Task: The purpose of this assessment is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in reflective practice, using a range of diagnostic tools and feedback, to identify two key areas of personal capability that can be addressed (improved) to increase their communication effectiveness. This assessment is aimed to assess your ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge in written communication and your skill to autonomously reflect about good practices in workplace communication. Through the process of self-reflection, you will be able to improve your communication competencies through your knowledge of and ability to perform contextually appropriate communicative behaviours.
This assignment has three specific components.
1. Diagnosis and Reflection
2. Literature review
You are to identify and explain the two issues from your diagnosis and reflection. You are to define the concepts, outline key models and or behaviours that need to be developed to demonstrate effective practice. This literature review needs to outline both the conceptual (theoretical) and behavioural (interpersonal) skills that you need to acquire to demonstrate competence in your chosen area of communication.
3. Action Plan
As a conclusion, you are to develop an action plan of key events and activities that you can undertake over the next 6 months to acquire the knowledge, skills, and behaviours identified as requiring development in component one. This can include the following:
When two or more people join together to study or work on a project, the risk of misunderstanding is high. It is important for participants to understand the communication issues and find a solution to them (McCroskey, & Richmond 1996). Here is an opportunity to assess one’s communication style and understand the drawbacks and find out the solutions to overcome the communication disabilities. This project consists of assessment of communication aspects, theoretical exploration of select communication issues and development of an action plan to overcome the issues.
Many people are aware that they have communication problem, but are not able to identify what exactly is the issue. There are various self-diagnostic tools available which can be used to identify the issues such as lack of immediacy of nonverbal communication, intercultural communication anxiety, tolerance to disagreement, self-perception about communication competence etc. Based on the scores in these assessments an individual can plan intervention to overcome communication deficits.
Reflections on my communication
Self-perceived Communication competence Scale (SPCC)
This scale is intended to gather information about a person’s feeling about his or her competence in communication in a variety of social contexts such as group of friends, strangers, etc. A person’s social behavior depends on how one takes a decision to communicate and with what intensity during social situations (McCroskey, Teven, Minielli, & Richmond McCroskey 2014). Perception about one’s own communication competence is critical in social situations. The measure of perceived competence is different from actual communication competence. Research shows that the perceived competence and actual competence are highly correlated. There are seven situations in which the perceived communication competences are assessed. A higher score indicate that a person is inclined to perceive one’s communication competence as effective in respective situation (McCroskey, & McCroskey, 1988). The student’s scores on communication competence are discussed below.
As per the scores in the scale, the student has the highest communication competence in dealing with public (81.66); though this score do not fall in the high category which is greater than 85, the student perceives talking to public as the most effective competence. The student feels that the least communication competency is in dealing with groups i.e. score of 68.33. With respect to the communication situations, all the scores for the students fall in the medium category. The situations include Public, Meeting, Dyad, Group, Stranger, Acquaintance, and Friend.
Nonverbal Immediacy Scale Self Report (NIS-S)
Non-verbal immediacy refers to cues and behaviors that indicate positive feelings and attitudes towards other person. This measure considered as a highly reliable and valid instrument to assess orientation towards another person during social interactions. The scale has diverse items that include multiple dimensions of nonverbal social behaviors. The research has indicated that there is a significant gender difference in perception of one’s non-verbal behaviors. Females tend to feel that they are more nonverbally active in social interactions than males do. This is a self-report instrument that measures the extent of use of nonverbal cues. There are 26 statements which are to be rated using a Likert’s scale. The total scores for the scale are obtained using a specific scoring key and higher the score, the person perceives one’s nonverbal behavior as conspicuous and highly expressive.
As per the scoring of the responses to the NIS-S, the student has a score of 74, which is considered as low as per the norms. Any scores below 83 for males and females are low according to the norms set by the test author. The low score indicates that the student does not feel expressive enough while interacting with others and fail to give positive cues to the listeners or audience.
Personal Report of Intercultural Communication Apprehension (PRICA)
The construct of communication apprehension (CA) refers to the communication avoidance due to fear of apparent negative consequences of social interaction. It has been observed that communication apprehension can arise when there is a demand to interact with people of different cultures (McCroskey, Rosenfeld, & Grant, 1995). Multicultural communication apprehension is a tendency to avoid participation, contribution to and influencing others belonging to other cultures. A measure of the culturally oriented communication apprehension is developed to assess the communication of people in cultural contexts. However, intercultural communication is considered as a subcategory of general communication apprehension. A tool developed by McCroskey (PRICA) is found to be highly reliable and valid. Lower score indicates low apprehension which is a positive quality and higher score indicate that the person may find it difficult to adjust with diverse cultures (Neuliep, & McCroskey 1997).
