only disturbs the instructor but others around you who now have greater difficulty hearing the lecture. And you may even be disturbing the student you’re talking to. Asking the student next to you to repeat what the instructor said that you missed, only forces the other student to miss the next thing the instructor says. And instructors should talk to the entire group and not focus attention on one or two students who may be particularly engaging. Often instructors, without realizing it, favor one side of the room and that should be corrected.
5. Use electronic devices responsibly and politely. Turn off your cell phone or pager (or at least put it on vibrator mode). Avoid using your cell phone to talk, take pictures, or text. If you’re a student, this will disturb the instructor and the students around you and will also prevent you from learning as much as you might. If you’re the instructor, you’ll disturb the entire class. If you’re expecting an urgent call that you cannot miss, take the call with as little disturbance as possible, leaving the room unobtrusively if possible. Some instructors welcome laptops while others don’t. Find out what the protocol is and then, if permitted, use the laptop to aid you in interacting with the ideas the instructor is talking about and in taking notes rather than as a distraction.
6. As a student use the proper form of address for your instructor. This can often be confusing, especially when different instructors follow different rules. Generally, however, and unless directed otherwise by the instructor, use a relatively formal form of address. This means addressing the instructor as Dr. (if he or she has a Ph.D.), Professor (whether he or she is adjunct, assistant, associate, or full professor), or Mr. or Ms if the person does not have a Ph.D. and is not a professor. [The title Dr. means the person has a Ph.D. while the title Professor means that the college has granted this person professorial status. So, a person might be a professor without having a Ph.D. and a person with a Ph.D. may not necessarily be a professor. Most professors, however, have Ph.D.s and most Ph.D.s have professorial status. A high school teacher with a Ph.D. is called Dr. but not Professor.] Students generally prefer to be addressed by their first name and so there is seldom any problem here. In addition, however, the instructor (and students) should use the culturally preferred terms for the students (and for people generally) and avoid any sexist, racist, heterosexist, or ageist terms. Similarly, persons with disabilities should be talked about in “person first” language—for example, instead of “the blind writer” (which puts the disability first and makes it the defining feature of the person), a more appropriate and polite expression would be “the writer who is blind” (which puts the person first).
7. Watch your language. Terms that would be considered taboo in polite society are inappropriate in the classroom. Again, the reason for this is not that these words aren’t often adequate descriptions of your meaning; it’s that they may embarrass others in the classroom. Also, their unexpectedness will lead others to focus on your use of terms rather than on your meaning and you’ll lose some of their attention. Similarly, anger communication is out of place in the classroom; spirited discussion is one thing, expressing anger over a position taken by the instructor or a student would be inappropriate. There are other avenues for you to use in taking issue with opposing positions. Another type of language that would be considered impolite is dismissive communication, the kind of communication that says (often nonverbally), “that’s not important” or “how cares about that?” whether said to something the instructor says or something a student says.
8. As a student, ask questions as appropriate but in moderation. Taking a disproportionate amount of time asking questions is unfair to the rest of the students. Avoid asking questions that you could easily find the answer to yourself; it’s similar to the situation in online communication where you’re expected to read the FAQs before asking a question yourself. And always avoid the question, “Will this be on the test?” though this may be a quirk of my own. After being asked this a number of times, I wrote into the syllabus that everything said in class or in the text could be asked on the test. This effectively prevented anyone asking this question again. It’s a question that if you answer No many in the class will put down their pens and tune you out and if you answer Yes many will want to put down your exact words and you’ll get at least several requests to repeat yourself--exactly. And then of course the instructor has to remember to add that question to the testbank.
9. Never broadcast boredom in reactions to the instructor or to students. It’s rude. More than that, it communicates the exact opposite of what the purpose of the classroom should be—interesting, engaging, and lively. If you’re the student, for example, avoid reading the newspaper or thumbing through a website or listening to your iPod; this will disturb both instructor and the students around you. If you’re the instructor avoid expressing boredom or impatience, for example, with a student’s lengthy explanation or question.
10. Avoid eating or drinking in the classroom (generally). As already noted, some instructors have different rules about this so, if you’re a student, it’s probably best to find out first. If you’re the instructor then don’t do what the students can’t do; don’t prevent them from bringing in coffee when you bring in yours. Whether you’re the instructor or the student, avoid foods with strong odors such as oranges and take care that your food does not (literally) spill over into another space.



Just in case you didn't see this. Here's a great quotation on listening:
"[W]e exercise our leadership best when we are listening."
--Barack Obama


Credibility Argument

There’s an interesting announcement by the Cato Institute that is running in the New York Times and elsewhere, challenging the assumption that climate change is a crucial problem. You can see the ad at http://www.cato.org/fiscalreality. The interesting thing about this ad is that it relies almost entirely on "argument from credibility". Approximately 10% of the full-page announcement is devoted to what we’d call logical argument—e.g., “After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events. The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.” The rest of the ad—about 80%--is devoted to a list of scientists, authors, and others (mainly Ph.D.s) who support the Institute’s position—115 to be exact—along with their degrees and affiliation or claim to authority. The website provides additional names. Regardless of what you think about climate change, the ad is interesting in terms of persuasion and the ways in which credibility and testimony can be used in building a persuasive case.


