Self-Concept & Communication Essay
• Using facework to help save our face and the face of others • Communicating nondefensive reactions such as asking open-ended questions, guessing about speci?cs, agreeing with the truth, and agreeing to disagreeI’M SO FATTomorrow I’m gonna start a diet. It’s kinda hard for me to imagine myself thin because I have always been overweight. My entire family is overweight except my brother. Many, many people have called me “fat” or “overweight” or “pig,” and I’m sick of it. I don’t have the guts to ask anyone out because I’m sure they’ll turn me down because I’m gross.
My parents tell me not to worry about it and to concentrate on the person they know I am. But at school I’m called “Porky”; that’s how others see me and that’s who I think I am. I know my parents won’t help me with my diet.
Sometimes I can’t stand myself.o you know someone similar to the person who describes herself or himself in the “I’m So Fat” blog entry? Perhaps you or someone else believes the labels that others use to characterize personality, appearance, or overall ability. Do you think that others perceive you in the same manner that you perceive yourself? These related ideas concern our self-concept and how it is formed.No matter how we perceive ourselves or how others perceive us, our self-concept is inextricably entwined with communication. In this chapter, we will learn that understanding how the self-concept affects communication can motivate us to communicate competently.
Creating realistic goal statements and constructing a mental inventory of our strengths and talents can also increase our motivation to communicate in a competent manner. In addition, we will increase our knowledge by learning about characteristics of the self-concept, defensive and nondefensive communication, and the problems associated with in?ated self-esteem. Finally, we will learn how to communicate competently by using face-saving and nondefensive messages.DChapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationTU N I C ATLEDGEMOTWCOMM••••••SKILLKNOMPETENO• Understanding why it’s important to study the self-concept • Setting realistic goal statements• Making a mental inventory of strengths and talents6733764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMNIOCSKILTOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMMWLKNOMPETENONPage 68INTRODUCTION TO THE SELF-CONCEPTf you could describe yourself in one word, which word would you choose? Can you select a single dominant personality trait, belief, and/or role to adequately describe how you perceive yourself? Perhaps you believe that it’s impossible to characterize who you are with one noun or adjective and that many words are needed to describe who you really are. You may see your self-concept as multidimensional and therefore need to use a variety of descriptors to characterize how you perceive yourself.
Think about how you might describe yourself to others and how your self-perceptions can in?uence your communication as you read the next section about the conceptualization of the self-concept and why it’s important to study the self-concept as it relates to communication. Similarly, consider the people in your life who have in?uenced and continue to in?uence how you perceive yourself. Focus on their communication about you and ask yourself if your communication may have similarly contributed to how others see themselves.Part I Communication and The SelfICharacterization of the Self-ConceptQuite simply, self-concept refers to how we perceive ourselves.
Communication scholars contend that our self-concept is formed, sustained, and changed by our interactions with others.1 This means that the self-concept is primarily a social phenomenon that is in?uenced by our relationships. Consider the people in your life who have shaped the way you perceive yourself: how have their comments affected your self-concept? Of course, just as others affect our self-concept, our communication can signi?cantly in?uence the selfconcept of others. Even a comment not intended to affect a person’s sense of self, such as a mild put-down said as a joke, can have an impact on her or his self-concept.
However, it may be impossible to say that the formation of the self is entirely social because research suggests that biologically in?uenced personality traits are a major component of our selfconcept.2 Five general clusters of traits labeled the “Big Five” can in?uence our self-concept: •••••extroverted vs. introvertedagreeable vs. antagonisticopen vs. not openneurotic vs. stableconscientious vs. undirectedIncluded within the clusters are speci?c personality traits for which people may be “hardwired.” These traits include sociability, spontaneity, sel?essness, sel?shness, independence, curiosity, vulnerability, and carelessness.
3The Formation and Developmentof the Self-ConceptOur culture(s), signi?cant others, our gender, and our own self-talk in?uence the formation and development of the self-concept. The theory of symbolic interactionism, developed by sociologist George Herbert Mead in the 1920s, posits that our view of self is shaped by those6833764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 69Communication, Self-Concept, and Civil DiscourseThis doesn’t mean thatwe must restrict our everyday behaviors or that we must eliminate self-expression.However, it does mean that we should realize that everything we want to express may not be worthy of expression. It also means that “we can choose to express one part of ourselves rather than another.Although it may appear that we give up selfexpression when we exercise [civility], in truth, restraint can be much an expression of our Selves as is unfettered behavior.
