Describe the relationship between words and meaning.
Understand how words influence us and our culture.
Identify word barriers and know how to manage them.
Discuss how the words we use affect our relationships with others.
Understand supportive approaches to relating to others.
Humans are symbolic by nature and use words. Words are symbolic, arbitrary, and context-bound. Words have both denotative and connotative meanings and can communicate about the concrete or abstract.
Meanings are in people, not in words. The words we use can be powerful. Words have the power to create something new or unfamiliar. Words have the power to affect our thoughts and actions. Words have the power to affect and reflect their host culture. Words should be used carefully and thoughtfully.
Verbal communication can be challenging at times. At least six barriers can interfere with our effective use of words: bypassing, lack of clarity, allness, static evaluation, polarization, and biased language.
A number of verbal strategies can enhance interpersonal relationships by establishing a positive and supportive climate and communicating a sense of value for others. We use words to establish a supportive relationship when we describe rather than evaluate, solve problems rather than control others, are genuine rather than manipulative, empathize rather than remain detached, are flexible rather than rigid toward others, and present ourselves as an equal rather than a superior.
We can also learn to use words to be appropriately assertive when we are communicating with others who create a defensive climate or are verbally aggressive, obnoxious, or use language to try and coerce or intimidate. The five steps to appropriately take care of yourself through the use of assertive behavior are to describe your view of the situation, disclose your feelings, identify the effects, wait for a response, and paraphrase the content and feelings of your partner's message.
CHAPTER OUTLINE (All key terms appear in bold)
I. Understanding how words work
A. Words are symbols that represent something else.
1. The triangle of meaning explains the relationships between referents, thoughts, and symbols (Ogden and Richards)
a. A symbol is a word, sound, or visual device that represents an image,
sound, concept, or experience.
b. Thought is the mental process of creating an image, sound, concept or
experience triggered by a referent or symbol.
c. A referent is the thing that a symbol represents.
B. Words are arbitrary.
There is not necessarily a logical connection between the referent and the symbol.
The arbitrary nature of most words means that there is no inherent meaning in a
C. Words are context-bound: They derive their meaning from the situation in which they are
D. Words are culturally bound.
Culture consists of the rules, norms, values, and mores of a group of people that
have been learned and shaped from one generation to the next.
The meaning of a symbol, such as a word, can change from culture to culture.
The study of words and meaning is called semantics.
One important body of semantic theory, known as symbolic interaction, suggests
that as a society we are bound together because of our common use of symbols.
The theory of symbolic interaction also illuminates how we use our common
understanding of symbols to form interpersonal relationships.
Gender may also play a major role in how we interpret verbal messages.
a. Women tend to interpret messages based on how personally supportive
they perceive messages to be.
b. Men tend to interpret messages based on issues related to dominance and
E. Words communicate denotative and connotative meaning.
H. Avoid language that demeans one's age, ability, or social class.
IV. Using words to establish supportive relationships with others.
A. For more than three decades, Jack Gibb's observational research has been used as a
framework for both describing and prescribing verbal behaviors that contribute to
feelings of either supportiveness or defensiveness.
B. Words and actions are tools we use to let someone know whether we support them or not.
C. Words can be used to create a supportive climate rather than an antagonistic one.
1. Describe your own feelings rather than evaluate the behavior of others, a. Most of us don't like to be judged or evaluated.
b. One way to avoid evaluating others is to eliminate the accusatory "you"
from your language.
c. Instead, use the word "I" to describe your own feelings and thoughts about
a situation or event.
d. In doing this you are, in essence, taking ownership of your thoughts and
e. This approach leads to greater openness and trust because your listener
does not feel rejected or as if you are trying to control him or her.
D. Solve problems rather than try to control others.
1. Be genuine rather than manipulative.
a. To be genuine means that you honestly seek to be yourself rather than
someone you are not.
b. It also means taking an honest interest in others and considering the
E. Empathize rather than remain detached from others.
Empathy is one of the hallmarks of supportive relationships.
The opposite of empathy is neutrality.
To be neutral is to be indifferent or apathetic toward another.
F. Be flexible rather than rigid toward others.
Most people don't like someone who always seems certain that he or she is right.
The "I'm right, you're wrong" attitude creates a defensive climate.
G. Present yourself as equal rather than superior.
1. You can antagonize others by letting them know that you view yourself as better
or brighter than they are.
2. Although some people have the responsibility and authority to manage others,
"pulling rank" does not usually produce a cooperative climate.
Avoid using abstract language to impress others.
When communicating with someone from another culture, you may need to use
an elaborated code to get your message across. This means using conversation
that uses many words and various ways of describing an idea or concept to
communicate its meaning.
The underlying goal of creating a supportive, rather than defensive,
communication climate is the providing emotional support.
Appropriate humor can be used to turn a tense, potentially conflict producing
confrontation into a more supportive, positive conversation.