The Chain Letter as Dysfunctional Communication

One of the most annoying of all communication practices is the chain letter that demands that you do something—often something religious (and something I think most organized and respected religions would frown on)—and then send the letter on to an additional 10 people. [The other type of chain letter in which someone finds a great joke or article and sends it on to a mailing list of friends and relatives is a somewhat different (and only sometimes annoying) form of communication with different purposes.] If you do, you’ll be greatly rewarded; but, if you don’t, beware. Doom will soon find you. Here are just a few reasons why this form of communication needs to be labeled dysfunctional and why people who do this should reassess their motives and consider giving up this annoying practice.
1. First, it is culturally insensitive in that it assumes that the recipients of this email share (or should share) the same beliefs as the original writer. And if they don’t, they’re in big trouble. The sender makes this a moral issue—you must send this on to others or you violate crucial religious laws—exactly where these laws come from is never clear. Too ethnocentric for me.
2. Second, these promises and warnings are based on illogical Just World Thinking—the belief that good things happen to good people (that is, you’ll be rewarded if you say this prayer and pass it on to 10 others) and bad things happen to bad people (that is, you’ll be punished if you don’t say the prayer and distribute it). But, we know from just looking around—you don’t even have to read the newspapers—that lots of good people have terrible lives and lots of bad people have great lives. Too illogical for me.
3. Third, it insults the intelligence of the recipient. If the writer assumes that saying and distributing the prayer (or not) will influence what happens to the person, then the writer is taking us for idiots. Not even the most religious would assume a direct casual relationship between saying a prayer and passing it on, on the one hand, and receiving good fortune, on the other. Too insulting for me.
4. Fourth, it makes those who have some belief in these kinds of things, but might be embarrassed to send it on to others or might not know ten people, worry that they will soon experience difficulties. The expectation of these impending difficulties, of course, creates anxiety and discomfort for no reason at all. Too cruel for me.
5. Fifth, these chain letters are often motivated by the person’s fear—fear of not doing as directed and consequently suffering all sorts of harm. And so they comply and send it on to 10 others, only compounding the problem. While they may ease their own fear, they fail to take into consideration the fear, discomfort, and annoyance that these letters will generate in others (perhaps especially in those who believe). Too selfish for me.
6. Sixth, these chain letters are impolite; they attack a person’s need for positive and negative face. Chain letters attack a person’s need for positive face to be thought of positively (obviously the chain letter assumes he or she is an idiot) and the negative face needs for being autonomous (now the recipient is imposed upon and has to do something he or she would not normally have done). Too impolite for me.
7. Seventh, these letters invariably warn of dire consequences should you not do as directed, something every recipient should resent. For example, the last such letter I received just a few days ago threatened the person who ignored the letter by recalling that one person who ignored the letter had his son die, another lost a job, and another lost family—all for ignoring this intrusion and not doing as the writer demanded. Too threatening for me.
8. Eighth, these letters are time consuming and waste everyone’s time—to say nothing of bandwidth—to download, to read, to compile a list of 10 recipients, to send them on, and to read responses that are likely to follow. Too wasteful for me.
9. Ninth, they often include your email address which others on the list now have access to and can easily add you to their chain letters, compounding this invasion of privacy. Too intrusive for me.
10. Add your own.
All this is not to question the motives of the sender; often the sender is motivated by kindness and a desire to share good fortune with friends and relatives. I know personally that the last chain letter I received and referred to earlier was sent by a person with only the best of motives. So, I’m not blaming the messenger; I’m blaming the message. And we all know that meanings are not in the message, but in the person sending the message. And so, to the senders of these messages, let me ask you to consider the effects that your messages may have on others, even though you have the best of intentions in sending it. And, to the receivers of these messages, I’d say, use your delete button.


The Communication Functions of Politeness

After posting several items on politeness, I began considering the functions that politeness serves and searched the literature. Actually, very little attention has been devoted to politeness functions. What follows is a first attempt to spell out some of the purposes or functions that politeness serves in conversation or in communication generally.

Politeness serves at least seven important functions: (1) to avoid conflict, (2) to ensure cooperative interaction, (3) to manage impressions, (4) to establish power, (5) to ensure compliance, (6) to show deference, and (7) to be nice. The first two of these are widely reported in analyses of politeness (e.g., Eelen, 2001; Watts, 2003; Vilkki, 2006). These functions can best be viewed as goals to be achieved and politeness one of the relevant communication strategies. So, if you want to avoid conflict or ensure cooperative interaction, for example, one communication strategy is to be polite--to support the other person's need for both positive and negative face.

To Avoid Conflict

Politeness can often be used to avoid conflict or to minimize it. Apologizing, which is a classic form of politeness, is an obvious conflict avoider as would be such expressions as you're right, please forgive me, and I was wrong. By being polite you show the other person respect which is likely to lessen any feelings of hostility or even just annoyance. Politeness also helps to create a more positive atmosphere which is likely to help minimize the feelings of conflict and opposition.

To Ensure Cooperative Interaction

By being polite you show that you want the interaction to be cooperative and mutually satisfying. If, at the other extreme, you were rude, the conversation would likely last a lot shorter time and end with ill-feeling. Politeness creates more enjoyment and satisfaction and hence is likely to be pursued at greater length. The small talk on an elevator may also be viewed as a politeness strategy designed to tell the others that you're friendly and are operating with (and within) the established rules of society (i.e., you're not some psychopath).