”7 with whom we communicate. Two processes, the Pygmalion effect and social comparison, strongly in?uence how we perceive ourselves.Our culture(s), signi?cant others, our gender, and our own self-talk in?uence the formation and development of the self-concept.The Pygmalion Effect The Pygmalion effect illustrates the way our signi?cant others (people who are important to us) in?uence our self-concept.
In the classic study “Pygmalion in the Classroom,” psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson describe an experiment in which certain teachers had been informed that they had exceptionally intelligent students. In reality, the students who were identi?ed as exceptional were no different than any other student in their grade. At the end of the school year, the students who were described as extremely bright actually did perform at a high level and even improved their IQ scores.The researchers concluded that these children performed well because of their teachers’ expectations. The teachers communicated their high expectations to their students by providing them with extra verbal and nonverbal reinforcement. Furthermore, the teachers didn’t react negatively when their students answered questions incorrectly.
The teachers directly and indirectly communicated to their students that they were high achievers, and the students actually came to believe that they were high achievers. In other words, the expectations of their teachers in?uenced the students’ self-concepts.8Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationSome scholars suggest that there may be a connection between uncivil discourse and words used to describe the self. These scholars contend that today’s “vocabulary of the self ” re?ects the overemphasis on individualism as a societal value and is devoid of responsibility and accountability.Words such as self-expression, self-assertion, self-realization, self-approval, and self acceptance are favored less than words such as self-denial, self-discipline, self-control, self-reproach, and self-sacri?ce.4 This vocabulary implies that “the old ethic of self-discipline has given way to a new ethic of self-esteem and self-expression.This has endangered the practice of traditional civility.”5 Roy F.
Baumeister, a leading researcher in the area of self-esteem, recommends a shift in focus from “selfesteem” to “self-control and selfdiscipline” to truly bene?t self and society.6 Social Comparison Our self-concept is also in?uenced when we engage in social comparison with others. Comparing our athletic ability or relational success to others is an example of social comparison, as is asking classmates about their scores on a test.
These examples illustrate that social comparison provides us with knowledge about ourselves in terms of how we measure up to others.9 Recent research illustrates that social comparison is an important determinant of self-perception in Western cultures. Speci?cally, we tend to respond negatively when others perform better than we do on a consequential task, even when we receive positive above-average feedback about our performance. We6933764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 70compensate by comparing ourselves with people who perform with average ability and subsequently evaluate ourselves much higher than we evaluate the average performers.10 For example, we may be dissatis?ed when we receive a “B” on an important test because we know that classmates received an “A.” However, it’s probable that we’ll also compare ourselves with classmates who receive a “C” and decide that we really performed much better on the test than those who received the average scores.Why It’s Important to Study Self-ConceptPart I Communication and The SelfJust as communication affects our self-concept, our self-concept affects how we communicate with others.
Our self-concept can be placed on a continuum that ranges from “healthy” or “strong” to “unhealthy” or “poor.” Healthy self-concepts can result in a realistic acknowledgment of our strengths and weaknesses, and therefore we may accept praise and defend viewpoints even when opposed by others. Unhealthy self-concepts can result in exaggerated and unrealistic perceptions of our strengths and weaknesses, and therefore we may1170••••downplay our strengthsexaggerate our accomplishmentsfail to value our successesexpect others to perceive us negativelySuch individuals may be overly self-critical because it may be easier and less painful to criticize oneself than to hear the criticism of others. People who have an unhealthy selfconcept may also boast about their accomplishments to mask feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.12 In all, knowledge about the relationship between the self-concept and interpersonal communication can motivate us to communicate in a competent manner.
13 Creating realistic goal statements designed to improve our selfconcept can increase our motivation to communicate. It’s important It’s important to remember thatto remember that our self-concept isn’t formed in an instant, and neiour self-concept isn’t formed in ther can it change in an instant. Therefore, we must set realistic goals an instant, and neither can it for ourselves and not mentally beat ourselves up if we don’t meet change in an instant. them.
