You'll notice that I've linked The Communication Blog with both Teach Street and Speaking PR Central--note badges on the right. Both of these are excellent sources for information on communication. I think you'll find them both very interesting.

Communication Strategies: Listening Stages

Listening is actually a complex of processes and skills and so it’s convenient to divide the listening process into stages or steps. This is a five-stage model and seems to get at most, if not all, of the essential listening processes and, more important, enables us to identify the relevant skills at each stage. Here five stages are identified: Receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding.

Listening at the Receiving Stage
The first stage in the process of listening is receiving the message. At this stage you listen not only to what is said (verbally and nonverbally) but also to what is omitted. You receive, for example, your boss’s summary of your accomplishments as well as the omission of your shortcomings or, perhaps, vice versa. Effective reception, then, consists of receiving what is as well as what is not said. Here are just three suggestions for improving your listening reception:
1. Focus your attention on the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal messages, on what is said and on what isn’t said. Avoid focusing your attention on what you’ll say next; if you begin to rehearse your responses, you’re going to miss what the speaker says next.
2. Avoid distractions in the environment; if necessary, shut off the stereo or and turn off your cell phone. Put down the newspaper or magazine; close your laptop.
3. Maintain your role as listener and avoid interrupting. Avoid interrupting as much as possible. It will only prevent you from hearing what the speaker is saying. This is not to imply that you should give feedback cues—minimal verbal or nonverbal responses (“I see,” “you’re right,” head nodding, widening of your eyes)—that say, “I’m listening.”

Listening at the Understanding Stage
The second stage of listening is understanding the message. That is, after receiving the message, you process it; you extract the meaning from the message. You can improve your listening understanding in a variety of ways.
1. Avoid assuming you understand what the speaker is going to say before he or she actually says it. If you do make assumptions, these will likely prevent you from accurately listening to what the speaker wants to say.
2. See the speaker’s messages from the speaker’s point of view. Avoid judging the message until you fully understand it as the speaker intended it.
3. Ask questions for clarification, if necessary; ask for additional details or examples if they’re needed. This shows not only that you’re listening—which the speaker will appreciate—but also that you want to learn more. Material that is not clearly understood is likely to be easily forgotten.
4. Rephrase (paraphrase) the speaker’s ideas into your own words. This can be done silently or aloud. If done silently, it will help you rehearse and learn the material; if done aloud, it also helps you confirm your understanding of what the speaker is saying and gives the speaker an opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings.

Listening at the Remembering Stage
The third stage of listening is remembering the message. It would help little if you received and understood the message but didn’t remember it. If you want to remember what someone says or the names of various people, this information needs to pass from your short-term memory (the memory you use, say, to remember a phone number just long enough to write it down) into long-term memory (or relatively permanent memory). Short-term memory is limited in capacity—you can hold only a small amount of information there. Long-term memory is unlimited. To facilitate the passage of information from short- to long-term memory, here are FOUR suggestions:
1. Focus your attention on the central ideas. Even in the most casual of conversations, there are central ideas. Fix these in your mind. Repeat these ideas to yourself as you continue to listen. Avoid focusing on minor details that often lead to detours in listening and in conversation.
2. Organize what you hear; summarize the message in a more easily retained form, but take care not to ignore crucial details or qualifications. If you chunk the material into categories, you’ll be able to remember more information. For example, if you want to remember 15 or 20 items to buy in the supermarket, you’ll remember more of them if you group them into chunks—say, produce, canned goods, and meats.
3. Unite the new with the old; relate new information to what you already know. Avoid treating new information as totally apart from all else you know. There’s probably some relationship and if you identify it, you’re more like to remember the new material.
4. Repeat names and key concepts to yourself or, if appropriate, aloud. By repeating the names or key concepts, you in effect rehearse these names and concepts, and as a result you’ll find them easier to learn and remember. If you’re introduced to Alice, you’ll stand a better chance of remembering her name if you say, “Hi, Alice” than if you say just “Hi.”

