Self

“I am not who I think I am.  I am not who you think I am.  I am who I think you think I am.”

– Thomas Cooley

To me, this statement shows that most people are affected by people’s perceptions of them and, taking that even farther, people are affected by how they think other people perceive them. Unfortunately, this means that we often hide our true selves and our true personalities, not because of other people’s perceptions and expectations, but because we’ve gotten it into our minds that people perceive us a certain way and expect certain things. Usually, it’s not true, though.

I come from a family in which all of the members are Mormon, but a few “more Mormon” than the others (my mom and brother specifically.) They are very deeply involved in the church. Though I did grow up an active member of the LDS church, I am no longer practicing or following the religion. Because I grew up active in the church, I feel like I have insight into how their minds work and judgements they are passing. Because I am no longer active in the church, I sometimes feel like the “black sheep” of my family and feel like these family members love me less or think that I’m not going to “attain as high a glory in heaven” as them. I won’t say that they haven’t said things and passed judgement about the fact that I’m not longer active, but they’ve never said that they love me less. Sometimes, because I think they’re judging me, I get negative feelings toward them, which is, I know, unreasonable. I often have to stop myself when I have these thoughts and tell myself that that’s not how they feel and so I shouldn’t let that affect me and my actions and my feelings toward them.

I know that my brother has experienced this as well. He went on an LDS mission but had to come home after only six months due to anxieties and OCD. This is because he thought that he was expected to be perfect, without flaw, making no mistake, having no impure thoughts. He thought that the church expected him to be perfect, our family expected him to be perfect, the church members he was teaching expected him to be perfect. This wasn’t true at all but because he thought that’s what people expected of him, he thought that was how he had to act and think and when he was unable to, it drove him crazy (literally.)

Self

Listening

Ironically, the last time I can recall when I was not “actively listening” was during the lecture in class on listening (Sorry! At least I’m being honest right?)

I was SO tired during class that day. I had not been getting enough sleep because I have a full schedule at school (and, as it nears the end of the semester, my workload has been increasing,) I work, I have housework (mine and my husband’s as he has been injured and not helping around the house as much) and we’ve had two different sets of family in town. As you can see, exhausting. Because I was so tired, I was unable to pay attention to the class discussion without falling asleep (I’ll admit here, and again,- sorry!- that I did nod off once or twice.) So I turned to my phone and started checking my various social media accounts and my news sources, browsed Pinterest and another site I use like Pinterest called Craft Gawker, all trying to stay awake. It worked in keeping me awake, however, I was unable to pay attention to much of what was being said in class. This is unfortunate, since I know (without a doubt!) that I missed some valuable information shared not only by the knowledgable professor, but also by my peers. And since this is a communications class and we’re learning how to be better communicators, I probably missed out on a lot of really useful information that I could use in my life every day.

I know that I don’t actively listen to my husband as often as I should too (but honestly, what wife does?) My husband and I have different interests. I like reading, baking, crafting, building. Typical girl things. My husband likes reading comic books, watching movies, watching TV, watching movies and TV shows based on comic books, etc. Typical boy things. And, as illustrated above, I’m busy! So, when he starts talking about an upcoming movie or one of his TV shows based on a comic book that he just watched, I have a hard time listening. Usually, I just listen enough that I can provide some feedback to make it seem like I was paying attention really well, but I have been caught before. I know that my husband doesn’t “actively listen” to me very often either. He’s probably a worse listener than me even! So, it seems we both need to work on being better listeners.

Listening

Gender Influences On Communication

In her book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Communication (1990, p. 42), author Deborah Tannen writes “communication between men and women can be like cross cultural communication” which is to say: men and women have very distinct communication styles.