An example of an unrealistic goal is “I will be a con?dent The self-concept can be simultaneously perceived as mental and physical, and as private and public.33764 03 066-095 r2 saNIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENON9/4/075:47 PMPage 71Responding to Compliments,Opposing Viewpoints, andAcknowledging Accomplishmentstrusted friends and/or family members for an honest appraisal of how you communicate in terms of praise, opposing viewpoints, and accomplishments. Ask for speci?c examples regarding the topic of the interactions and what and how you communicated. You may be surprised at what you learn.communicator in all situations and will never let my nerves get the best of me.” A more realistic goal is “I will gain con?dence and learn how to manage my anxiety so I can contribute to discussions in my communication class.” And if it turns out that we do lack con?dence and experience anxiety while engaged in class discussion, we need to give ourselves a break; we will have many more opportunities to work on this speci?c aspect of our self-concept. Another reason why it’s important to study our self-concept concerns how we perceive ourselves.
We tend to perceive ourselves subjectively and often in a more negative light than is warranted. One method to contend with our subjective self-concept is to create a mental inventory of our talents and strengths. According to psychologist Martin Seligman, talents Figure 3.1: SETTING REALISTIC GOAL STATEMENTSChapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationAlthough you may think you reply to compliments, defend opinions, and communicate about your accomplishments in a competent manner, it is important to remember that communication competence is an impression based on others’ perceptions. To gain insight about how your self-concept may affect your communication, ask a minimum of three7133764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 72NIOCSKILPart I Communication and The SelfTMOTLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENOSetting Realistic Goal StatementsU N I C ATNI V AT I OAre there any characteristics associated with your self-concept that you wish to change? Choose one aspect of your selfconcept that you would like to alter.
Your choices need not be monumental; for example, you may wish to change your perception of yourself as a procrastinator.Write two or three realistic and manageable goal statements regarding the aspect of your self concept that you desire to change. Examples of “procrastination” goal statements are “I will work on an assignment each day for ?fteen minutes until it is complete” and “I will create a‘computer curfew’ so I can spend most of the night studying.” Discuss your goal statements with your classmates and ask for feedback about their realism and practicality. Remember these goal statements when you ?nd yourself beginning to exhibit the aspect of your self-concept that you want to change. Read your goal statement(s) daily, don’t give up, and soon you may ?nd that you have successfully altered for the better a behavior associated with your self-concept.
are nonmoral characteristics that are usually innate and automatic.Examples of talents are having perfect pitch or athletic ability. Although talents can be augmented, the improvements made are typically small. Strengths are moral traits such as integrity, valor, kindness, and originality. For example, although we may be born with the talent to recognize musical notes when we hear them, we cannot “choose” whether or not to have perfect pitch. However, we can choose to be courageous, original, or kind. Listed in Table 3.
1, “Your Personal Strengths,” are the twenty-four strengths identi?ed by Seligman. We can develop these strengths with practice and dedication; unlike talents, they involve choices about acquisition, usage, andenhancement.14 TABLE 3.1Your Personal StrengthsVirtue ClusterStrengthsWisdom andKnowledgeCuriosity/Interest in the World; Love of Learning;Judgment/Critical Thinking/Open-Mindedness; Ingenuity/Originality/Practical Intelligence/Street Smarts; Social Intelligence/ Personal Intelligence/Emotional Intelligence; PerspectiveCourageValor and Bravery; Perseverance/Industry/Diligence; Integrity/ Genuineness/HonestyHumanityand LoveKindness and Generosity; Loving and Allowing Oneselfto Be LovedJusticeCitizenship/Duty/Teamwork/Loyalty; Fairness and Equity; LeadershipTemperanceSelf-Control; Prudence/Discretion/Caution; Humility and ModestyTranscendenceAppreciation of Beauty and Excellence; Gratitude; Hope/Optimism/Future-Mindedness; Spirituality/Sense of Purpose/Faith/Religiousness; Forgiveness and Mercy; Playfulness andHumor; Zest/Passion/EnthusiasmSource: Printed with permission by Dr. Martin Seligman.7233764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 73NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENOAssessing Your Talents and StrengthsNI V AT I ONIOCSKILTOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMMWLKNOMPETENONlist them on the right-hand side of the page.You can also learn which strengths are your highest personal strengths or “signature strengths” by accessing the 240-question VIA Signature StrengthsQuestionnaire at http://www.authentichappiness.
