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Human Communication

The definition of interpersonal communication is that it is a distinctive, transactional form of human communication involving influence, usually for the purpose of managing relationships.

Human communication. The process of making sense out of the world and attempting to share that sense with others by creating meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal messages.

  1. Interpersonal communication. A distinctive, transactional form of human communication involving mutual influence, usually for the purpose of managing relationships. Interpersonal communication is inescapable.
  2. Impersonal communication. Communication that occurs when we treat people as objects, or when we respond to their roles rather than them as unique persons.

The type of communication that occurs when one person communicates the same message to many people at once, but the creator of the message is not physically present, is called mass communication.

ontext is an important concern for communication.  Choosing a small, comfortable room, for example, to discuss a sensitive matter with a friend, shows how important context can be for communication.

Context is the physical and psychological environment for communication.  All communication takes place in some context, whether a person is chatting with a friend at a local coffee shop, emailing a parent, expressing condolences to a neighbour, or discussing private matters with family.

  • One feature of electronically mediated communication is that interaction with others can be asynchronous, which would not happen in a face-to-face interaction.
  • Based on the criteria for determining the richness of communication channels, a live video conference would be the richest channel of communication.
  • A rule is a followable prescription that indicates what behavior is obligated, preferred, or prohibited in certain contexts. Rules may be explicit or implicit.
  1. We learn communication rules from experience, by observing and interacting with others.
  2. There are four general rules for relationship development and maintenance (Argyle, M., etal.).
  • Respect each other’s privacy.
  • Do not reveal each other’s secrets.
  • Look the other person in the eye during conversation.
  • Do not criticize the other person publicly.

A learned predisposition to respond to a person, object or idea in a favourable or unfavourable way is an attitude.  Attitudes reflect what you like and what you don’t like.  If you learned to like school, teachers and learning, then you will hold positive attitudes toward these things.  You weren’t born with a fondness for school, you learned it just like you learn anything else.  You could just have easily learned to dislike school, teachers and learning.

The way in which you structure your understanding of reality — what is true and what is false — is called a belief.

Attitudes and beliefs are not necessarily related.  They often function independently of one another.

Our ability to think about ourselves and use language to represent ourselves to others is our symbolic self-awareness. You make conscious attempts to use symbols (language) to influence the way you are perceived by others.

When you behave differently with people depending on who they are, you are recognizing you have a social self.

The looking-glass self is the idea that we base our self-concept by seeing ourselves in a figurative looking glass, meaning that we learn who we are by interacting with others just as we look into a mirror and see our reflection.  It is also called reflected self-appraisal.  We develop self-concepts that match or correspond to the ways in which we believe others see us.

Many psychologists believe there are five major personality traits:

Extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness ,neuroticism, and openness.

Communication apprehension is the fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person.  .  Heredity seems to play an important role in whether a person will feel nervous or anxious when communicating with another person or group

Self-talk is communicating within your own mind.  Realistic, positive self-talk can have a reassuring effect on your level of self-worth and on your interactions with others.  Repeating negative messages about your lack of skill and ability can keep you from trying and achieving.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is the idea that when you expect a belief about yourself to come true, it often does.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perception is defined as the process of understanding or making sense of sensory experiences.  Although you experience your world through your five senses, your perceptions of people go beyond simple interpretations of sensory information

Selective attention is when we direct our attention to specific elements of our environment and ignore others.  We selectively lock on to some things in our environment and ignore the rest.  We have a tendency to attend to those things around us that relate to our needs and wants.

Organizing stimuli makes it possible for us to process complex information.  One thing we do is to create categories that let us make sense of what we have observed.

A punctuation is the process of making sense out of stimuli by grouping, dividing, organizing, separating and further categorizing of information.

Another way we organize information is by seeking closure.  Closure is the process of filling in missing information or gaps in what we perceive.  When we have an incomplete picture of another human being,

The recency effect is exerted on us by the most recent piece of information we receive about or from another person.  This is where we put a lot of stock in the last thing we observe

Causal attribution theory identifies three potential causes for any person’s action:  circumstances, a stimulus, or the person her/himself.  Attributing to circumstance means that you believe a person acts in a certain way because the situation leaves no choice for them.

Oversimplifying is a barrier to accurate interpersonal perceptions because we prefer simple explanations to complex ones as they tend to be more believable and easier to use in making sense of another’s actions.

We tend to impose consistency on people’s behaviour.  We believe that if a person acted a certain way one day, then he/she will continue to act that way in the future.

Men and women tend to communicate differently.  For example, men often communicate to report (information), and women communicate to establish rapport.  Research suggests that many men tend to approach communication from a content orientation, meaning that they view the purpose of communication as primarily information exchange.

Millennials are close to their parents, feel special, are goal-oriented, and focus on achievement.  They also tend to be team-oriented.  These are young people born between the years 1982-2002.  They are unlike any other generation in living memory as they are more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse than previous generations.

The process of communicating a group’s culture from generation to generation is called enculturation.  This is how you learned what you liked by choosing from among the elements that were available within your culture.

Selecting a sound is the process of choosing one sound from all the various sounds competing for attention.  As we listen to someone in an interpersonal context, we focus on the words and nonverbal messages of our partner.

Understanding is the process of assigning meaning to the sounds you select and to which you attend.  There are several theories about how we assign meaning to words we hear, but there is no universally accepted notion of how this process works.