Women tend to communicate to build and maintain relationships. They share about themselves and learn about others while men tend to communicate to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Julia Wood outlines the different features of communication between men and women. The main features of women’s speech are equality (matching experiences,) showing support by expressing sympathy and understanding, attention to the relationship level (a “focus on feelings and the relationship between communicators rather than on the content of messages”,) conversational “maintenance work” (sustaining conversation by prompting elaborations,) responsiveness (showing interest in what was said,) personal, concrete style (a personal tone,) and, finally, tentativeness (using words and phrases such as “kind of”, “I think”, and “probably”) which is speculated to show uncertainty and a lack of confidence. The main features of men’s speech are establishment of their own status and value, instrumentality (to accomplish an objective,) conversational dominance, expression in fairly absolute, assertive ways, more abstract communication (they speak more in general terms), and the tendency to not be highly responsive (Wood, 1994).

While most may think gender influences in communication are biological, communication scholars are shifting their focus to study how gender socializations, or being raised as a female or a male, affect our communication tendencies (Edwards et al., 2013). Tannen traces differences in communication patterns and styles between men and women to communication with parents as well as peers. People talk to girls and boys “differently and expect and accept different ways of talking from them” and it’s not wrong to say that boys and girls grow up in different worlds, despite growing up in the same community, neighborhood, or even house. (Tannen, 1990).

After meeting with my service project group this week, I found myself thinking “I hope my group doesn’t think I’m bossy.” Then I remembered the “Ban Bossy” campaign that gained a lot of attention in the media this year thanks to celebrities like Beyonce, Victoria Beckham, and Michelle Obama. The premise of the campaign is to eliminate the use of “bossy” because it’s a term generally only used to describe girls who are assertive, while assertive boys are called “leaders.” This distinction can be very harmful to young girls. In fact, according to BanBossy.com “between elementary and high school, girls’ self–esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’”. This makes me inexpressibly sad.

In Emma Watson’s passionate and moving “He For She” UN speech for gender equality, she recounts how she started questioning gender based assumptions as early as eight years old, when she was called “bossy” because she wanted to direct a play. She also recounts how, at 18 years old, her male friends were unable to express their feelings because our society dictates that men must avoid their feelings and avoid talking about their feelings which shows that these gender-unequal phrases, words, etc. are not exclusive to women. Phrases like “be a man”, “man up”, “grow a pair”, “stop acting like a girl” are hurtful to men. I’ve heard of many accounts from adult homosexual men that have talked about how phrases like these contributed to their confusion about their sexuality and made it feel like they couldn’t be honest with their loved ones and even themselves about their sexuality. This is not exclusive to homosexual men, though. Phrases like these and the genders we enforce on our children can also confuse heterosexual men. The late Kurt Cobain once said “I knew I was different. I thought that I might be gay or something because I couldn’t identify with any of the guys at all. None of them liked art or music. They just wanted to fight and get laid. It was many years ago but it gave me this real hatred for the average American macho male.” In her speech Watson states that in the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged 20-49 because they are afraid to ask for help. How can we continue to force these gender norms on our children when they are hurtful, confusing, and obviously destructive? These norms isolate us. They divide us. They hurt us.

Personally, I don’t view myself as a stereotypical female communicator. While I do speak very openly and often about my feelings with my husband, I’m not very communicative with my extended family, my friends, and my co-workers. Because of this, most of my co-workers think I don’t like them for months after we start working together and it takes me longer to make friends. This is because people expect me to communicate “like a woman”, using rapport talk to establish a connection, when really, I tend to communicate more using information-based report talk to establish status (Edwards et al., 2013). Additionally, I wouldn’t consider my husband a typically male communicator. My husband is very comfortable sharing his feelings with me, he cries during sad movies, and he uses communication for more than to accomplish a task or solve a problem. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t also question himself and this break from the communication norms of his gender.

While we live in a time when women have more rights and more equality than ever before, we still have a long way to go before we reach true equality. No one country in the world can boast true gender equality. So I’ve decided to try and stay away from thoughts like “Does my group think I’m bossy?” and “Is this task too manly/difficult for me, as a woman, to do?” I want to steer away from using these gender-unequal phrases so I can one day raise children, whether male or female, to communicate confidently in whatever ways they are comfortable, despite gender “norms” or gender influences. I want girls who can be assertive without questioning herself and I want boys who can express their feelings and be more communicative.