org. You can also log onto MyCommunicationLab and follow the link to this Web site. Review your talents and strengths when you have a low day or when someone’s criticism is especiallyhurtful. You’ll realize that you’re not so bad after all!ur self-concept is affected by the characteristics we believe we possess and has many components. Characteristics and components associated with the self-concept include self-image and self-esteem, the multidimensional nature of the self-concept, the relationship between self-concept and self-disclosure, the subjective character of the selfconcept, and the desired self-concept or “face” that we choose to present to others.OSelf-Image and Self-EsteemTake a look at Figure 3.2, “The Self-Concept.” This ?gure illustrates the idea that aspects of our self-concept can be organized according to our beliefs and evaluations about ourselves and the contexts that in?uence us.
At the beginning of this chapter, self-concept was de?ned as how we perceive ourselves. Our self-concept is affected by the characteristics we believe we possess (e.g., strengths and weaknesses, personality traits) and how we evaluate these characteristics.
Our self-concept, located Our self-image may include the on the top of the hierarchy, is made up of self-image and selfroles we perceive we inhabit, the esteem, which are located directly underneath.Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationTake a moment or two to think about your talents. In what areas do you excel or believe that you may be naturally gifted? Are you artistic, athletic, musical, or mechanical? Have you always been good at math? Can you easily take objects apart and put them back together? What other talents do you possess? Take a sheet of paper, fold it in half, and create a list of talents on the left-hand side of the page. Similarly, refer to the “Your Personal Strengths” box for a list of twenty-four strengths.Think about your strengths and words we use when we describe ourselves, and how we believe others perceive us.Self-Image The self-image is a descriptive term; it refers to the characteristics we believe we possess.
Our self-image may include the roles we perceive we inhabit, the words we use when we describe ourselves, and how we believe others perceive us. For example, if you describe yourself as a student who does volunteer work and who is looking for a mate, you have communicated several aspects of your self-image (the roles of student, giving citizen, and someone who desires a relationship). Our self-image also involves how others see us. We use other people’s7333764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 74Figure 3.2: THE SELF-CONCEPTSelf-ConceptSelf-EsteemSelf-ImageSocialContextGenderContextI n d i vi d u alC o n t e xtcomments to check our self-perceptions, and they reinforce or change the perception of what and who we are. For instance, you may perceive yourself as someone who is unsel?sh and generous. However, this self-perception may change when a coworker mentions the volunteer work he does or the charities to which she donates.
NIOLCSKILTMLEDGEMPETENOWSelf-Esteem Self-esteem, on the other hand, is evaluative; it depends on what we perceive to be worthwhile and/or valuable. In other words, self-esteem goes beyond our self-image to include the value or importance we place on our perceived characteristics. belief may be an inconsequential comDo you have a healthy sense of self-worth? You can assess your level ponent of your self-concept. It may be of self-esteem by taking the thirty-question revised self-esteem test at that your perceived weakness is not that http://www.psychtests.
com/tests/personality/self_esteem_r_access.html. important to you and doesn’t negaYou can also log onto MyCommunicationLab and follow the link tively affect your overall self-concept.
to this Web site. After obtaining the results of your assessment, In addition, you may believe that consider whether you may need to revise those aspects of the self you are a sensitive and kind person you consider to be worthwhile. (self-image) and that sensitivity and kindness are valuable and worthwhile characteristics to possess (self-esteem). In this instance, your belief about yourself and your positive evaluation of that belief are likely to contribute to a healthy self-concept. COMPart I Communication and The SelfCultureContextU N I C ATPerceived as MultidimensionalEven though people tend to view the self in terms of a gestalt or whole, theorists suggest that it has many components. The self-concept can be simultaneously perceived as mental and physical and as private and public.15 Our mental self may be comprised of perceptions of how intelligent we are and what we assume our strengths to be. Our physical self may include perceptions of our body and how physically attractive we think we are.
