Relationships and Relationship Conflict

If you haven't seen it, take a look at Is Marriage Good for Your Health? by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times Magazine (April 18, 2010). Among other things, it's a clarification of the frequently expressed thought that marriage (it's in just about all our interpersonal communication textbooks)--and long-term relationships generally--are good for your health. Well, it appears that only good relationships are good for your health and bad relationships are bad for your health--tho' I wonder why we needed tons of studies to prove that. More interesting are the health problems that marital discord can create or make worse. Among those mentioned are elevated stress hormones and increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, mood swings, and depression. Also, wounds take longer to heal, the immune system is weakened, and an outbreak of herpes seems more likely under conditions of marital discord.
All in all, a good reason to study interpersonal communication and conflict management.
Along with this article, take a look at Bella DePaulo's discussion for Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201004/is-good-marriage-good-your-health


The Eye Roll

In a strange place to find a discussion of nonverbal communication, an article in Better Homes and Gardens (May, 2010)discusses the eye roll, eye movements--used by tweens especially and by girls more than boys, says author Rachel Simpson--that indicate disapproval or disdain for something just said. We're all familiar with this behavior. It can even be seen in lots of college students when they don't like something the instructor says. So, I thought I'd take a look at the nonverbal textbooks I have on my shelf and see what they say about this nonverbal behavior that has significant implications for all stages of interpersonal relationships and for communication generally. I looked in Burgoon, Guerrero, and Floyd's Nonverbal Communication; Ivy and Wahl's The Nonverbal Self; Remland's Nonverbal Communication in Everyday Life; Leathers and Eaves' Successful Nonverbal Communication; Richmond, McCroskey, and Hickson's Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relations; Guerrero and Hecht's The Nonverbal Communication Reader; Kuhnke's Body Language for Dummies; and Andersen's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Body Language. In none of them was the eye role mentioned (at least according to their indexes and a cursory scan of the eye communication sections). How come?
Here's one suspicion. Authors of specialized textbooks such as nonverbal communication are so intent on summarizing the literature that they fail to look at how communication operates in the real world. A good mix is what we need in nonverbal communication and in communication generally.


Interviewing Mistakes

Here is a great little article on mistakes to avoid in the employment interview.


Romance in the Workplace

Here's an interesting Q&A that updates some of the thinking on office romance. Each of the questions will, I suspect, make for great class discussion.


Gender Differences

Here's a brief article on gender differences in verbal communication. It can serve as an interesting stimulus for class discussion.


It's about communication, Abby

Well, Abby again fails to see the value in simple communication principles. Briefly, a father writes (April 4, 2010) that his two step sons (ages 14 and 15) find his and their mother's displays of affection--e.g., "a quick kiss after saying grace before meals, even in restaurants"--embarrassing and "weird." The step-father and the mother think these displays are appropriate and strengthen their relationship. Abby's advice? ". . . please consider refraining from the quick kisses when you're out in public"--an overly simple and totally unhelpful suggestion.
First, this is a textbook case of a win-lose strategy for dealing with conflict. Why not look for win-win strategies? Why should the parents give up something they value? Abby, this type of "resolution" is likely going to cause resentment which can easily spill over into other issues and to send the wrong messages to the children.
Second, Abby, your solution looks only at the surface message--the boys' dislike of the displays of affection--and fails to see that there is likely much more on the minds of the boys and perhaps of the parents as well. These need to be examined and talked about. Part of the problem, Abby, is that you're disregarding the simple principles that meanings are in people, not in words or even nonverbals such as kissing, and that each person's meaning is unique. Parents and children need to talk about the meanings they each see in this behavior. With that as a start, they can focus on a win-win solution.
This case, I think, would make an excellent exercise/discussion stimulus for the coverage of the basic principles of interpersonal communication (content and relationship messages, ambiguity), messages (meaning is in people, denotation and connotation), or conflict (win-win strategies, conflict management). Ask the students to answer the letter using their knowledge of communication. My guess is you'd get some great responses. It's also a great way to illustrate the practical value in what may at first seem "only academic."