The student’s score of 40 on PRICA indicate that the student has moderate apprehension while interacting with people of different cultures. The student may find it difficult to appreciate other cultures, adapt to other cultures and likely to be negatively affected by the presence e of international students in academic performance.
Talking to people is a normal social activity, but if talking becomes excessive it indicates abnormality. McCroskey has developed a scale to assess the compulsive nature of people in oral communication (McCroskey, & Richmond, 1993). Some people tend to compulsively talk and they find it difficult to stop their talking to others. Such people are categorized as Talkaholics. However, it should be noted that Talkaholics are different from people who talk more. The Talkaholics have compulsive tendency to talk and find it difficult to stop talking. People who talk more on the other hand are positively evaluated by others and talking more is considered as quality of leadership. Talkaholic scale consists of sixteen statements that are to be rated based on Liker’s scale.
The score of this scale range between 10 and 50 (McCroskey, & Richmond, 1995). Most normal people score below 30 and any score above 40 indicate the compulsive quality of talkaholic. The student has scored 33, which indicate a moderate tendency to talk more i.e. a borderline talkaholic. With training and self-discipline the tendency to talk more in social situation can be controlled. Over talking is a behavior that can be reinforced using the techniques of behavior modification.
Tolerance to Disagreement
It is normal to feel irritated when someone disagrees with one’s point of view. But, when an individual cannot tolerate even the slightest of the deviation from one’s belief and established view points, it indicates a compulsive tendency (Teven, Richmond, & McCroskey, 1998). The construct of tolerance for disagreement is a variable that can be measured using a scale. It measures the extent to which an individual can tolerate the disagreement of other people on one’s belief and knowledge. Researchers have identified a correlation between argumentativeness and tolerance to disagreement. People who are high on argumentativeness are likely to tolerate disagreements from others than who are low in argumentativeness. The scale has high reliability and validity.
The Tolerance to Disagreement scale is a fifteen item tool that uses Likert’s scale to rate the statements. The higher score indicates positive quality of tolerance to disagreements. Any score above 46 is considered as high tolerance to disagreements and scores below 32 is low in tolerance. The student’s score on this scale is 48 indicating that the student can tolerate disagreements from others. The student is likely to adjust with others and can handle interpersonal conflicts effectively. The high score also can help the student to be open to new ideas from others and can accommodate diverse beliefs of others.
Two Critical Communication issues
From the scores received in five communication assessments by the students, it is apparent that the student has to improve communication in two fronts, i.e. nonverbal immediacy and intercultural communication. Immediacy in communication is a concept that represents the signals we use to demonstrate closeness, depth of relationship, willingness to communicate, positive feelings about another person, etc. Immediacy can be verbal as well as nonverbal. Non-verbal immediacy includes behaviors such as maintaining appropriate physical distance to show warmth and affection, touching the other person, displaying warm and welcoming postures and movements; using accommodative gestures; smiling frequently; using variety of vocal cues; and giving sufficient eye contact during interactions.
Intercultural communication apprehension is a fear and anxiety of people who are exposed to situations that require communicating with persons or people of different culture. Intercultural communication anxiety is likely to increase as the diversity of cultures increases, because people feel uncertain about how to behave and also to protect their face or ego. Researchers have identified the source of intercultural anxiety i.e., lack of decidedness about belonging, dissimilarity between people communicating, absence of shared communication network, and grouping of members of similar culture (Koester, & Lustig, 2015). The student is required develop cultural sensitivity and understanding of the difference, which will help to reduce the communication apprehension.
Incidents of miscommunication
In a workplace situation, the student had the following experience where the student found it difficult to display nonverbal immediacy( Richmond, & McCroskey 2001). While having conversation with a senior student of research, the student found it difficult to take turns in the conversation. Either the student talked long or kept quiet. Sometimes the student interrupted the speaker with questions or statements and displayed awkward silences and pauses in the conversation. The vocalizations were also inappropriate as the pitch increased unnecessarily giving surprises to the listener and important content was uttered in low pitch. The student shifted eye contact in a disorderly manner and that irritated the listener. The hand gestures and the personal space maintenance were poor which gave the listener an impression of uninterestedness in the conversation. Nonverbal immediacy is critical for several reasons as it conveys appropriate meaning, influences others, regulates conversational flow, affects interpersonal relationships, and holds interest of the listener.
As an International student, the student felt intercultural apprehension due to linguistic differences. The student felt that the language difference may create misunderstanding and was feeling inadequate to convey meaning effectively to other students. The student also felt apprehensive about the fear of rejection of religious orientation. It was difficult to understand the socio-economic status of other international students and the reporting student felt inadequate to meet the demands of the peer groups with respect to financial capacity of the international students.