Our private self may include perceptions of self that we do not readily disclose to others; for example,7433764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 75we perceive ourselves to be overly cynical or unemotional. Our public self may include those aspects of the self that we desire others to perceive, such as that we have a nice personality and enjoy having fun. Other components of self include personality characteristics, social roles, and our moral principles. Although the self-concept is multidimensional, some people believe that there is a stable and resilient “true self ” that underlies all of our other “selves.” Although the idea of a true self or “real self ” as a single entity is common in individualist cultures, in reality the self is comprised of many characteristics and perceptions.16In?uenced by Self-DisclosureThe Open Quadrant The open quadrant includes information about ourselves that weand others know. This information can be anything that we reveal to others, such as how old we are or what we do for a living.
If asked to draw our Johari Window as it relates to our best friend, we will probably draw a large open quadrant because we probably self-disclose to our best friend. However, if we are asked to draw a Johari Window as it relates to an acquaintance,the open quadrant will be relatively small. The Blind Quadrant The blind quadrant includes information about ourselves that we don’t know but others do. For example, has anyone ever pointed out a habit about which you were unaware? Maybe you were told that you crack your knuckles, bite your lip, or ?dget with a pen when you are nervous. Similarly, maybe you are unaware that the self you present to others is perceived as somewhat immature because you pepper your conversations with “y’know,”“like,” and “uhm.” This area also includes information and judgments of our personality about which we are unaware. YouFigure 3.3: THE JOHARI WINDOWOpenBlindKnown to self andknown to othersNot Known to selfbut known to othersHiddenUnknownKnown to self butnot known to othersChapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationSelf-disclosure refers to the act of willingly sharing information about ourselves to others.
Not only is self-disclosure related to the development of interpersonal relationships (discussed in Chapter 10) but self-disclosure is also related to self-perceptions. We may choose to disclose aspects of our self-concept to family members and close friends that we choose not to reveal to others. Their reactions, in turn, can in?uence how we perceive ourselves. Similarly, conversation partners may inform us about aspects of our self-concept and behavior of which we are unaware.
A model that illustrates self-disclosure, self-awareness, and how we relate to others is the Johari Window, developed and named for its creators, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram.17The Johari Window has four areas or quadrants. The quadrants, labeled the “open, blind, hidden, and unknown” areas, change in size in terms of what, how much, or how little we disclose about the self and what, how much, or how little we know about the self in relation to others.Neither known to selfnor known to othersSource: Luft, J. GROUP PROCESSES: AN INTRODUCTION TO GROUP DYNAMICS, 3E © 1984, printed with permission from The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
7533764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 76Part I Communication and The Self are probably familiar with the use of the word but in a phrase such as “I hate to tell you this, but. . .
.” You know that the information following the “but” is not going to be complimentary. If this information is about your personality (“sometimes you think you’re funny but you really come off as obnoxious”) or behavior (“I think you’re too tough on your girlfriend or boyfriend”), it belongs in the blind area, because it is information about yourself that you don’t know but others do. The more we become self-aware and learn how others perceive us, the more we can shrink our blind quadrant.
The Hidden Quadrant The hidden quadrant includes information about ourselves that we know but that others do not. Can you think of a secret that you haven’t told anyone? This secret need not be deep and dark; maybe there’s some information about yourself that you haven’t shared with others because the need to share hasn’t arisen. For example, you may be allergic to orange juice, you may believe that Beethoven composed the best classical music, or you may have punched a sibling when you were a child. Are these disclosures appropriate in your typical, everyday conversations? Probably not.
This type of self-information rests in the hidden quadrant, because it is information about yourself of which you are aware but others are not. Once again, if asked to draw our Johari Window as it relates to our best friend, we will probably draw a small hidden quadrant because the two of us most likely engage in self-disclosure.However, if we are asked to draw a Johari Window as it relates to an acquaintance, the hidden quadrant will be fairly big. The Unknown Quadrant The unknown quadrant refers to the “unknown” information about ourselves that neither we nor others know about. This area will always exist because we can never completely know ourselves. For example, we don’t know how we will react to events and situations a year from now, ?ve years from now, or a decade from now. We also don’t know what information about ourselves is contained in our subconscious. Hypnosis, dream analysis, and Rorschach (inkblot) tests are methods that try to uncover self-information buried in the subconscious.
