Communication is the process in which people share information, ideas and feelings. “It involves not only the spoken and written word but also body language, personal mannerisms, and style—anything that adds meaning to a message.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 8) Some basic elements of communication are as follows: sender-receivers, or those that send and receive messages; the messages themselves, consisted of the ideas and feelings that are being communicated; channels, which are the way that messages are communicated, such as face-to-face conversations; feedback, which describes the response made to a message; noise, or anything that would inhibit the message from being sent or received accurately; and the setting, described as the type of environment in which the communication occurs (Hybels & Weaver, 2007. p. 8-12) The desired outcomes or, “the essence of communication is meaning making, and meaning is jointly created between the sender and receiver.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 26)
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Success in today’s society depends on good communication skills. “The effective expression of one’s ideas is considered an art, or at least a desirable and important skill.” (Weizmann Institute of Science, 1) Therefore, communication skills, according to Hybels and Weaver, are important because, “effective communication will help you feel more confident about yourself, more comfortable with others’ perceptions of you, greater ease in reasoning with others, better at using language, and improvement in your critical thinking skills. It is the ultimate people-oriented discipline.”(2007, p. 26)
Although communication includes many different physical aspects, it is also greatly influenced by the participants. As stated by Hybels and Weaver, communication is a transaction that focuses on the people who are communicating (2007, p. 26) A participants self-concept, gender, and emotional intelligence can greatly affect how people communicate to share ideas and feelings. Communication events have a past, present, and future; and the roles that participants play will affect the communication.(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 26)
As stated by Hybels and Weaver, both self-concept and self-perception are foundations for effective communication.(2007, p. 52) Self-concept consists of an individual’s thoughts and evaluations of oneself. It includes how a person thinks and feels about oneself based on different sets of characteristics. Self-concept is established socially, culturally, and individually and is, therefore, derived from three distinct elements, reflected appraisals, social comparisons, and self-perception. Reflected appraisals are, “messages that you get about yourself from others.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 32) These appraisals, typically given by individuals in close proximity, such as parents or friends, are assessments and statements that help develop an individual identity. Other characteristics that help make up self-concept are called social comparisons, which are defined by Hybels and Weaver as “comparisons between oneself and others.”(2007, p. 33). Social comparisons are necessary in helping develop an accurate self-perception . . . [which] is crucial for navigating and responding to the social world through effective communication.(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 33). Self-perception is the final element that assists in forming self-concept. Self-perception is how an individual sees himself or herself. Hybels and Weaver state, “you think, feel speak, and act in accordance with your self-image.”(2007, p. 35) Self-perception, along with reflected appraisals and social comparisons, helps to develop an individual’s self-concept, which influences communication greatly.
As stated previously by Hybels and Weaver, “both self concept and self perception are foundations for effective communication.”(2007, p. 52) One’s self concept greatly influences communication in that how you look at the world depends on what you think of yourself, and what you think of yourself will influence how you look at the world (Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 30). Communication focuses on the people who are taking part in the communication. Additionally, a participant’s communication is directly affected by individual views, feelings, and self-concept. Thus, your communication the words and nonverbal cues you use when you talk with others, will be a direct and obvious result of both your self-concept and perceptions.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 30)
Gender also impacts communication in that it effects how people express themselves. “Women attach more importance on reflected appraisals.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 36) Women base their self-perception on what people say about them personally. Therefore, women seem to believe that intimacy means love, affection, and the expression of warm feelings.”(Gridley, 2003, 19) These feelings possessed by women influence the way in which they communicate. Typically, women are much more relational than men . . . “they like being connected (i.e., experiencing “we-ness”), doing things together with others, and they place great emphasis on talking and emotional sharing.” (Gridley, 2003, 19). Women manifest their feelings through their preferable communication routes, such as talking and sharing feelings because, to them, that is how they establish intimacy and self-worth.
Men base their self-perception on how they are viewed socially, specifically the importance of social comparisons.(Hybels, 2007, p. 36) This is different from women because where female self-confidence comes from acceptance; male self-confidence comes primarily from achievement.”(Hybels, 2007, p. 36) Men focus more on actions in communication. Typically, togetherness seems to be more of an activity than a state of being, as it is for women. “They favor interactions that involve doing rather than being.” to them, that is how they establish intimacy and self-worth.