Tannen, D. (1990) You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Wood, J.T. (1994).  Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture.  Florence, KY: Wadsworth, Inc.

Edwards, A., Edwards, C., Wahl, S., and Myers, S. (2013). The Communication Age: Connecting & Engaging, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc

Ban Bossy. Retrieved from http://banbossy.com/

Watson, Emma. UN HeForShe Campaign. UN Headquarters, New York. 20 Sept. 2014. Speech

Gender Influences On Communication

Role Artifacts

I’ve worked at many different jobs in the nine (long) years I’ve been working, so I’ve had many opportunities to observe people filling the different “roles” listed in the textbook.

The “hero role” is defined as a “workplace member who embodies the workplace culture and thus is able to exert a tremendous amount of influence on other employees through his or her daily workplace behaviors.” The first “hero” I think of is Joey, whom I worked with at Papa John’s Pizza. He was a delivery driver and worked the opening shift as well as during the rush around dinner time. Everybody loved Joey. He was such a positive, nice guy and made everyone feel at ease. He was always good for a laugh too. He was a hard worker and I don’t think anyone had a negative thing to say about him.

I would consider the store manager Rachel the “high priest” which is defined in the textbook as “an employee who guards and protects the company’s values. She was a rule follower, which was in some ways refreshing because the previous store managers often worked around the rules. Being a rule follower didn’t mean she was well liked, though. She was often too serious and unable to joke with the rest of the employees, which made it hard for us to connect with her.

The role of “cabal member” I would assign to another delivery driver named Kyle. A cabal member is one who is “interested solely in his or her self-promotion” l Kyle was an unpleasant person who never had a nice word to say about anyone and only did jobs he was absolutely required to and only did things that would benefit him. Needless to say, Kyle was not fun to work with.

Not to toot my own horn, but I view myself as a “whisperer” (“a worker who has the power to affect change within the workplace”) when I was working at Papa John’s. As the assistant manager, I would sometimes act as the messenger between employees and Rachel, the store manager. When the employees would have a problem they didn’t want to speak to Rachel about, they would come to me to ask advice or ask me to talk to her on their behalf. I also had some pull in some of the operations around the store. For example, the floors were not being cleaned well enough nightly (and that bothered me since I like my home and workspaces clean) so I implemented a floor cleaning schedule, which I made sure was being followed. Soon, the floor looked amazing and we never got marked down on our random cleaning inspections for the floor (which was a problem a lot of stores had.)

I think everyone could be considered an “outlaw” of sorts. The book defines an outlaw as a coworker who fails to follow the workplace rules and policies but is allowed to do so because he or she has the organization’s best interests at heart.” We would all bend the rules, but it was never maliciously or with bad intentions.

Role Artifacts

Group Think

Wikipedia.com defines Groupthink as a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.” (Wikipedia.com)

Some may think that Groupthink would be a good thing, capable of ensuring right, accurate results in a harmonious manner. As evidenced by the Challenger Disaster, however, Groupthink is dangerous.

The challenger space shuttle was scheduled to launch January 28, 1986. At least one engineer spoke out prior to the launch about the concerns of launching in the low temperatures present at the time of launch, knowing that the O-rings that were not proven to operate and seal correctly under certain temperatures. The engineers and NASA managers didn’t feel comfortable proceeding with a launch unless they could reach a unanimous decision. Using unproven information, the members of the group opposed to launching were finally persuaded and pressured into recommending launch the next day, with disastrous consequences. Only 73 seconds into the flight, the Challenger broke apart, resulting in the death of all on board.