This type of information rests in the unknown quadrant, because it is information about ourselves of which neither we nor others are aware.The Johari Window illustrates how self-disclosure, self-awareness, and how we relate to others in?uence our self-concept. The amount and type of our self-disclosure depend on our relationship partners and our life experiences.
This knowledge can help us remember that our self-concept is dynamic and that self-disclosure can provide us with insight into how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.Based on Subjective InformationOur self-concept isn’t based on objective sense data. It is possible for our self-concept to be distorted and incorrect. We can perceive ourselves in a more favorable light than is warranted, or we can perceive ourselves in a more negative light than is warranted. For example, can you think of musicians or movie stars Our self-concept isn’t based onwho appear self-centered and conceited during interviews? These objective sense data. It is possible people may possess an overly favorable view of themselves because for our self-concept to bethey believe the ingratiating praise of their entourages. Additionally, distorted and incorrect.
can you think of a time when you perceived yourself more negatively than was justi?ed? Perhaps you received a speeding ticket, got a bad grade on an assignment, or burned a meal. If your self-talk consisted of messages such as “I always mess up!” or “There I go again!” you probably exaggerated the seriousness of the event and the frequency with which you experience these situations. Everyone has down7633764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 77days, but some people continually view themselves in an unrealistically harsh manner, which can in?uence how they communicate with and interpret the communication of others.NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENONBasis of the “Face” We Present to OthersFace not only relates to our perceived self-concept but also involves how we want others to perceive us and our worth.18 Also labeled “impression management” or “identity management,” face is additionally concerned with behaviors we enact to in?uence others to perceive us in certain ways.19 If we desire to present a “casual” face, we can purposefully wear jeans and sneakers and say “hi ya” when meeting people for the ?rst time.
On the other hand, if we desire to present a “professional” face, we can purposefully wear a suit and say “pleased to meet you.” Sociologist Erving Goffman suggested that the creation of our identity or face is a collaborative process that involves ourselves and our conversation partners. Goffman contended that everyday life is similar to a performance in which we adopt roles in public by putting on a face. He believed that we use conversation to create identity bids (e.g., “I am a polite person” or “I am an intelligent person”), which may or may not be accepted by others.
20 However, face-to-face conversation isn’t the only way that our identities are formed, sustained, and/or changed.Face is also related to the image of self that is presented on the Internet. Have you ever typed your name into a search engine and reviewed the results? This may be an important way to manage our public face because part of the modern-day hiring process is a Web search on prospective employees. In addition to studying personal Web sites, corporate recruiters are increasingly investigating job applicants on social networking sites such as MySpace, Xanga, and Facebook. The information on networking sites provides employers with information about a job applicant’s judgment and often presents recruiters with red ?ags. For example, comments posted about alcohol consumption and sex can make potential employees look immature and unprofessional and suggest values at odds with those of a corporation.21Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationSource: LUANN: © GEC Inc.
/Dist. By United Feature Syndicate, Inc.7733764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 78NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENOAnalyzing Your Web SiteNI V AT I OPart I Communication and The SelfWhat aspects of the self do you portray to the public on your Web site or social networking site? (If you don’t have a Web or networking site, design one on paper.) Consider the informality or formality of the language you use, the drawings and/ or photos that you include, and other characteristics (such as likes and dislikes, accomplishments, and beliefs) that re?ect who you are. Ask a classmate to analyze the Web or social networking site based on these ideas, and obtain her or his feedback about the “face” you present to others. Does the face you want to present online match the face perceived by your classmate?What happens when our public image is threatened or proven to be false? Embarrassment and shame may be the result of losing face, which occurs when our desired social identity or self-concept is discon?rmed.