To Manage Impressions

Consider meeting your new supervisor's family. Here, you're likely to be especially polite to create a desired impression. For example, it will make you appear more likable, certainly an impression you'd want to create. Because politeness demonstrates respect for the other person, the person is apt to respond to you with a certain degree of liking. Politeness here will also make you appear more credible--it takes a certain degree of knowledge and experience to demonstrate politeness, again, a desirable impression to create, whether in the workplace or at the singles club.

To Establish Power

Sometimes a display of politeness--perhaps more in the nature of etiquette--establishes power especially if the other person does not know the rules of social politeness--for eating in a exclusive restaurant or meeting a group of foreign dignitaries or meeting your romantic partner's parents. A person who lacks a knowledge of the rules of politeness is likely to feel awkward and ill-at-ease, making the person less powerful, less likely to be assertive, less likely to engage in argument or even lively discussion, less likely to order escargot (and at this point in my ideal post would be a video of Julia Roberts eating snails in a restaurant in Pretty Woman). Actually, you can see a clip at: http://www.videosurf.com/video/pretty-woman-full-movie-6-12-55084911.

To Ensure Compliance

Politeness is often a persuasive strategy, designed to influence someone to respond more favorably to your message or to gain someone's compliance. Politeness will function like a lubricant to get the wheels of compliance turning. I know you don't like to lend anyone money, and I understand that, but I thought maybe just this once.... Here, you show respect for the person's negative face needs (practicing what we earlier called negative politeness). Or you might laugh at the person's jokes and compliment the person on having a great sense of humor as a preface to asking a favor. Here you respond to the person's positive face needs to be thought of highly (practicing positive politeness).

To Show Deference

Politeness to show deference is probably the function of politeness that comes most quickly to mind and yet, clearly, is not the only function. But, it's an important one. Politeness is often a sign of deference as when a young person addresses an older person with Title + Last Name while being addressed with just First Name or a student addresses a professor with the honorific "professor" but receives a first name in return. One great scene occurs in In the Heat of the Night where Sidney Poitier responds to Rod Steiger's "What do they call you?" with "They call me Mr. Tibbs," a brief way of demanding respect and due deference. This line, btw, is rated Number 76 in the all time great movie lines by Premiere magazine (2007) and Number 16 in "movie quotes" by the American Film Institute (as reported on The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com/title/tt0061811/trivia). Take a look at the Premiere.com website for the entire list of 100 lines--the first, btw, is: "Here's looking at you, kid" from Casablanca.
In some cultures, this function of politeness is more important than others. In Japan, which is generally used as the society in which politeness rules are most important, one way to show deference is with the bow; a lower status person (say a junior executive) bows lower and for a longer length of time when meeting a higher status person (say the president of the corporation) who bows relatively little. In many European languages, you show deference by using different pronouns--the more formal pronouns showing greater politeness. In English, as in most languages, you have politeness tags--words like please and thank you--that signal politeness. An overuse or an underuse of these politeness tags may signal not deference but a low social status, a discomfort with the social situation, or a general lack of knowledge of the rules of social interaction.

To Be Nice

If you were to ask people why they are polite, they'd probably say something to the effect that it's the nice thing to do--you act politely to be nice without any attempt to manipulate the other person or to create a favorable impression of yourself. However, determining when someone is being polite just to be nice and when someone is being polite for some ulterior motive is another story.


Politeness in Conflict

This is a brief discussion of conflict strategies as seen through the concept of politeness.

Face-Attacking and Face-Enhancing Strategies: Politeness in Conflict

Face-attacking conflict strategies are those that attack a person’s positive face (for example, comments that criticize the person’s contribution to a relationship or any of the person’s abilities) or a person’s negative face (for example, making demands on a person’s time or resources or comments that attack the person’s autonomy). Face-enhancing strategies are those that support and confirm a person’s positive (praise, a pat on the back, a sincere smile) or negative face (giving the person space and asking rather than demanding), for example. Not surprisingly, academics have a special acronym for these: FTAs or Face Threatening Acts.
A wide range of conflict strategies could probably be viewed from the perspective of face and politeness. For the most part, it seems, the kinds of strategies textbook authors recommend to use are polite and the strategies recommended to avoid are impolite. But, several strategies seem especially appropriate to discuss in terms of politeness.
One popular but destructive face-attacking strategy is beltlining (Bach & Wyden, 1968). Much like fighters in a ring, each of us has a “beltline,” (here, an emotional one). When you hit below this emotional beltline, you can inflict serious injury. When you hit above the belt, however, the person is able to absorb the blow. With most interpersonal relationships, especially those of long standing, you know where the beltline is. You know, for example, that to hit Kristen or Matt with the inability to have children is to hit below the belt. You know that to hit Jack or Jill with the failure to get a permanent job is to hit below the belt. This type of face-attacking strategy causes all persons involved added problems.
Another such face-attacking strategy is blame. Instead of focusing on a solution to a problem, some members try to affix blame on the other person. Whether true or not, blaming is unproductive; it diverts attention away from the problem and from its potential solution and it creates resentment that is likely to be responded to with additional resentment. The conflict then spirals into personal attacks, leaving the individuals and the relationship worse off than before the conflict was ever addressed.
Strategies that enhance a person’s self image and that acknowledge a person’s autonomy will not only be polite, they’re likely to be more effective than strategies that attack a person self image and deny a person’s autonomy. Even when you get what you want, it’s wise to help the other person retain positive face because it makes it less likely that future conflicts will arise (Donahue & Kolt, 1992).
Instead of face-attacking, try face-enhancing strategies:
• Use messages that enhance a person’s self image
• Use messages that acknowledge a person’s autonomy
• Compliment the other person even in the midst of a conflict
• Make few demands, respect another’s time, give the other person space especially in times of conflict
• Keep blows to areas above the belt
• Avoid blaming the other person
• Express respect for the other’s point of view even when it differs greatly from your own