These differences between men and women influence how each gender communicates. Listening, which is an important aspect of communication, greatly differs by gender. According to Hybels and Weaver, “scholars who have studied communication between men and women have discovered that men and women have different listening styles . . . women were more likely to be people listeners than men.”(2007, p. 87) Additionally, Hybels and Weaver describe men as attention holders, who maintain status by being the center of attention and focus more on competitive communication, whereas women as more interested in relationships and networking.(2007, p. 87) Essentially, women are more likely to listen and men are more likely to be more competitive. Many times this listening difference causes conflict between genders.
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Gender differences also have a great impact on non-verbal communication. Men and women use and interpret non-verbal communication differently. “North American women not only initiate more eye contact during conversations than men, but they are more comfortable returning eye contact as well.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 136) Gender also effects individual placement during conversations, specifically women tend to approach others more closely and seem to prefer side-by-side conversations. “Men, on the other hand, prefer(Gridley, 2003, 21). Men manifest their emotions through actions and behavior because, face-to-face conversations.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 136) Additional differences in non-verbal communication described by Hybels and Weaver are that men are more likely to initiate touch during a conversation, and women typically use more gestures and smile more often than men.(2007, p. 136)
In addition to listening and non-verbal communication, gender also effects verbal communication in different ways. Men and women have completely different styles of speaking. Typically, when women have conversations, they use rapport-talk. “Rapport-talk is designed to lead to intimacy with others, to match experiences, and to establish relationships.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 116-117) Men, however, use a type of talk called report-talk. “In report-talk the speaker’s goal is to maintain status, to demonstrate knowledge, and skills, and to keep the center-stage position.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 117) This type of differentiation in styles of communication can be seen commonly in the workplace. Women are driven by the desire to increase communication, expand relationships in the workplace, or improve . . . customer service. Men are driven by person concerns such as career development and professional or financial rewards.” (Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 223) The rapport/report difference can also be seen in goal setting, decision making, and giving feedback in the workplace. Gender differences in self-perception, listening, non-verbal, and verbal communication greatly impact communication between men and women.
In addition to self-concept and gender, emotional intelligence affects different aspects of communication. Emotional intelligence is, “the ability to understand and get along with others.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 156) This kind of intelligence is made up of five different characteristics: being self-aware, managing emotions, motivating yourself, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationships. Before the ability to deal with outside emotions is addressed, it is important to recognize one’s own emotions, therefore “â€¦self awareness requires the ability to get a little distance from the emotion so that you can look at it without being overwhelmed by it.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, p. 156) After this stage is accomplished, one must meet the other characteristics, described by Hybels and Weaver, which combine to create emotional intelligence, including managing emotions, or expressing them in a manner that is appropriate to the circumstances, motivating yourself to set and meet goals, recognizing and sharing someone else’s feelings, and the ability to handle relationships (2007, p. 157-158) As each of these stages are met and surpassed, individual emotional intelligence is cultivated.
Just as self-concept impacts communication, so does emotional intelligence in that “how well you understand and get along with others has direct influence on your self-concept. . . emotional intelligence . . . has direct bearing on [communication] simply because [it] either enhances or impairs your ability to anticipate, assess, evaluate, select, and apply your skills and behaviors.”(Hybels & Weaver, 2007, pg 158-159). Mastery of emotional intelligence ensures better communication skills. Evidence of this can be seen when emotional intelligence is applied in the workplace. As stated in What is EQ, “because of the furious pace of change in business today, difficult to manage relationships sabotage more business than anything else it is not a question of strategy that gets us into trouble, it is a question of emotions.”(2007, 2) Emotions can make or break a business relationship, whether between client and company, manager and employee, or employee and employee. Business thrives on good relationships; therefore emotional intelligence is essential to a successful business. Emotions have the power to get in the way of our most important business and personal relationships.(What is EQ, 2010, 1). Therefore, emotional intelligence is essential for effective communication in business and in life.
Communication is the glue that holds people together. It allows for the sharing of information, the expression of feelings, and the development of ideas. Because communication itself depends mostly on the participants, a person’s self-concept, gender, and emotional intelligence can effect communication in different ways. However, the goal of communication is the transfer of this information, or these feelings and ideas. It is, therefore, important to understand the impact of self-concept, gender, and emotional intelligence on communication in order to overcome these differences in future communication.
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