Listening at the Evaluating Stage.
Once you’ve received, understood, and have the message in memory, you need to evaluate it. After all, not all messages are equal—some are lies, some are truths; some are significant, some are trivial; some are constructive, some are destructive. In evaluating messages consider these suggestions.
1. Resist evaluation until you fully understand the speaker’s point of view. This is not always easy, but it’s always essential. If you put a label on what the speaker is saying (ultraconservative, bleeding-heart liberal), you’ll hear the remainder of the messages through these labels.
2. Distinguish facts from opinions and personal interpretations by the speaker. And, most important, fix these labels in mind with the information; for example, try to remember that Jesse thinks Pat did XYZ, not just that Pat did XYZ.
3. Identify any biases, self-interests, or prejudices that may lead the speaker to slant unfairly what is said. It’s often wise to ask if the material is being presented fairly or if this person is slanting it in some way.
4. Recognize fallacious forms of “reasoning” speakers may use. Some of the more popular ones are:
• Name-calling: applying a favorable or unfavorable label to color your perception—“democracy” and “soft on terrorism” are two currently popular examples.
• Testimonial: using positively or negatively viewed spokespersons to encourage your acceptance or rejection of something—such as a white-coated actor to sell toothpaste or a disgraced political figure associated with an idea the speaker wants rejected.
• Bandwagon: arguing that you should believe or do something because “everyone else does”.

Listening at the Responding Stage
After you evaluate the message, you’re likely to respond in some way. And, of course, a speaker expects a response. Here are just a few suggestions for improving your responding to another’s messages.
1. Support the speaker throughout the speaker’s conversation by using (and varying) listening cues, such as head nods and minimal responses such as “I see” or “mm-hmm.” Using the “like” icon, poking back, reposting, and commenting on another’s photos or posts will also prove supportive.
2. Own your responses. Take responsibility for what you say. Instead of saying, “Nobody will want to do that” say something like “I don’t want to do that.” Use the anonymity that most social networks allow with discretion.
3. Resist “responding to another’s feelings” with “solving the person’s problems” (as men are often accused of doing) unless, of course, you’re asked for advice. Oftentimes, people simply want to vent and just want you to hear what they have to say.
4. Focus on the other person. Avoid multitasking when you’re listening. Show the speaker that he or she is your primary focus. You can’t be a supportive listener, if you’re also listening to a CD, so take off the headphones; shut down the iPhone and the television; turn away from the computer screen. And, instead of looking around the room, look at the speaker; the speaker’s eyes should be your main focus.
5. Avoid being a thought-completing listener who listens a little and then finishes the speaker’s thought. This is especially inappropriate when listening to someone who might stutter or have word-finding difficulties. Instead, express respect (and a real willingness to listen) by giving the speaker time to complete his or her thoughts. Completing someone’s thoughts often communicates the message that nothing important is going to be said (“I already know it”).


Botox and Emotions

Here's a brief article on the finding that Botox hinders your ability to read the emotions of others. Of course, it was obvious that Botox will hinder your ability to express emotions facially but not so obvious that it will also hinder your ability to understand the emotions of others. The reasoning assumption is that when someone expresses an emotion, we mimic the emotion ourselves and this helps us understand the emotion being expressed.


Communication Strategies: Impression Management

Impression management (some writers use the terms self-presentation or identity management) refers to the processes you go through to communicate the impression you want other people to have of you. This is a really strange area because it has so many ethical implications; in many cases these strategies are used to fool people.
Impression management is largely the result of the messages communicated. In the same way that you form impressions of others largely on the basis of how they communicate, verbally and nonverbally, they also form impressions of you based on what you say (your verbal messages) and how you act, dress, stand, sit, or move (your nonverbal messages). Communication messages, however, are not the only means for impression formation and management. For example, you also communicate your self-image and judge others by the people with whom they associate; if you associate with VIPs, then surely you must be a VIP yourself, the conventional wisdom goes. Or, you might form an impression of someone on the basis of that person’s age or gender or ethnic origin. Or, you might rely on what others have said about the person and from that form impressions. And, of course, they might well do the same in forming impressions of you.
Part of the art and skill of communication is to understand and be able to manage the impressions you give to others. Mastering the art of impression management will enable you to present yourself as you want others to see you—at least to some extent. The strategies you use to achieve this desired impression will depend on your specific goal. Here is a classification based on seven major communication goals and strategies. In addition to helping you communicate the impression you want to communicate, each of these strategies may backfire and communicate the opposite of your intended purpose.