Politeness at Work

Here is a brief discussion of politeness on the job that will appear in the next edition of Interpersonal Messages. It's kind of a complement to the post on Relationship Politeness (2/27/09).
Politeness at work will prove important from your initial interview at a college job fair through the face-to-face interview, to your first day on the job, and, of course, to your progression up the organizational ladder. In one study some 80 percent of employees surveyed believed that they did not get respect at work, and 20 percent felt they were victims of weekly incivility. Rudeness in the workplace, it’s been argued, reduces performance effectiveness, hurts creativity, and leads to increased worker turnover—all of which are costly for the organization (Tsiantar, 2005). Not surprisingly, organizations are devoting considerable attention to politeness. A search of Google for “politeness +business” recently yielded over 1,000,000 sites.
Not surprisingly, the teaching of workplace politeness is now big business with thousands of firms offering their services to teach workplace politeness. A Google search for “business etiquette +consultant” yielded approximately 200,000 sites. Demonstrating the principles of politeness on the job is clearly one of the qualifications for moving up within any organization.
Politeness on the job follows the same general rules stressed for effective interpersonal interaction stressed throughout this text. For example, be positive, be expressive, listen carefully, and so on. Nevertheless, there are certain rules for polite interaction that take on special importance in the workplace. To complicate matters just a bit, each organization—much like each culture--will have somewhat different rules for what they consider polite. Nevertheless, here are a few general suggestions for politeness on the job, which seem near universal.
• Be respectful of a colleague’s time. This rule suggests lots of specifics; for example, don’t copy those who don’t need to be copied, be brief and organized, respond to requests as soon as possible and when not possible, alert the other person that, for example, “the figures will be sent as soon as they arrive, probably by the end of the day.”
• Be respectful of a person’s territory. Like animals, humans are very territorial. This is especially true in the business world where status distinctions are very important and govern the rules of territoriality. So, for example, don’t invade another’s office or desk space and don’t overspend your welcome. In brief, treat another’s work space as someone’s private territory into which you must be invited.
• Follow the rules for effective electronic communication, which will naturally differ from one workplace to another. Generally, look for rules governing the use of e-mails, Internet game playing, cell phones (see Chapter 4, p. 00), social networking (see Chapter 5, p. 000), and instant messaging.
• Discard your Facebook grammar, spelling, acronyms, and smileys. These may be seen as not showing sufficient respect for someone high in the company hierarchy. The general suggestion offered for people writing into newsgroups is appropriate here as well; watch how other people write before writing yourself. If you find no guidance here, your best bet is to write as if your email is being graded by your English professor. This means editing for conciseness, proof reading, and spell checking.
• Uses the appropriate medium for sending messages. Generally, the rule is to respond in kind—for example, if a question is asked in email, answer it in email.
• Avoid touching except in shaking hands. Touching is often interpreted as a sexual overture, so it’s best avoided on the job. Touching may also imply a familiarity that the other person may not welcome. Your best bet is to avoid initiating touching but don’t be offended if others put their arm on our shoulder or pat you on the back.
• In generally, follow the organization’s rules of politeness—for example, answering phones, to addressing the hierarchy, dress, lateness, and desk materials.
• Treat everyone politely, even the newest intern—as if that person will one day be your boss.


Interpersonal Communication: More Definitions

Yesterday, I posted a definition of interpersonal communication from one of my own books. I thought I'd search to see how other textbook writers define it. Here are just a few:

...interpersonal communication occurs when people treat one another as unique individuals, regardless of the context in which the interaction occurs or the number of people involved.
Adler, Rosenfeld, Proctor Interplay, p. 15

…interpersonal communication refers to the exchange of messages, verbal and nonverbal, between people regardless of the relationship they share.
--Guerrero, Andersen, Afifi Close Encounters, p. 11

…the transactional creation of meaning, either intentionally or unintentionally, within a dyadic social relationship.
--Jones, Remland, Sanford Interpersonal Communication through the Life Span, p. 10

Interpersonal communication involves at least two people who establish a communicative association.
Lane, Interpersonal Communication, p. 4

Interpersonal communication is a dynamic form of communication between two (or more) people in which the messages exchanged significantly influence their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships.
McCornack, Reflect and Relate, p. 20

…the process through which people create and manage their relationships, exercising mutual responsibility in creating meaning.
Verderber, Verderber Inter-Act, p. 3


Interpersonal Communication: A Definition

A comment on one of my posts came from a student studying interpersonal communication who was not sure what interpersonal communication was. [Hopefully, she was not using one of my books.] So, I thought I'd post this definition/explanation which comes from the revision manuscript of my Interpersonal Messages 2/e. I hope it helps.
Interpersonal communication is the verbal and nonverbal interaction between two interdependent people (sometimes more). This relatively simple definition implies a variety of characteristics.