Think about a situation in which you felt guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed. Perhaps you perceive yourself to be a trustworthy person and desire this aspect of your self-concept to be perceived by others. If others discover that you have told a secret or cheated on a relational partner, your embarrassment and shame indicate that you have lost face.
22Self-Concept, Identity, and Computer-MediatedCommunication (CMC)Do your self-perceptions affect how you use CMC and/or how you portray yourself online? A variety of studies have established a relationship between selfperceptions and CMC use. For example, we use the Internet primarily to obtain information rather than seek entertainment or decrease feelings of loneliness when we possess “self-concept clarity” (i.e., we holdconsistent, stable, clear, and con?dent beliefs about ourselves). On the other hand, we may use CMC to explore different facets of the self and to experiment with different selves if we lack self-concept clarity.
23 Research also reveals that compared with persons with high self-esteem, individuals with low self-esteem prefer the use of email rather than face-to-face communication. This preference is a consequence of the anonymous and asynchronous nature of email, which allows us considerable control over our selfpresentation. The preference for email communication is particularly noticeable when the risk of rejection is high, such as asking for a date or disclosing personal information. In such cases, persons with low selfesteem may use email not only to control their self-presentation but also to control the pace ofnteraction and the transmission of cues that indicatenervousness.24 Not only does our self-concept affect how we use CMC but also CMC allows us to manipulate personal identities to a greater extent than face-to-face communication or other person-to-person media.Think about the identities or roles you play in real life; your gender, race, accent, age, and other nonverbal factors allow you to adopt a limited number of roles in face-to-face communication. However, we can adopt an unlimited number of computer-mediated online identities.
These identities are communicated via personal markers such as writing style,“.sig” (signature attachment), and the way we conduct ourselves with various members of chat rooms and user groups. In all, language use is extremely important in CMC use because we construct our identities through our language.25 Compared with face-to-face presentation, CMC enables us to self-censor to a greater extent and manage our online identities more strategically, which provides us with a greater opportunity to misrepresent ourselves. However, in terms of an online dating environment, research suggests that CMC discourages deceptive self-presentation because of the possibility of future face-to-face communication.
We therefore tend to balance our desire for selfpromotion with the need for an accurate selfpresentation in online dating environments. The assumption that CMC users frequently, explicitly, and intentionally lie about themselves in such environments has been found to be simplistic and inaccurate.2633764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 79Fortunately, we can help maintain face by making use of “facework.” Facework or “face-saving communication” is designed to prevent loss of face and restore face if lost; it is a fundamental aspect of communication competence.27 In particular, we can help save our face and the face of others by28Facework or “face-saving communication” is designed to prevent loss of face and restore face if lost; it is a fundamental aspect of communication competence.
For example, suppose you or a classmate is greeted with laughter while walking into a classroom. Stuck to a shoe is a long trail of toilet paper. You can save face or help your classmate save face by• saying, “Oh, it’s not that big a deal!” or “Like this has never happened to any of you before!” (overlooking or minimizing the face-threatening act) • saying, “Don’t expect this kind of excitement every day!” (responding with humor) • saying, “I’m (he’s) sorry for the disruption.” (offering an apology) • saying, “My (Her) shoes were probably wet, and I (she) must have walked past the restroom and tracked it in.
” (offering an explanation)• putting the toilet paper in the trash (physical remediation)Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and Communication• overlooking a face-threatening act, such as glossing over a mistake or acting as if face hasn’t been threatened, tominimize the extent of embarrassment or annoyance(e.g., “That’s OK, I do that all the time too.
”)• responding with humor—laughter releases nervous tension and demonstrates that an offense isn’t that serious (e.g., “This would make a great scene in a romance/ horror/adventure ?ick!”)• offering an apology to admit blame and seek atonement (e.g., “It was my fault that this happened.
I’m sorry.”)• communicating an explanation to minimize responsibility or to justify the behavior (e.g., “I didn’t mean it” or “It wasn’t so bad.”) • engaging in physical remediation (such as adjusting clothing or cleaning a spill)7933764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 80Movie Transcript: ANNA AND THE KINGPart I Communication and The SelfEnglishwoman Anna Leonowens travels to Siam in the mid-1800s to become governess to the children of King Mongkut. Anna befriends many of the king’s wives, servants, and slaves. Tuptim, a woman who is given as a “gift” to the king, escapes from the palace to join her true love. However,she is caught and sentenced to death at her trial.
