Self-Understanding Is Fundamental to Communication
Read these sections, which focus on how you can become a more effective communicator by understanding yourself and how others view you. They also discuss the centrality of attitudes, beliefs, and values for one's self-concept, and how self-fulfilling prophecies can influence decision making. After you read, try the exercises at the end of the section.
Understanding Your Audience
Your mind is like a parachute. It works best when it's open.
To see an object in the world we must see it as something.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.
- Abraham Maslow
1. In order to communicate with others, you need to know yourself. Please complete a personal inventory, a simple list of what comes to mind in these five areas:
- Your knowledge: What is your favorite subject?
- Your skills: What can you do?
- Your experience: What has been your experience writing to date?
- Your interests: What do you enjoy?
- Your relationships: Who is important to you?
2. To be a successful communicator, it is helpful to be conscious of how you view yourself and others. Please consider what groups you belong to, particularly in terms of race, ethnicity, or culture. Imagine that you had to communicate your perception of just one of these groups. Please choose five terms from the list below, and indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree that the term describes the group accurately.
|Term||Describes the Group Accurately|
|1- Strongly disagree||2- Somewhat disagree||3- Neither agree nor disagree||4- Somewhat agree||5- Strongly agree|
Introductory Exercises (cont.)3. Now consider a group that you have little or no contact with. Please choose five terms (the same ones or different ones) and again indicate how accurately they describe the group. How do your results compare with those in Exercise 2?
4. Please find the hidden message: The basics of speech communication. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Knowing your audience involves understanding others, and their perspectives, to see if they understand your words, examples, or the frames of reference you use to communicate your experiences, points, and conclusions. Ask yourself when you last had a miscommunication with someone. No doubt it was fairly recently, as it is for most people.
It's not people's fault that language, both verbal and nonverbal, is an imperfect system. We can, however, take responsibility for the utility and limitations of language to try to gain a better understanding of how we can communicate more effectively. As a communicator, consider both the role of the speaker and the audience and not only what and how you want to communicate but also what and how your audience needs you to communicate with them in order to present an effective message.
This gives rise to an issue: how do I deal with twenty or twenty-five "perspectives" in a classroom or a reading audience of infinite size and try to narrow the gap with each audience member? Before we tackle this question, let's first follow the advice given by the character Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: "To thine own self be true". This relates to the notion that you need to know yourself, or your perspective, before you can explore ways to know others and communicate more effectively. You will examine how you perceive stimuli, choosing some information over others, organizing the information according to your frame of reference, and interpreting it, deciding what it means to you and whether you should remember it or just ignore it and move on. We can recognize that not everyone tunes in to the same music, trends in clothing, or even classes, so experiences or stimuli can have different meanings. Still, we can find common ground and communicate effectively.
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