Irving L. Janis, who coined the term “Groupthink,” suggested that Groupthink happens when there is:

  • A strong, persuasive group leader.
  • A high level of group cohesion.
  • Intense pressure from the outside to make a good decision. (Mindtools.com)

I can understand how members of a group can fall victim to “Groupthink.” While individuals may have differing opinions from other members of the group, especially those in the role of leadership, they can feel afraid to speak out from fear that they would be persecuted and made to feel stupid, or that they would seem bossy or disagreeing.

Working in groups is (probably) unavoidable, so we need to make sure, instead, to avoid Grouthink. We should implement a process for checking fundamental assumptions behind every decision, validating the process of decision making, and for evaluating the risks.

For especially important decisions, groups should

  • Explore objectives.
  • Explore alternatives.
  • Encourage ideas to be challenged without reprisal.
  • Examine the risks if the preferred choice is chosen.
  • Test assumptions.
  • If necessary, go back and re-examine initial alternatives that were rejected.
  • Gather relevant information from outside sources.
  • Process all information objectively.
  • Have at least one contingency plan.
Group Think

Servant of Allah or Terrorist?

In the story “Servant of Allah or Terrorist?” Kavosh Dehpanah was born and raised in Semnan in a Shi’ite Muslim community. Like his family and his community, Kavosh is a Shi’ite Muslim and was raised with certain views and mentalities such as “Imam’s authority goes unquestioned, and his decisions are infallible on spiritual and religious matters.” They were taught from birth that this one single person has the ability to receive and interpret prophecy and that anything he says goes.

Unfortunately, communities and religions like these seem to strip members of their ability to think for themselves, which has a great, adverse effect on the whole world because they are told that they are meant to commit acts of terror and they do so without question.

Being raised in America, it has been ingrained in me from birth to think for myself, to not succumb to peer pressures, and to be my own person. Obviously, I love that this is the way I was raised and that I have a great sense of right and wrong. Because of this, I have a hard time understanding how people can so blindly follow the word of a single man who proclaims that something is right, even though it’s so obviously wrong.

I was raised in the LDS church under a similar, though not nearly as extreme, mentality. The LDS church, especially here in Utah, seems to strip many people of their ability to think for themselves. They think that what the prophets say is true with no exceptions.  I am no longer an active member in that religion but I can admit that a lot of what they say and proclaim as church “law” has good reasoning and good effects, however, not everything they teach and proclaim is healthy for society and church members.

I have a very personal example of this: My brother went on a two-year mission for the LDS church; however, he had to come home only six months in because he started suffering from OCD and anxieties due to the pressures from the church to be perfect. He isn’t alone in this though. Almost all of his friends who served missions for the church also came home early because they were unable to handle the pressures. My brother now is “a sheep” in the church, following what the church says is true, striped of the ability to decipher what they teach and preach is right and what is wrong.

The church claims that the members have the opportunities to question to the church, however, when they do, they get excommunicated like Kate Kelly, who questioned gender prejudices in the church.

Both religions have adverse effects on communities and individuals (again, the LDS church’s effects are nearly as extreme,) which is unfortunate since the root of all churches is love and compassion. I hope that one day we can achieve worldwide love and compassion and live peacefully, without war and without prejudice.

Servant of Allah or Terrorist?

New Media

Even though I am considered a digital native since I grew up using technology and have a great comfort level with and ease of using it, I am still blown away by how advanced our technology is and the affects it has on our lives. Technologies that were considered science fiction within the last century are a now a reality.

Communication has evolved and changed throughout the time span humans have been on the earth, but nothing compares to the huge jump in the change of communication thanks to our technological advances of the last 10-15 years. That we can have handheld devices that provide us instant and constant updates on our friends and family, the weather, the world around us, etc. is pretty incredible.

My husband and I were reflecting recently on how many shootings have been reported in the news within the last year or two. We wondered if there are more shootings than there have been in the past or if it just seems like more because we know about every single one of them almost as soon as they happen thanks to internet news sources, social media, and text messages. I use an app called Buzzfeed several times a day as my main news source and I’m more informed than I have ever been.