To Be Liked

Affinity-Seeking, Politeness, and Immediacy Strategies. If you’re new at school or on the job and you want to be well liked, included in the activities of others, and thought of highly, you’d likely use affinity-seeking, politeness, and immediacy strategies.

Affinity-Seeking Strategies. Using the affinity-seeking strategies that follow is likely to increase your chances of being liked. Such strategies are especially important in initial interactions, and their use has even been found to increase student motivation when used by teachers.
• Present yourself as comfortable and relaxed.
• Follow the cultural rules for polite, cooperative, respectful conversation.
• Appear active, enthusiastic, and dynamic.
• Stimulate and encourage the other person to talk about himself or herself.
• Communicate interest in the other person.
• Appear optimistic and positive.
• Appear honest, reliable, and interesting.
• Communicate warmth, supportiveness, and empathy.
• Demonstrate shared attitudes and values.
Not surprisingly, plain old flattery also goes a long way toward making you liked. Flattery can increase your chances for success in a job interview, the tip a customer is likely to leave, and even the credibility you’re likely to be seen as having.
There is also, however, a potential negative effect that can result from the use of affinity-seeking strategies. Using affinity-seeking strategies too often or in ways that may appear insincere may lead people to see you as attempting to ingratiate yourself for your own advantage and not really meaning “to be nice.”

Politeness Strategies. Politeness strategies are another set of strategies often used to appear likeable. We can look at them in terms of negative and positive types. Both of these types of politeness are responsive to two needs that we each have:
1. positive face needs—the desire to be viewed positively by others, to be thought of favorably, and
2. negative face needs—the desire to be autonomous, to have the right to do as we wish.
Politeness in interpersonal communication, then, refers to behavior that allows others to maintain both positive and negative face and impoliteness refers to behaviors that attack either positive face (for example, you criticize someone) or negative face (for example, you make demands on someone).
To help another person maintain positive face, you speak respectfully to and about the person, you give the person your full attention, you say “excuse me” when appropriate. In short you treat the person as you would want to be treated. In this way you allow the person to maintain positive face through what is called positive politeness. You attack the person’s positive face when you speak disrespectfully about the person, ignore the person or the person’s comments, and fail to use the appropriate expressions of politeness such as “thank you” and “please.”
To help another person maintain negative face, you respect the person’s right to be autonomous and so you request rather than demand that they do something; you say, “Would you mind opening a window” rather than “Open that window, damn it!” You might also give the person an “out” when making a request, allowing the person to reject your request if that is what the person wants. And so you say, “If this is a bad time, please tell me, but I’m really strapped and could use a loan of $100” rather than “Loan me a $100” or “You have to lend me $100.” If you want a recommendation, you might say, “Would it be possible for you to write me a recommendation for graduate school” rather than “You have to write me a recommendation for graduate school.” In this way you enable the person to maintain negative face through what is called negative politeness.
Of course, we do this almost automatically and asking for a favor without any consideration for the person’s negative face needs would seems totally insensitive. In most situations, however, this type of attack on negative face often appears in more subtle forms. For example, your mother saying “Are you going to wear that?”—to use an example from Deborah Tannen—attacks negative face by criticizing or challenging your autonomy. This comment also attacks positive face by questioning your ability to dress properly.
Politeness too may have negative consequences. Over-politeness, for example, is likely to be seen as phoney and is likely to be resented, especially if it’s seen as a persuasive strategy.

