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Surprises in Communication


Higginbotham 1 Donna Higginbotham Speech Communication 1301 Prof. Virginia Myers 4-7-2010 Surprises in Communication Poor communication skills may lead to misunderstandings, dislike, alienation, apathy, anger, and open hostility. Well developed communication skills identify common ground, make peace, and shape relationships through common understanding, enabling us to empathize, sympathize, and offer emotional support when needed. According to , by Adler and Rodman, communication refers to the process of human beings responding to the face-to-face symbolic behavior of other persons. All communicative movements and vocal inflections have symbolic meanings. Arms crossed in front of the body can often be interpreted as an emotionally defensive move, in which the person does not want to listen, or does not want to discuss anything that might betray his thoughts or feelings. This posture may also be the effort of a harried parent to resist saying or doing something he/she might later regret. If one says Hello, or waves, he communicates a meaning that can differ according to the variations of vocal inflection or the movements involved in the wave. All communication efforts may represent different ideas to different cultures, with mild variations within each culture. In a country like the United States, many cultures exist within the geographical borders, mixing and mingling our blood and our cultures, while still harboring individual cultural communities. But, there are some ways of communicating an idea that remain rather constant. For example: If one is rude enough to talk while a speaker is delivering a speech or lecture, he is communicating that he does not wish to listen, and would rather be elsewhere. The following example deals with standard and predictable communication problems in this country. My senior year began at Estacado High School. The building had just been completed, and many of the shiny faces came into school wearing frowns and nervous looks. For the first time in Lubbock, Higginbotham 2 Texas, the schools were integrated. For the first time, black teachers would be teaching classes predominately filled with white students. An undercurrent of distrust mixed with a little fear floated down the hallways and into the classrooms, especially those rooms assigned to black teachers. Perhaps the teachers were a little afraid too. Two or three weeks into the semester, I entered one of these classrooms (I dont remember which subject). I sat down in my seat and watched the free-for-all, as I pulled out my homework. This class was always rowdy, with 2 of the black boys and the pretty-boy/bad-boy leading the disruption. When the bell rang, the noise continued. Our smiling, long-suffering teacher went through the daily routine of calming the class and checking the roll. She never had complete control of the room. Each time she turned her back to write on the blackboard, one of the boys would throw spit-wad, which was followed by a return volley. Not to be equaled, the original thrower heaved another spit-wad. This behavior was intermingled with small disruptions, a remark from one student to another, and papers or funny books passed back and forth in a book, sometimes without the book. The teacher persisted in her efforts to be patient and to calm the class. Sadly, minor misbehavior was not the worst problem. My dear friend, in the seat in front of me, said, I dont like her. How could this kind, gentle, Christian girl not like a woman who patiently, tried to do her job without looking like the bad guy? Her only explanation was, I dont know why; but, I dont like her. While the class was doing paper work, the principal stopped by (probably to see if things were getting any better). As he leaned against the door frame, and she against the defined edge of the open door, he mentioned that the next day would be her birthday. What a fun day tomorrow promised to be for her, stuck with these delightful students. That evening I asked my mother for a birthday card from her all occasion box. At school, I showed the card to my friend. Oddly, she wanted to sign it too. Then the girl across the aisle wanted to affix her signature next to ours, and another joined the little group. By the time roll call was over, each Higginbotham 3 student in the class had happily added his name. I presented the teacher with the card from all of us. Her face glowed with a beautiful smile as she thanked us profusely. The students actually enjoyed giving, and were deeply affected by her response. In turn, each one of them responded in a positive manner. Suddenly, the room was calmer. The next day, the teacher brought a thank you card for me to read to the class. In those two days, the tension level in the room dropped considerably. The spit wad brigade still enjoyed their favorite pastime. But fewer volleys shot across the room; and the students became more attentive. The 2 black boys actions, meant to get the white kids to like them, diminished considerably. And the white kids worked harder. As for the pretty boy/bad boy, he was lobbed more spit wads than the others, but even he seemed less tense and maybe a little less lazy. All of the white students now saw our teacher as a human being, not as someone whom they feared would be biased against them because of the color of their skin. My friend actually learned to like this teacher. The accidental introduction of a positive idea and a tangible, very short term project, that cost them very little effort, caught and held their attention long enough to become a positive experience. Adler and Rodmans understanding of competent communication involves achieving ones goals in a manner that, ideally, maintains or enhances the relationship in which it occurs (p. 13). Birthday cards usually meet these requirements. The goal was a happier teacher, who would know that at least one person in her class cared about her. Thirty students changed that goal to meet their own needs. By expressing their desire to sign the birthday card, they acknowledged their instinctive need to be part of a group, small or large. Because the teacher expressed joy and gratitude, their participation and acceptance as a group reinforced their belief that group activities can have feel good advantages. When I moved away at Christmas time, the class was an ordinary bunch of kids who wished they could be almost anywhere but school. Whether as an individual or in a group, human beings desire acceptance; and when the group comes together for a good purpose, they bond. As an additional Higginbotham 4 blessing, the delightful reaction of a lovely lady gave them a warm memory of which they could always be proud. Even now, I am astounded at how easily a tiny bit of compassion and a warm dose of appreciation helped heal the wounds of prejudice. The lessons people learn in school, and continue to learn in life should improve their ability to communicate their needs and desires to others. The more skillful they become at communication, the more likely they are to have their needs met by society and by those who love them. In return, the better they are at listening and encouraging others to express themselves in meaningful ways, the better their opportunities will be of satisfying the needs of others. Initiating effective communications and maintaining this interaction in all relationships contributes to the active construction of a creative and happy life. Understanding Human Communication

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