Theoretical foundations of Immediacy of Nonverbal communication
The concept of immediacy is based on the theory of Implicit Communication proposed by a researcher Mehrabian (2017). According to this theory, messages are conveyed through two types of communication i.e. implicit and explicit. Explicit communication represents the content of the message and implicit communication represents the context and emotions behind the message. Implicit communications are the concomitant emotions, attitudes and feelings that accompany the verbal messages. In most occasions verbal messages follow explicit communication and the nonverbal is linked to implicit transfer.
Immediacy is a construct that is related to the implicit communication which is communicated parallel to explicit messages. Both verbal and nonverbal communication behaviors are linked to the construct of immediacy. But, highly intangible communication variables such as closeness and warmth, are difficult to assess and articulate. More tangible variables of immediacy such as smiling, vocal expressions, personal space, etc. are amenable to objective assessments. Non-verbal immediacy is a relational communication variable that indicates closeness, warmth, and belongingness. Interpersonal communications are incomplete without the nonverbal immediacy.
In a workplace situation, the managers’ and peers’ nonverbal behaviors have the potential to create positive feelings, arousals to job performance, liking for the job, and satisfaction from the job. These positive effects on employees are mediated through non-verbal behaviors of managers and supervisors such as eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, voice modulations, personal touch, body proximity, etc. The employees’ motivation to perform, follow instructions from supervisors, and acceptance of the dominance of the managers depends on how the non-verbal behaviors of the managers are perceived by the employees. It is critical for all to regulate the non-verbal immediacy in order to succeed interpersonally. Non-verbal immediacy has been found to be influencing in promotion of learning, motivation and work performance.
According to Mehrabian (2017)there are three critical elements to expression of emotions and attitudes in face to face communication i.e. nonverbal behavior, tone of voice and literal meaning of verbal message. People like or dislike a person based on interpretations of these three elements. When non-verbal cues conflicts with what is said, the listeners tend to rely on the nonverbal cues rather than the verbal meanings. The interpretation of non-verbal cues precedes verbal comprehensions.
Most communication theorists consider nonverbal behaviors have specific functions in social world. Apart from use of language, nonverbal behaviors fulfill the following functions.
Sending uncomfortable messages: not all messages can be directly communicated through verbal channel; there are some situations in which it is difficult to communicate verbally. People use nonverbal channels to indicate their uncomfortableness.
Helping in formation of impressions: People get to know about the current state of feelings about another person is through nonverbal expressions. Positive nonverbal behaviors help to create positive impressions in others.
Bringing clarity to relationship: People communicate the characteristics of their relationships through expression of their emotions and the on verbal cues. For example, in close relationships people allow each other to touch most part of their bodies. However, in restricted relationships people keep a physical distant while interacting with others. Based on mutual nonverbal cues people can define their relationships (Hosek, Houser, & Richmond, 2017).
Regulating interactions: Through nonverbal cues people control the process of interactions. For example, a person may maintain a silence on a topic which is an indication of interestedness in the topic.
Influencing people: Nonverbal behaviors are considered as critical in persuading others.
Supporting verbal messages: Verbal and non-verbal messages are produced together, and people expect congruence between the two. When nonverbal behavior conflict with verbal message the receivers tend to ignore the verbal message. Nonverbal behaviors that support the verbal message are considered as effective communication.
Theoretical foundations of Intercultural Communication Apprehension
Good communication is essential for successful interactions, and anxiety can intervene negatively and reduce the effectiveness of communication. Researchers have identified that communication apprehension can influence intergroup interactions, communication satisfaction, willingness to communicate, etc. (Fall, Kelly, MacDonald, Primm, & Holmes, 2013). It is common to experience anxiety when there is a demand to interact with a person from different culture or background. McCroskey has identified situations that have novelty, dissimilarity, unfamiliarity and uncertainty is likely to create communication anxiety in the communicator. Intercultural communication apprehensions are found to be affecting the motivation to interact with people of different cultures and correlated with sociological concepts of ethnocentrism, religious diversity and homongativity (Horowitz, 2002).
According to a theory proposed by Bennett (1986), intercultural sensitivity is a developmental process through which communication apprehension gets reduced. When people are exposed to culturally diverse groups, the individuals tend to transform themselves from an ethnocentric level to ethnorelativestate. As per this theory, there are six stages proposed for transformational process. First, in the denial stage in which the anxious person disregards the cultural differences, second is the defense stage in which the apprehensive person projects one’s own world views and highlights the perceived threats, third is the minimization stage, where the culturally different people in order to protect their core values highlights the cultural similarities. Fourth stage is the acceptance stage where the culturally different groups recognize each other’s cultural differences and develop understanding of the deeper aspects of cultural differences. Fifth stage is the adaptation stage in which the culturally diverse people develop strategies to accommodate cultural differences cognitively and behaviorally. The final stage is the integration stage in which the people of different cultures establish ethno relative identity and participate in each other’s cultural events.