Immediacy Strategies. Immediacy is the creation of closeness, a sense of togetherness, of oneness, between speaker and listener. When you communicate immediacy you convey a sense of interest and attention, a liking for and an attraction to the other person. You communicate immediacy with both verbal and nonverbal messages.
And, not surprisingly, people respond to communication that is immediate more favorably than to communication that is not. People like people who communicate immediacy. You can increase your interpersonal attractiveness, the degree to which others like you and respond positively toward you, by using immediacy behaviors. In addition there is considerable evidence to show that immediacy behaviors are also effective in workplace communication, especially between supervisors and subordinates. For example, when a supervisors uses immediacy behaviors, he or she is seen by subordinates as interested and concerned; subordinates are therefore likely to communicate more freely and honestly about issues that can benefit the supervisor and the organization. Also, workers with supervisors who communicate immediacy behaviors have higher job satisfaction and motivation.
Not all cultures or all people respond in the same way to immediacy messages. For example, in the United States immediacy behaviors are generally seen as friendly and appropriate. In other cultures, however, the same immediacy behaviors may be viewed as overly familiar——as presuming that a relationship is close when only acquaintanceship exists. Similarly, recognize that some people may take your immediacy behaviors as indicating a desire for increased intimacy in the relationship. So although you may be trying merely to signal a friendly closeness, the other person may perceive a romantic invitation. Also, recognize that because immediacy behaviors prolong and encourage in-depth communication, they may not be responded to favorably by persons who are fearful about communication and/or who want to get the interaction over with as soon as possible.
Here are a few suggestions for communicating immediacy verbally and nonverbally:
< Self-disclose; reveal something significant about yourself.
< Refer to the other person’s good qualities of, say, dependability, intelligence, or character——“you’re always so reliable.”
< Express your positive view of the other person and of your relationship——“I’m sure glad you’re my roommate; you know everyone.”
< Talk about commonalities, things you and the other person have done together or share.
< Demonstrate your responsiveness by giving feedback cues that indicate you want to listen more and that you’re interested——“And what else happened?”
< Express psychological closeness and openness by, for example, maintaining physical closeness and arranging your body to exclude third parties.
< Maintain appropriate eye contact and limit looking around at others.
< Smile and express your interest in the other person.
< Focus on the other person’s remarks. Make the speaker know that you heard and understood what was said, and give the speaker appropriate verbal and nonverbal feedback.
At the same time that you’ll want to demonstrate these immediacy messages, try also to avoid nonimmediacy messages such as speaking in a monotone, looking away from the person you’re talking to, frowning while talking, having a tense body posture, or avoiding gestures.

To Be Believed: Credibility Strategies.

If you were a politician and wanted people to vote for you, at least part of your strategy would involve attempts to establish your credibility (which consists of your competence, character, and charisma). For example, to establish your competence, you might mention your great educational background or the courses you took that qualify you as an expert. To establish that you’re of good character, you might mention your fairness and honesty, your commitment to enduring values, or your concern for those less fortunate. And to establish your charisma—your take-charge, positive personality—you might demonstrate enthusiasm, be emphatic, or focus on the positive while minimizing the negative.
If you stress your competence, character, and charisma too much, however, you risk being seen as someone who lacks the very qualities that you seem too eager to present to others. Generally, people who are truly competent need say little directly about their own competence; their actions and their success will reveal their competence.

To Excuse Failure: Self-Handicapping Strategies.

If you were about to tackle a difficult task and were concerned that you might fail, you might use what are called self-handicapping strategies. In the more extreme form of this strategy, you actually set up barriers or obstacles to make the task impossible. That way, when you fail, you won’t be blamed or thought ineffective—after all, the task was impossible. Let’s say you aren’t prepared for your human communication exam and you feel you’re going to fail. Using this self-handicapping strategy, you might stay out late at a party the night before so that when you do poorly in the exam, you can blame it on the party rather than on your intelligence or knowledge. In a less extreme form, you might manufacture excuses for failure and have them ready if you do fail. For example, you might prepare to blame a poorly cooked dinner on your defective stove.
On the negative side, using self-handicapping strategies too often may lead people to see you as generally incompetent or foolish. After all, a person who parties the night before an exam for which he or she is already unprepared is clearly demonstrating poor judgment.

To Secure Help: Self-Deprecating Strategies.