Remembering is the process of recalling information.  Some researchers theorize that we store every detail we have ever heard or witnessed.  Our brains have both short-term and long-term memory storage systems.

A listener who is comfortable with and skilled at listening to people’s feelings and emotions is a relational listener.  A person with a relational listening style searches for common interests and seeks to empathize with the feelings of others.


Emotional noise occurs when our emotions interfere with communication effectiveness.  A friend, for example, becomes so angry in recounting the details of a disagreement that she experienced that it is difficult to understand what is being said


An ambush listener is someone who is quick to pounce on the speaker to argue, criticize, or find fault with what the speaker has said.


When listening and responding to empathize with another person, simply imagining the emotional response of another person may not lead to an appropriate response.  Paraphrasing, not only the content of what a person has said, but also the emotion behind the words, is generally helpful, especially if the person is seeking social support.


Words are symbols that represent something else.  A printed word triggers an image, sound, concept, or experience.  If you see the word ‘bus’ you have a mental picture of a large vehicle that delivers you to campus each morning.


Language creates meaning on two levels:  denotative and connotative.


Words that can be placed along a continuum from abstract to concrete.  We call a word ‘concrete’ if we can experience the thing it refers to with one of our senses.  If we can see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, or hear it, then it’s concrete.


A malapropism is a confusion of one word or phrase for another that sounds similar to it.  While a restricted code is a set of words that have a particular meaning to a subgroup or culture.


Static evaluation are statements labelling people, objects, or events without considering the possibility of change.


Accusations that begin with you may result in defensiveness because the listener feels blamed and is ready to defend themselves.


Pulling rank conveys superiority.  If you ask for what you want without judging or evaluating the other person, you are using assertive communication.


Nonverbal communication is an ever-present form of human expression.  It includes behaviour other than written or spoken language that creates meaning for someone.  It is the primary way we communicate feelings, attitudes and emotions.


Nonverbal cues work with verbal cues to help us manage verbal messages and augment their emotional meaning.


Interaction adaptation theory describes how people adapt to the communication behaviour of others.  The theory holds that we respond not only to what people say but also to their nonverbal expressions to help us navigate through our interpersonal conversations each day.


When we have negative feelings towards another person, we are much more likely to use nonverbal cues than verbal cues to signal our dislike.


People who are labelled as ‘warm’ are likely to face their communication partner directly, make more direct eye contact, and fidget less than a person we label as ‘cold’.


Nonverbal movements and postures that communicate emotions are called affect displays.


The regulatory function of our eye contact signals when we want to talk, and when we don’t want to talk.  Regulators control the interaction or flow of communication between ourselves and another person.


Just being together quietly enjoying each other’s company exemplifies positive silence.



Frustration awareness occurs in the beginning stage of conflict.  At this stage, at least one person becomes aware that the differences in the relationship are increasingly problematic.

-Entitlement and lack of fairness are two of the biggest conflict triggers


It is a myth that conflict can always be avoided because evidence suggests conflict arises in virtually every relationship.  Many have been taught that conflict is undesirable, and we should eliminate it from our conversations and relationships.


Checking perceptions, listening between the lines, and establishing a supporting climate are methods to minimize the occurrence of pseudo-conflict.

To unravel a simple conflict, individuals should keep the conversation focused on relevant issues rather than personalities.


Understanding principles of power and sources of power can give a person greater insight into how they are using power to achieve their goals and how others are seeking to influence them, especially during conflict.


-The notion that mutual influence is an essential element of relating to others supports the principle that power exists in all relationships.  Although sometimes one person in a relationship has more power than the other, each person has some degree of it.


-The first step toward negotiating a satisfactory balance of power is the assessment of needs.  Knowing what you need and what the other person needs in the relationship can help you determine whether any negotiation or renegotiation of roles, responsibilities, and assumptions is warranted.



-A competitive conflict style is motivated by a desire to win.  This is a win-lose approach to conflict.

-Frustration awareness occurs in the beginning stage of conflict.  At this stage, at least one person becomes aware that the differences in the relationship are increasingly problematic.


-Entitlement and lack of fairness are two of the biggest conflict triggers.





For each day of your course, reflect on the following:

  • Daily learning (what did I learn?)
  • How does this learning relate to my life and experience?
  • In what way can I improve upon my own interpersonal skills to become a better communicator?


Marking Criteria:

Criteria Below Average Average Above Average
Reflection on Learning


10 marks

Simple reflections; regurgitates lecture or copies from textbook.



1-3 marks

Adequate reflection; shows understanding of day’s lesson with reflection of content.


4-7 marks

Superior reflection; shows thorough understanding of day’s lesson; creative and thoughtful entries.


8-10 marks

Reflection on Self


10 marks

Simplistic reflections; provides little or no insight, comment or analysis, descriptive more than reflective



1-3 marks

Adequate degree of reflection; some insight and analysis; reflection and outcomes considered but lack depth



4-7 marks

Sophisticated and thoughtful reflection; high degree of insight and analysis; evidence that outcomes have been processed and reflected on


8-10 marks

Language and Structure


5 marks

Poorly organized, predominantly descriptive with little interpretation or reflection; poor vocabulary and grammar; numerous errors


1-2 marks

Better structure with logical progression; use of limited interpretation and reflection; competent vocabulary and grammar; occasional errors


3 marks

Excellent coherence and progression; ideas and observations are well structured; effective and accurate use of vocabulary and grammar; few errors


4-5 marks