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44 C hapter 1 A First Look at Interpersonal R elationshipscommunication concepts covered in this chapter can account forexplain conflict. Two are examined here: content and relationalsions of messages and noise. Then the section concludes withnication competence.Content and Relational Dimensions of Messages As yourecall from page 27, the content dimension of a message refers tosubject being discussed. The relational dimension refers to howties feel about each other.The relational dimension is typically the one that can causeperpetuate conflict. It could be as simple as the tone of voice useddeliver a message and range up to the degree of affinity, respect,control within the relationship. For example, nurses Nicole andworked as a team for 10 years. They shared a complementarytionship with Nicole in the one-up position, and they were bothwith the arrangement. Nicole made the major decisions andwent along with them. When Adena took another position, Nicolematically assumed that she and her new teammate would have ailar relationship. When Adena's replacement also preferred tobe inone-up position, however, it became a source of conflict. Bothto take control and make the decisions within the relationship.
In this case, it was not content that caused the conflict, it wasmunication. If the second set of nurses had understoodcommunication theory, they might have attempted to develop aallel relationship, where power is handled in a more fluid manner.instance, Nicole might make decisions on how things would bewhereas her new colleague could decide when they were done.Noise Noise refers to the physical, physiological, and psycholofactors that interfere with the communication process, andencounters it to some degree. The person with whom you aremunicating may be unaware of the noise you experience andversa. This can result in a lack of understanding. For instance, ifboss wanted to discuss an incident you found very embarrassing,feelings (noise) would interfere with the communication process.would certainly communicate differently than if you did not feelway. Youmight find it hard to concentrate as you try to hide yourings, hold back an emotional outburst, predict the outcome ofinteraction, or attempt to tune out some distracting nonverbalIfyou're asked a question to which you have no immediate, plaresponse, this could add to your psychological discord and maya negative impression on the boss. And just as you are goingall this, so, too, is the boss dealing with noise.It's little wonder that conflict is so commonplace-the \.>V,C
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Com m unication in the W orkplace 45
1967to 1979) and Generation Y (born 1980 to 1995). According toPaulaAllan of FGI World in Toronto, each group has its "own set ofvalues,view of authority, work and communication style, and expec-tation of leadership and work environment'f" For example, veterans,who experienced hardship and World War II, are used to top-downmanagement and take pride in their work. Baby boomers also tend toappreciate hierarchy, prefer to work independently, are willing toworkhard and put in long hours, and favour diplomacy. Contrast thatwith Generation Xers, who are computer- and tech-savvy, dislikehierarchy, prefer teamwork, and are loyal to their own careers andcandid in conversations. Generation Ys are also tech-savvy and valueteamwork. They want to balance work and family life, believe in infor-mality, and are better educated and more ethnically diverse.v" It iseasyto understand how these diverse views influence communicationin the workplace. Clashes can arise based merely on generationalplacement, and this presents a challenge in today's work world.Communfcation CompetenceGiventhe notion that communication competence is situational, it fol-lows that the range of behaviours required for one job may be inap-propriate for another. The communication skills required on anoffshore oil rig might contrast significantly with those needed by anelementary school teacher. Consider the communication characteris-tics required of dental hygienists, salespeople, managers, stockbro-kers, educators, lawyers, and so forth. No one style would beappropriate for all positions.
Given the mobility and diversity of the present and future workforce,itismore imperative than ever that Canadians hone their interpersonalcommunication skills. Moreover, communication professor JohnStewartreminds us that the quality of a person's life is directly relatedtothe quality of communication he or she experiences.?" Ifthis is accu-rate,and given the amount of time we spend at work over the course ofourlives, understanding communication in the workplace is essential.
TEST YO UR SELF1 . Effective communicators are Committed to and2. is defined as achieviIlg one's goals in a matter that,ideally, maintains or enhances the relatiQnship in which itoccurs.o . Communication competence is and _
and there is . . way to communicate.4. Aperson who can construct a variety of different frameworks toview anyone issue demonstrates ~ __ '5. The common denominators that characterize a competentcommunicator are , and6. Observing the reactions to your behaviours and then using these toshape further behaviours.is referred to as _
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46 C hapter 1 A First Look at Interpersonal R elationships
S UMMARYCommunication is essential on many levels.Besides satisfying practical needs, effective com-munication can enhance physical health andemotional well-being. As children, we learn aboutour identity through the messages sent by others,and as adults our self-concept is shaped andrefined through social interaction. Communi-cation also satisfies social needs: involvementwith others, control over the environment, andgiving and receiving affection.The process of communication is not a linearone that people "do" to one another. Rather, com-munication is a transactional process in whichparticipants create a relationship by simultane-ously sending and receiving messages, many ofwhich are distorted by various types of noise.Interpersonal communication can be defined
contextually by the number of people involvedor qualitatively by the nature of interactionbetween them. In a qualitative sense, interper-sonal relationships are unique, irreplaceable,interdependent, and intrinsically rewarding.Qualitatively interpersonal communication isrelatively infrequent, even in the strongest rela-tionships. Both personal and impersonal com-munication are useful, and most relationshipshave both personal and impersonal elements.Communication occurs on two levels: content
and relational. Relational communication can beboth verbal and nonverbal. Metacommunicationconsists ofmessages that refer to the relationshipbetween the communicators. Relational mes-sages usually refer to one of three dimensions ofa relationship: affinity, respect, and control.All communication, whether personal or
impersonal, content or relational, follows thesame basic principles. Messages can be inten-tional or unintentional. It is impossible not tocommunicate. Communication is irreversible andunrepeatable. Some common misconceptionsshould be avoided when thinking about commu-nication: Meanings are not inwords but in people.More communication does not always make mat-ters better. Communication will not solve all prob-lems. Finally, communication-at least effectivecommunication-is not a natural ability.Communication competence is the ability to
get what you are seeking from others in a mannerthat maintains the relationship on terms that are
acceptable to all parties. Competencemean behaving the same way in all settingswith all people; rather, competence variesone situation to another. The mostcommunicators have a wide repertoire ofiours, and they are able to choose the bestiour for a given situation and perform itThey are able to take others' points of viewanalyze a situation in a variety ofways. Theymonitor their own behaviour and are LOUJlIUJlllto communicating successfully.
KE EP A G OAL -S ET TING JO UR NALUse the following questions as a guide toyou assess your interpersonalstrengths and weaknesses. After reflectingyour responses, write down your commurucastrengths. Follow this with a review of anymunication weaknesses you might have.indicate what you could do to turn thenesses into strengths. Be as specific as UU,1'>1HUll:;1. What types of noise are you most likely
encounter in your personal andinteractions, and what do you do tosuch noise?
2. What differences are there in themessages you send to your parents, sipeers, spouses, authority figures,mates, and so forth? What types ofmessages do such individuals send you?3. Which ofthe communication 11ll1'>LIJlll,\Jand principles seem most relevant tointerpersonal communication experiences?
4. Describe how computer-mediated co:mrmnication detracts from and enhancesrelationships.
5. With whom do you havesymmetrical, or parallel relationships?you like to change any of these? Ifso, why?
6. Was there any topic in the chapterrelated specifically to your communica
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