Obviously these new, faster means of communication are a blessing by helping keep families in contact, forming new relationships, helping people in emergencies, etc. For example, through social media platforms such as Facebook, though I’ve never met her, I can watch my four month old niece grow through pictures and stories posted daily by my sister online. That was almost unheard of before the turn of the century.

I feel that these new forms of communication and media are also a curse in some ways. I feel that the quality of communication has declined now that we mostly communicate through mediated sources like Facebook and text messages. Constantly knowing what’s going on in the world can also cause a lot of anxiety. For example, knowing about all of the shootings around the world cause me to worry and think that it could happen to us at any time, anywhere!

And let’s not even get started on all the know-it-alls the constant access to information has created! (That’s mostly a joke…)

New Media

Pre-flection

I have no experience with service-learning. I am, however, looking forward to the experience of participating in service-learning with my communications class this semester.

Weber State University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning page states that

“Community Engaged Learning is defined as an activity that involves a collaborative, reciprocal relationship with the community that prepares our students, faculty, staff and alumni to be engaged citizens, strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility by addressing community issues.”

and to

“create connections and opportunities to give and grow through learning and experience, and to build a community that thrives.”

I think all of those goals are awesome! I, for one, would love to learn how to be a better and more engaged citizen! I would love to give and grow through learning and experience! And I would love to help build a community that thrives!

I’m always finding myself wanting to participate in and provide service. I never know where to start, though, so I never do. I appreciate the opportunity this class requirement provides me to start with my desire to provide service.

I do have experience with group work, as I’m sure most people my age do. I also have a very strong opinion on it: I hate it.

I am an introvert. Talking to other adults I don’t know can be quite difficult and painful (that may be a bit dramatic…) for me so I avoid group work, public speaking, etc.

I recognize that this is an issue I need to work through, though, as good communication with groups and adults I don’t know will be necessary for my job as an elementary school teacher. (Talking to groups of children is so much easier than talking to groups of adults, especially the first, second, or third graders that I would like to teach. They’re so sweet and haven’t started judging everyone yet!)

So, I appreciate the opportunity this class is giving me to learn how to communicate better, and (hopefully!) help me feel more comfortable speaking to groups, my peers, etc. I hope it will teach me to better communicate with my loved ones and in other personal relationships as well!

Pre-flection

What is Communication?

Dictionary.com defines communication as the “imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”

I feel that definition is too limiting.

Being married, has helped me learn other ways of communicating such as facial expressions and body language. Being able to tell when someone is angry, upset, sad, etc. without them having to say the words is pretty cool.

Owning a dog has reinforced communication through body language. It’s pretty awesome that I’m able to understand what that it means my dog needs to go outside to his business when he runs back and forth between me and the back door. (We’ve also taught him to ring a set of bells hung from the back door knob when he needs to go outside to do said business.) He’s very dramatic and sometimes decides to communicate to me that he’s out of water by getting in the bathtub and licking the pool of water around the drain after someone has bathed or showered. Isn’t it amazing that we’re able to communicate with our pets though we can’t exchange words?

For me, communication is the way I make my living. I work at the Home Depot call center as an online chat agent so I spend eight hours a day, five days a week constantly communicating. Sometimes communicating via online chat can be very frustrating, as it can be difficult to relay certain information to customers or understand what customers are trying to communicate. (I definitely wouldn’t trade my position as a chat agent for any other position in the call center though [i.e. phones or emaill.])

It’s incredible all the means of communication we have at our disposal and how technology has shaped our way of communicating. That we can have relationships with loved ones, and even strangers, half way across the world is crazy! My sister is currently living in South Korea where her husband is stationed in the Army. She had a baby in May, and though we aren’t there to watch her grow, we get to watch her grow through pictures and videos shared through text messages and social media.

Isn’t it amazing all the ways we can find to communicate?

What is Communication?