(1) Interpersonal Communication Involves Interdependent Individuals
Interpersonal communication is the communication that takes place between people who are in some way “connected.” Interpersonal communication would thus include what takes place between a son and his father, an employer and an employee, two sisters, a teacher and a student, two lovers, two friends, and so on. Although largely dyadic in nature interpersonal communication is often extended to include small intimate groups such as the family. Even within a family however, the communication that takes place is often dyadic—mother to child, sister to sister, and so on.
Not only are the individuals simply “connected,” they are also interdependent, what one person does has an impact on the other person. The actions of one person have consequences for the other person. In a family, for example, a child’s trouble with the police will impact on the parents, other siblings, extended family members, and perhaps friends and neighbors.

(2) Interpersonal Communication Is Inherently Relational
Because of this interdependency, interpersonal communication is inevitably and essentially relational in nature. Interpersonal communication takes place in a relationship, it impacts the relationship, it defines the relationship. The way you communicate is determined in great part by the kind of relationship that exists between you and the other person. You interact differently with your interpersonal communication instructor and your best friend; you interact with a sibling in ways very different from the ways you interact with a neighbor, a work colleague, or a casual acquaintance.
But notice also that the way you communicate will influence the kind of relationship you have. If you interact in friendly ways, you’re likely to develop a friendship. If you regularly exchange hateful and hurtful messages, you’re likely to develop an antagonistic relationship. If you each regularly express respect and support for each other, a respectful and supportive relationship is likely to develop. This is surely one of the most obvious observations you can make about interpersonal communication. And yet, so many seem not to appreciate this very clear relationship between what you say and the relationship that develops (or deteriorates).

(3) Interpersonal Communication Exists on a Continuum
Interpersonal communication exists along a continuum, ranging from relatively impersonal at one end to highly personal at the other. At the impersonal end of the continuum, you have simple conversation between people who, we’d say, really don’t know each other—the server and the customer, for example. At the highly personal end is the communication that takes place between people who are intimately interconnected—a father and son, two long time lovers, or best friends, for example. A few characteristics distinguish the impersonal from the personal forms of communication (the first three are based on Gerald Miller’s widely used analysis.
• Role vs. Personal Information. Notice that in the impersonal example, the individuals are likely to respond to each other according to the role they are currently playing; the server treats the customer not as a unique individual but as one of many customers. And the customer, in turn, acts towards the server not as a unique individual but as he or she would react to any server. The father and the son, however, react to each other as unique individuals. They act on the basis of personal information.
• Societal vs. Personal Rules. Notice too that the server and the customer interact according to the rules of society governing the server-customer interaction. The father and the son, on the other hand, interact on the basis of personally established rules. The way they address each other, their touching behavior, and their degree of physical closeness, for example, are unique to them and are established by them rather than by society.
• Predictive and Explanatory Data. In impersonal relationships you're able to predict the other person's behavior with only a fair likelihood of accuracy. For example, you can predict (to a modest extent) some of the behaviors of the other students in your class. But, as you get to observe and interact with them over time—that is, as you get to know them better, your accuracy in prediction increases and, in addition, you’ll also begin to explain their behaviors (at least to some extent). That is, as you move along the continuum from impersonal to highly personal, your ability to predict and explain behaviors increases.
• Social vs. Personal Messages. Still another difference is found in the messages exchanged. The messages that the server and customer exchange, for example, are themselves impersonal; there is little self-disclosure and little emotional content, for example. Between the father-son, however, the messages may run the entire range and may at times be highly personal with lots of disclosure and emotion.

(4) Interpersonal Communication Involves Verbal and Nonverbal Messages
The interpersonal interaction involves the exchange of verbal and nonverbal messages. The words you use as well as your facial expressions--your eye contact and your body posture, for example, send messages. Likewise, you receive messages through your sense of hearing as well as through your other senses especially visual and touch. Even silence sends messages. These messages, as you’ll see throughout this course, will vary greatly depending on the other factors involved in the interaction. You don’t talk to a best friend in the same way you talk to your college professor or your parents.

(5) Interpersonal Communication Exists in Varied Forms
Often interpersonal communication takes place face-to-face: talking with other students before class, interacting with family or friends over dinner, trading secrets with intimates. This is the type of interaction that probably comes to mind when you think of interpersonal communication. But, of course, much conversation takes place online. Online communication is a major part of people’s interpersonal experience throughout the world. Such communications are important personally, socially, and professionally.

(6) Interpersonal Communication Is Transactional
Some early theories viewed the communication process as linear.In this linear view of communication, the speaker spoke and the listener listened; after the speaker finished speaking, the listener would speak. Communication was seen as proceeding in a relatively straight line. Speaking and listening were seen as taking place at different times—when you spoke, you didn’t listen; and when you listened, you didn’t speak.
A more satisfying view, and the one currently held by most communication theorists, sees communication as a transactional process in which each person serves simultaneously as speaker and listener. According to the transactional view, at the same time that you send messages, you’re also receiving messages from your own communications and from the reactions of the other person. And at the same time that you’re listening, you’re also sending messages. In a transactional view, each person is seen as both speaker and listener, as simultaneously communicating and receiving messages.