According to McCroskey, there are four types of intercultural communication apprehension i.e. trait-like, context oriented, audience driven, and situation based. Trait-like type of communication apprehension is due to the personality type of a person. Some people are prone to communication apprehension naturally. Context oriented apprehension refers to fears that arise die to the specific contexts such as talking to angry manager, a hostile neighbor, etc. Audience based apprehension arises when the communicator is intimidated by the characteristics of the audience. For example, speaking in front of experts can be stressful as the performance has to match the expectation level of participants. Situation based communication apprehension is due to the situations such as job interview, public speaking, making a presentation in unfamiliar conditions, etc. With proper practice the intercultural communication apprehension can be overcome (Spitzberg, & Changnon, 2009).
Action Plan to overcome Lack of Immediacy of NonverbalCommunication
Having a good communication skill enhances personal and professional success. As we have seen people use a variety of non-verbal cues in their interactions and relationships. In order to improve one’s immediacy of nonverbal communication, there are many options available. Some of the choices include, a short experiential training in communication skills, engaging a coach to improve communication, attending a university program in communication, undergoing a counseling session to overcome personal communication barriers, and reading self-help books that provide tips to improve communication (Lane, 2016). The student may use any of the above-mentioned options, but need to focus on the following issues to improve the immediacy factor (Richmond, McCroskey, & Johnson, 2003).
Nonverbal signals: The student has to pay attention to one’s own nonverbal signals like, gestures, eye contact, and facial expression and improve their display during conversations.
Become sensitive to others nonverbal signals: It is important to understand the nonverbal behaviors of others and respond to them with appropriate communication.
Tone of voice: This is very important; most of the interpersonal conflicts begin from the interpretation of the tone of voice (Katz, & Hussey, 2017). First become aware of the tone of voice and the change tones according to the situation.
Eye contact: Giving eye contact to others is an acknowledgment and respect to others. Lack of eye contact may be interpreted in many ways. Too much eye contact also can be interpreted negatively.
Develop postures: It is important to understand one’s posture and impact it creates on others. The student has to develop positive postures such as open arms, forward lean, and nodding while listening to demonstrate one’s interestedness in other person.
Finally practice is the major tool to improve one’s communication. Deliberately practicing nonverbal cues can be a social asset. The student also may maintain personal journal to reflect on the behavioral changes and the progress made in the communication skills.
Action Plan to overcome Intercultural Communication Apprehension
There are various strategies to overcome intercultural communication apprehension especially for the student who has moderate communication apprehension. Most frequently used intervention programs for moderate levels of communication anxiety include systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, rhetoritherapy, and visualization.
Systematic desensitization: It is a behavioral intervention program to reduce anxiety, fear, phobia, etc. (Lang, 2017). Through systematic and graded exposure to fear generating object i.e. intercultural or culturally diverse people, the sympathetic nervous system and learning mechanisms is trained to overcome the anxiety. Along with desensitization, the student can also learn the techniques of relaxation.
Cognitive restructuring: This program is based on the assumption that behaviors arise from the cognitions or thinking. As per this approach, unhealthy or irrational cognitions are the cause of fear, nervousness and apprehension. Once the irrational cognition is replaced with appropriate cognition, the fear and anxiety goes away automatically (Chrétien, Giroux, Goulet, Jacques, & Bouchard, 2016). In cognitive restructuring the student will be aware of their irrational thinking and negative self-talk. The exercises related to cognitive restructuring include rehearsing positive self-talks, assertive instructions, role-playing, journaling, mentoring, etc.
Rhetoritherapy: It is a systematic and individualized speech skills trailing approach to overcome fear and shyness. The focus of rhetoritherapy is changing behavior and not thinking about communication (Gilbert-Hunt, Sellar, Berndt, George, Thomas, & Foley 2016). Goal setting is critical component of this approach. The student will be taught to identify and set goals pertinent to communication issue i.e. communication apprehension. Action plans and execution will be monitored by a counselor.
Visualization: It is using imagination or unconscious for the purpose of learning. It assumes that positive imagining will enable the student to overcome negativity expected by them in intercultural situations (Jones, & Petrie, 2017). It primarily focuses on changing attitudes first and then develops new behaviors and actions. It follows the principle that all things are created twice, first inside the mind and then in outside world. The student will be exposed to positive visualizations about the positive aspect of cultural diversity and mental images of effective communication.
Form the course the student has attended and did the reflection exercises it is evident that there are there three common communication challenges to all (Williams, 2017).
A lot of research has gone into the field of communication and several theories are available to explain the communication behaviors. The social scientists have developed various strategies and interventions to remove communication disabilities of people (Yu, & Chen, 2008). Though communication skills and apprehension have been considered as the major interest of communication theorists, other disciplines are also interested in it such as management, education, social scientists, health care, etc. Having communication skill is a social asset.
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