If you want to be taken care of and protected, or if you simply want someone to come to your aid, you might use self-deprecating strategies. Confessions of incompetence and inability often bring assistance from others. And so you might say, “I just can’t fix that drain and it drives me crazy; I just don’t know anything about plumbing” with the hope that the other person will offer help.
But, be careful: Your self-deprecating strategies may convince people that you are in fact just as incompetent as you say you are. Or, people may see you as someone who doesn’t want to do something and so pretends to be incompetent to get others to do it for you. This is not likely to benefit you in the long run.

To Hide Faults: Self-Monitoring Strategies.

Much impression management is devoted not merely to presenting a positive image, but to suppressing the negative, to self-monitoring strategies. Here you carefully monitor (self-censor) what you say or do. You avoid your normal slang to make your colleagues think more highly of you; you avoid chewing gum so you don’t look juvenile or unprofessional. While you readily disclose favorable parts of your experience, you actively hide the unfavorable parts.
But, if you self-monitor too often or too obviously, you risk being seen as someone unwilling to reveal himself or herself, and perhaps as not trusting enough of others to feel comfortable disclosing. In more extreme cases, you may be seen as dishonest, as hiding your true self or trying to fool other people.

To Be Followed: Influencing Strategies.

In many instances you’ll want to get people to see you as a leader. Here you can use a variety of influencing strategies. One set of such strategies are those normally grouped under power— your knowledge (information power), your expertise (expert power), your right to lead by virtue of your position as, say, a doctor or judge or accountant (legitimate power). Or, using leadership strategies, you might stress your prior experience, your broad knowledge, or your previous successes.
Influencing strategies can also backfire. If you try to influence someone and fail, you’ll be perceived to have less power than before your unsuccessful influence attempt. And, of course, if you’re seen as someone who is influencing others for self-gain, your influence attempts might be resented or rejected.

To Confirm Self-Image: Image Confirming Strategies.

You may sometimes use image-confirming strategies to reinforce your positive perceptions about yourself. If you see yourself as the life of the party, you’ll tell jokes and try to amuse people. This behavior confirms your own self-image and also lets others know that this is who you are and how you want to be seen. At the same time that you reveal aspects of yourself that confirm your desired image, you actively suppress revealing aspects of yourself that would disconfirm this image.
If you use image-confirming strategies too frequently, you risk being seen as too perfect to be genuine. If you try to project an exclusively positive image, it’s likely to turn people off—people want to see their friends and associates as real people with some faults and imperfections. Also recognize that image-confirming strategies invariably involve your focusing on yourself, and with that comes the risk of seeming self-absorbed.


Reason for Divorce

Here’s a reason for divorce (but not for relationship dissolution) we don’t include in our textbooks. Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom and Sandra Torres—married for eight years—have divorced. The reason? Guatemalan law prevents any president’s close relatives from running for election to political office and by divorcing—though the couple will likely continue to live together as they have for the last eight years—Sandra Torres will be able to run for political office/President.


Communication Strategies: Guidelines for Resisting Pressure to Self-Disclose

You may, on occasion, find yourself in a position where a friend, colleague, or romantic partner pressures you to self-disclose. In such situations, you may wish to weigh the pros and cons of self-disclosure and then make your decision as to whether and what you’ll disclose. If your decision is not to disclose and you’re still being pressured, then you need to say something. Here are a few suggestions.

Don’t be pushed. Although there may be certain legal or ethical reasons for disclosing, generally, if you don’t want to disclose, you don’t have to. Don’t be pushed into disclosing because others are doing it or because you’re asked to.

Be assertive in your refusal to disclose. Say, very directly, “I’d rather not talk about that now” or “Now is not the time for this type of discussion.

Delay a decision. If you don’t want to say no directly, but still don’t want to disclose, delay the decision. Say something like “That’s pretty personal; let me think about that before I make a fool of myself” or “This isn’t really a good time (or place) to talk about this; I’ll get back to you and we’ll talk.

Be indirect and move to another topic. Avoid the question and change the subject. This is a polite way of saying, “I’m not talking about it,” and may be the preferred choice in certain situations. Most often people will get the hint and understand your refusal to disclose.