Relationship Politeness

Here is a brief section on relationship politeness that will appear in the next edition of Interpersonal Messages. A great deal more could be said about politeness in relationships; this brief passage is just designed to raise the issue.

Not surprisingly, your level of politeness will vary with your relationship stage.
Politeness is greatest during the contact and involvement stages—you want to put your best foot forward if the relationship is to be established and perhaps moved forward.
During the intimacy stage, you’re likely to relax your politeness, at least the rules of politeness that would operate in social settings. As noted earlier, as the relationship becomes more interpersonal, the rules that guide the relationship are not so much the rules of society as they are the rules established by the individuals themselves. With intimates, you know each other so well that you feel you can dispense with the “please” and “excuse me” or with prefacing requests with, for example, “Can I please ask you a favor” or “Would you mind helping me here?”
Relaxing politeness as in intimacy, however, is not necessarily a good thing; in fact, politeness during the intimacy stage helps to maintain the relationship and ensure relationship satisfaction. Relaxing politeness too much may be interpreted as a decrease in caring and respect for the other person which will increase dissatisfaction and perhaps move the relationship away from intimacy.
During the deterioration and dissolution stages, you’re not likely to be concerned with politeness. You may even go out of your way to be impolite as an expression of your dislike or even hostility. In some cases, of course, the dissolution of a relationship is an amicable one where politeness would be relatively high with perhaps the idea of remaining friends but at a less intimate level than previously.
If you wish to repair the relationship, then you’re likely to be extremely polite, perhaps on the same level as during the contact and involvement stages. Your politeness in starting and growing the relationship is likely to be echoed in your attempts to re-start (or repair) your relationship.


Interpersonal Communication around the World

Zaklady Mezilidske Komunikace (a Czech translation of Essentials of Human Communication, 6th edition) has just been published and arrived today (I’m very happy to say) and reminded me of something I read in an introductory interpersonal textbook: “formal study of interpersonal communication occurs almost exclusively in the United States.” This statement is simply untrue and gives the impression that people in other countries don't recognize the importance of interpersonal communication study. A few examples from my own books (and I’m sure other textbook authors could add their own examples): Three editions of my Interpersonal Communication Book have been published in Chinese (two by Chinese publishers and one by a Taiwan publisher), two editions of Messages have been published in French, and editions of Essentials of Human Communication and Human Communication (each dealing with interpersonal communication in some depth) have been published in Indonesian, Czech, and Greek as well as in adaptations published in New Zealand and Canada. The study of communication in all its forms is definitely not unique to the US; it is alive and well throughout the world.


Conversational Politeness

The following is a section on politeness that will appear in the chapter on conversation in the revision of Interpersonal Messages.

Conversational Politeness
Conversation is expected (at least in many cases) to follow the principle of politeness. Six maxims of politeness have been identified by linguist Geoffrey Leech (1983) and seem to encompass a great deal of what we commonly think of as conversational politeness. Before reading about these maxims take the following self-test to help you personalize the material that follows.
Test Yourself: How Polite Are You?
Try estimating your own level of politeness. For each of the statements below indicate how closely they describe your typical communication. Avoid giving responses that you feel might be considered “socially acceptable;” instead, give responses that accurately represent your typical communication behavior. Use a 10-point scale with 10 being “very accurate description of my typical conversation” and 1 being “very inaccurate description of my typical conversation.”
_____ 1. I tend not to ask others to do something or to otherwise impose on others.
_____ 2. I tend to put others first, before myself.
_____ 3. I maximize the expression of approval of others and minimize any disapproval.
_____ 4. I seldom praise myself but often praise others.
_____ 5. I maximize the expression of agreement and minimize disagreement.
_____ 6. I maximize my sympathy for another and minimize any feelings of antipathy.
How did you do? All six statements would characterize politeness and so high numbers, say 8-10s, would indicate politeness whereas low numbers, say 4-1s, would indicate impoliteness.
What will you do? As you read this material, personalize it with examples from your own interpersonal interactions and try to identify specific examples and situations in which increased politeness might have been more effective.
The maxim of tact (Statement 1 in the self-test) helps to maintain the other’s autonomy (what we referred to earlier as negative face, pp. 00-00). Tact in your conversation would mean that you do not impose on others or challenge their right to do as they wish. For example, if you wanted to ask someone a favor, using the maxim of tact, you might say something like, “I know you’re very busy but. . .” or “I don’t mean to impose, but. . .” Not using the maxim of tact, you might say something like, “You have to lend me your car this weekend” or “I’m going to use your ATM card.”
The maxim of generosity (Statement 2) helps to confirm the other person’s importance, the importance of the person’s time, insight, or talent, for example. Using the maxim of generosity, you might say, “I’ll walk the dog; I see you’re busy” and violating the maxim, you might say, “I’m really busy, why don’t you walk the dog; you’re not doing anything important.”
The maxim of approbation (Statement 3) refers to praising someone or complimenting the person in some way (for example, “I was really moved by your poem”) and minimizing any expression of criticism or disapproval (for example, “For a first effort, that poem wasn’t half bad”).
The maxim of modesty (Statement 4) minimizes any praise or compliments you might receive. At the same time, you might praise and compliment the other person. For example, using this maxim you might say something like, “Well, thank you, but I couldn’t have done this without your input; that was the crucial element.” Violating this maxim, you might say, “Yes, thank you, it was one of my best efforts, I have to admit.”
The maxim of agreement (Statement 5) refers to your seeking out areas of agreement and expressing them (“That color you selected was just right; it makes the room exciting”) and at the same time to avoid and not express (or at least minimize) disagreements (“It’s an interesting choice, very different”). In violation of this maxim, you might say “That color—how can you stand it?”
The maxim of sympathy (Statement 6) refers to the expression of understanding, sympathy, empathy, supportiveness, and the like for the other person. Using this maxim you might say “I understand your feelings; I’m so sorry.” If you violated this maxim you might say, for example, “You’re making a fuss over nothing” or “You get upset over the least little thing; what is it this time?”

