NCSU COM 112 - COM 112 Chapter 1 (26 pages)

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COM 112 Chapter 1



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COM 112 Chapter 1

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Pages:
26
School:
North Carolina State University
Course:
Com 112 - Interpersonal Communication
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Chapter 1 About Communication Chapter 1 Sections 1 Why We Communicate Asking why we communicate may seem about as useful as asking why we breathe After all could you imagine your life without communication We all have times of course when we prefer to be alone Nevertheless most of us would find it nearly impossible and very unsatisfying to go through life without the chance to interact with others Perhaps that s why we spend so much of our time communicating whether face to face or electronically see Table 1 1 TABLE 1 1 Life Online Communicating in Cyberspace 18 Number of hours per week the average American spends on the Internet 87 Percentage of American teenagers who sleep with or next to their cell phone 357 Number of text messages the average American sends per month 600 Number of tweets sent per second 141 000 000 247 000 000 000 Number of active blogs online Average number of e mail messages sent per day Sources Nielsen Company Pew Research Center Twitterblog Blogpulse Statistics are from May 2010 You might think that communicating as much as we do would make us all communication experts In truth however we often don t recognize how many communication challenges we face Learning to overcome those challenges starts with appreciating why we communicate in the first place As we ll discover in this section communication touches many aspects of our lives from our physical and other everyday needs to our experiences with relationships spirituality and identity Communication Meets Physical Needs Communication keeps us healthy Human beings are such inherently social beings that when we are denied the opportunity for interaction our mental and physical health can suffer That is a major reason why solitary confinement is such a harsh punishment Several studies have shown that when people are cut off from others for an extended period their health can quickly deteriorate 1 Similarly individuals who feel socially isolated because of poverty homelessness mental illness or obesity can also suffer from a lack of quality interaction with others 2 Page 5 It may sound like an exaggeration to say that we can t survive without human contact but that statement isn t far from the truth as a bizarre experiment in the thirteenth century helps to show German emperor Frederick II wanted to know what language humans would speak naturally if they weren t taught any particular language To find out he placed 50 newborns in the care of nurses who were instructed only to feed and bathe them but not to speak to or hold them The emperor never discovered the answer to his question because all the infants died 3 That experiment was clearly unethical meaning that it did not follow established principles that guide people in judging whether something is morally right or wrong Such an experiment fortunately wouldn t be repeated today But as touch expert Tiffany Field reports more recent studies conducted in orphanages and adoption centers have convincingly shown that human interaction especially touch is critical for infants survival and healthy development 4 Social interaction keeps adults healthy too Research shows that people without strong social ties such as close friendships and family relationships are more likely to suffer from major ailments including heart disease and high blood pressure and to die prematurely than people who have close satisfying relationships 5 They are also more likely to suffer from lesser ailments such as colds and they often take longer to recover from illnesses or injuries 6 Communication researchers Chris Segrin and Stacey Passalacqua have even found that loneliness is related to sleep disturbances and stress 7 The importance of social interaction is often particularly evident to people who are stigmatized A stigma is a characteristic that discredits a person causing him or her to be seen as abnormal or undesirable 8 It isn t the attribute itself that stigmatizes a person however but the way that attribute is viewed by others in that person s society In the United States for instance being HIV positive has been widely stigmatized because of its association with two marginalized populations gay men and intravenous drug users even though many individuals with HIV do not belong to either group 9 U S Americans don t tend to stigmatize people with asthma or diabetes or even cancer to the same extent as they do people with HIV even though those other illnesses can also be serious and even life threatening Stigmatized people might frequently feel like outsiders who don t fit in with others As a result they may be more likely to suffer the negative physical effects of limited social interaction Going further the less social interaction they have the more they are likely to continue feeling stigmatized Although not everyone needs the same degree of interaction to stay healthy communication plays an important role in maintaining human health and well being Communication Meets Relational Needs Page 6 Besides our physical needs we have several relational needs such as needs for companionship and affection relaxation and escape 10 We don t necessarily have the same needs in all our relationships you probably value your friends for somewhat different reasons than you value your relatives for instance The bottom line though is that we need relationships and communication is a large part of how we build and keep those relationships 11 Think about how many structures in our lives are designed to promote social interaction Neighborhoods schools workplaces malls theaters and restaurants are all social settings in which we interact with people In addition the Internet offers innumerable ways of connecting with others and many people have made new friends or even met romantic partners online 12 Imagine how challenging it would be to form and maintain strong social relationships if you lacked the ability to communicate with people Human development scholar Rosemary Blieszner has found that this is a common experience for many immigrants who often struggle to learn the cultural values as well as the language of their new environments and may feel lonely or ignored by others in the process 13 Some scholars believe our need for relationships is so fundamental that we can hardly get by without them 14 For example research has shown that having a rich social life is one of the most powerful predictors of a person s overall happiness 15 Mere interaction isn t enough though Studies show that having


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