The Values of a Communication Course

I wrote the following letter to my nephew as he takes his first communication course and I wanted to impress on him the tremendous values he'll get out of the course. And then I thought it might be of interest to other students taking their first course.

Hi, Michael—
I hear you’re taking a communication course. Congratulations! It was a wise move on your part. And if it was required, then it was a wise move on the part of your college. I know you’re going to profit tremendously from this course if you apply yourself, which I’m sure you’re going to do. But, to motivate you perhaps a bit more, let me remind you of just a few of the benefits you’ll get from learning the theory and skills of communication. One day I should write a book about the values of communication study because I think many students don’t realize just how important communication is. I know that many students (before they entered my classroom, of course) think that since they’ve been communicating for some time that they therefore know how to do it and so don’t need a course in communication. And while it’s true that they know how to communicate, what is also true is that they can learn to communicate more effectively and in ways that will prove more personally satisfying. And that’s where your communication course comes in; it will provide you with the knowledge and the skills you’ll need to make your own communication more effective.
Communication is simply a major part of your world and if you’re going to understand this world, you need to understand communication—what it is and how it works, what it can do and what it can’t do. The more you understand about how communication works, the more you’ll find yourself in control of communication and the greater will be your skills for accomplishing a wide variety of goals.
At the start, consider that it’s through communication that you reveal who you are to others, or more accurately, who you want them to see you as. And so you use what we call “impression management strategies” to get people to like you, to find you attractive, to believe you, to follow you, to excuse you when you make a mistake. And, of course, these are strategies of communication; you create the impression of yourself that you give others through the messages you send and the way you receive or listen to the messages of others.
The skills of interpersonal communication will be largely responsible for the relationships you develop, maintain, or dissolve—your friendship, romantic, family, and work relationships. In fact, it would be difficult to visualize any interpersonal relationship without recognizing the central role that communication plays in every stage of a relationship—from development, through involvement and intimacy, and perhaps through deterioration, repair, and dissolution. Understanding how communication works at all stages of relationships will enable you to more effectively navigate your own movement through the relationship mazes you’ll find throughout your life so that you develop relationships that are satisfying, mutually productive, and that simply make you happy.
Your success in getting a job and in rising in the organizational hierarchy will be largely based on your communication skills. I will spare you the citation of studies, but the upshot of a tremendous amount of research is that communication consistently emerges as the single most important quality that employment interviewers look for in a candidate (yes, even more than a knowledge of the candidate’s major). And they look for that quality simply because that is the quality that is most important for the job—for just about any job you can think of.
A great part of your work life will likely be spent in groups—whether face-to-face or virtual. And your success in these groups, as a member and as a leader, will largely depend on your communication abilities. Understanding how groups operate, the stages they go through, the roles of members and leaders, the available decision making processes, and lots more will enable you to function more effectively in a wide variety of work (and social) groups. As you go up the organizational ladder and increase your role in civic life, the role of communication will become even more important and you’ll need the skills of public speaking. Understanding different audiences; the new technologies of public speaking; the role of research, evidence, and supporting materials; organizational strategies; and, how to use these insights in preparing and presenting speeches will enable you to effectively inform and persuade large audiences—a crucial skill for management.
Well, Michael, this is a long way of saying that there will never come a time in your life when communication will not be a major factor influencing your satisfaction and your success. So, study hard; there’s lots to learn. And, you’ll be rewarded.


Nonverbal Politeness

Here is a very brief (too brief actually) section on nonverbal politeness (which will appear in the next edition of Interpersonal Messages)--offerred more in the nature of a stimulus for considering the role of nonverbal messages in politeness/impoliteness than in presenting an exhaustive list of dos and don'ts.

Often we think of politeness as a verbal skill, but our gestures and nonverbal cue can also signal polite or impolite behavior.
Maintaining eye contact with the speaker—whether at a meeting, in the hallway, or on an elevator—communicates politeness. It says that you are giving the person the consideration of your full attention. Eye contact that is too focused and too prolonged is likely to be seen as invasive and impolite.
Using certain adaptors in public—for example, combing your hair, picking your teeth, or putting your pinky in your ear—would be considered impolite. And, not surprisingly, the greater the formality of the situation, the greater the perception of impoliteness is likely to be. So, for example, combing your hair while sitting with two or three friends would probably not be considered impolite (or perhaps only mildly so) but in a classroom or at a company meeting, it would be considered inappropriate.
Strong cologne or perfume can often be impolite. While you may enjoy the scent, those around you may find it unpleasant and intrusive. Much like others do not want to hear your cell messages, they probably don’t want to have their sense of smell invaded either.
Touching another person may or may not be considered impolite, depending on the relationship you have with the other person and on the context in which you find yourselves. The best advice to give here is to avoid touching unless it’s part of the culture of the group or organization. The handshake, on the other hand, is not only a permitted form of touching, it is often essential. Some guidelines for the handshake—something we often do mindlessly and, as a result, less effectively than we might, will be presented in a future post.


Politeness and Verbal Messages

Here is a little piece that will appear in the chapter on verbal messages in the next edition of Interpersonal Messages.

Message Meanings Vary in Politeness

It will come as no surprise that messages vary greatly in politeness. Polite messages reflect positively on the other person (for example, compliments or pats on the back) and respect the other person’s right to be independent and autonomous (for example, asking permission or acknowledging the person’s right to refuse). Impolite messages attack our needs to be seen positively (for example, criticism or negative facial expressions) and to be autonomous (making demands or forcing another to do something).

Politeness and Directness
Directness is usually less polite and may infringe on a person’s need to maintain negative face—Write me a recommendation, Lend me $100. Indirectness—Do you think you could write a recommendation for me? Would it be possible to lend me $100?—is often more polite because it allows the person to maintain autonomy and provides an acceptable way for the person to refuse your request (thus helping to maintain the person’s negative face needs).
Indirect messages allow you to express a desire without insulting or offending anyone; they allow you to observe the rules of polite interaction. So instead of saying, “I’m bored with this group,” you say, “It’s getting late and I have to get up early tomorrow,” or you look at your watch and pretend to be surprised by the time. Instead of saying, “This food tastes like cardboard,” you say, “I just started my diet”. In each instance you’re stating a preference but are saying it indirectly so as to avoid offending someone.
The differences between direct and indirect messages may easily create misunderstandings. For example, a person who uses an indirect style of speech may be doing so to be polite and may have been taught this style by his or her culture. If you assume, instead, that the person is using indirectness to be manipulative, because your culture regards it so, then miscommunication is inevitable.
Photo 5.3

Politeness and Gender
There are considerable gender differences in politeness (Tannen, 1994b, Holmes, 1995; Kapoor, Hughes, Baldwin, & Blue, 2003; Dindia & Canary, 2006). Among the research findings are, for example, that women are more polite and more indirect in giving orders than are men; they are more likely to say, for example, “it would be great if these letters could go out today” than “Have these letters out by three.” Men are more likely to be indirect when they express weakness, reveal a problem, or admit an error. Generally, men will speak indirectly when expressing meanings that violate the masculine stereotype (for example, messages of weakness or doubt or incompetence). Women’s greater politeness is also seen in the finding that women express empathy, sympathy, and supportiveness more than men. Women also apologize more than men and women make more apologies to other women whereas men make more apologies to women.

Politeness Online
Internet communication has very specific rules for politeness, called netiquette (Kallos, 2005). Much as the rules of etiquette provide guidance in communicating in social situations, the rules of netiquette provide guidance in communicating over the Net and are of major concern to just about everyone using computer-mediated communication (Berry, 2004; Fuller, 2004). These rules are helpful for making Internet communication more pleasant and easier and also for achieving greater personal efficiency. Here are several netiquette guidelines:
• Familiarize yourself with the site before contributing. Before asking questions about the system, read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Lurk before speaking; read posted notices and conversations before you contribute anything yourself. Lurking (which, in CMC, is good) will help you learn the rules of the particular group and will help you avoid saying things you’d like to take back.
• Be brief. Communicate only the information that is needed; communicate clearly, briefly, and in an organized way.
• Don’t shout. WRITING IN CAPS IS PERCEIVED AS SHOUTING. It’s okay to use caps occasionally to achieve emphasis. If you wish to give emphasis, highlight _like this_ or *like this*.
• Don’t spam or flame. Don’t send unsolicited mail, repeatedly send the same mail, or post the same message (or irrelevant messages) to lots of newsgroups. As in face-to-face conflicts, don’t make personal attacks on other users.
• Avoid offensive language. Refrain from expressions that would be considered offensive to others, such as sexist or racist terms. As you may know, software is now available that will scan your e-mail, alert you if you may have broken an organizational rule, and give you a chance to revise your potentially offensive e-mail (Schwartz, 2005).
A special case of online politeness concerns the ever popular social networking sites, a topic noted in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1 Social Networking Politeness
The social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace have developed their own rules of politeness. Here are several:
1. Refuse a request for friendship gently or ignore it. There’s no need to go into great detail about why you don’t want to be friends with this person. And if you’re refused, don’t ask for reasons. Social networkers consider it impolite to ask for reasons why your request is refused.
2. Engage in social networking foreplay before asking someone to be your friend. For example, send a personal message to the person complimenting the person’s post.
3. Avoid writing anything negative on a person’s wall or posting unflattering photos of another person or messages that will embarrass another person or generate conflict.
4. Don’t use social networking information outside the network. It’s considered inappropriate and impolite to relay information on Facebook, for example, to those who are not themselves friends.
5. Avoid asking to be friends with someone who you suspect may have reason for not wanting to admit you. For example, your work associate may not want you to see her or his profile; if you ask, you put your colleague in an awkward position. You might use indirect messages; for example, you might say that you want to expand your networking to work colleagues and see how your colleague responds.