When Tuptim is beaten during the trial, Anna screams that she will speak to the king and then he will put an end to such savagery.Read the transcript from Anna and the King and answer the following questions alone or in a group: Could Anna have said anything else at the trial that could have prevented the loss of King Mongkut’s face? If so, what? Is it realistic to expect people (especially those from individualist cultures) to think about facework in situations of life or death? Could King Mongkut have spared Tuptim’s life and successfully engaged in face-saving behavior?ANNAThank you for seeing me, Your Majesty. I was told by your prime minister that this was none of my business.MONGKUTIt is none of Ma’am’s concern. And King is seeing you now to tell you same himself.ANNAForgive me, Your Majesty .
..MONGKUTDo not wish for you to talk more on this matter.To King or anyone.ANNAWell I was only trying ..
.MONGKUTTuptim broke law!ANNABy loving someone? “Sacri?ce your life for truth.Persecute no man.” Are these not the teachings ofBuddha?MONGKUTI am King, and I say no!ANNAYou asked me to always tell you what I think.
MONGKUTWhat you think, and what you do, and how, andwhen you do them are not the same thing. If youbelieve I wish to execute this girl ..
. but now,because you say to court, you can tell King whatto do, I cannot intervene as I had planned.ANNAIntervene! After they’re tortured?MONGKUTYes! But you, a woman.
And a foreigner, have madeit seem King at your command. You have made meappear weak, and impossible for me to step in andnot lose face.ANNABut you are the King ..
.MONGKUTAnd to remain such, I cannot undermine nobility.To command loyalty, which I must have to keepcountry secure.
ANNAYou have the power to lead, you’re …
MONGKUTNow is not the time to change the way that thingsare done!ANNAWell if not now, then when? How many more peoplemust die so that you might save face?MONGKUTGo home Ma’am. You help enough for one day.Excerpt from “ANNA AND THE KING” ©1999 Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. Written by Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes. All rights reserved.
8033764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 81NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENOFace-Saving CommunicationNI V AT I ORespond to the following situationswith face-saving communication:• In the middle of a weekly business meeting, you knock over a glass of water on the table, threatening others’ papers, including those that belong to the boss. What can you say to save face?• A friend drops by with a gift for your birthday. Both you and your friend notice a gift tag on the bottom of the present, upon which is written your friend’s name and “Love, Grandma.
” What can you say to save your friend’s face?• You attend a formal wedding in a solemn house of worship. You’ve been dealing with a queasy stomach, and you can’t help but emit a loud belch during a brief pause in the ceremony.What can you say to save face?In summary, our self-concept, which includes both self-image and self-esteem, signi?cantly in?uences how we communicate with others. This multidimensional concept is in?uenced by self-disclosure, is subjective, and is the basis of the face we present to others.
The self-concept is also affected by our culture; family, friends, and coworkers; gender; and our particular expectations, beliefs, attitudes, and values. In other words, various contexts in?uence our self-concept.NIOCSKILTOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMMWLKNOMPETENONCONTEXTS ANDSELF-CONCEPTecall that perspective taking is an important mental activity that can affect the perception of communication competence.
For example, suppose we experience an initial hostile reaction to someone we perceive as a braggart. Putting ourselves in the place of the braggart may reveal thatRChapter 3 The Self-Concept and Communication• You attend a party and engage in casual conversation with an acquaintance. You notice thatsomeone named Terry shouts loudly, bumps into people, and appears intoxicated. Disgusted, you describe Terry to your acquaintance as a “pathetic loser.
” Your acquaintance bristles and asserts, “I’m going out with Terry.” What can you say to save face?• what we consider bragging is not perceived similarly in other cultures • the braggart is repeating messages about the self that he received from family members• learned gender expectations may have in?uenced the braggart to communicate in a particular manner• the braggart actually perceives herself as inadequate and feels insecure Understanding the in?uence of the culture, social, gender, and individual contexts on the braggart’s self-concept and communication behavior can help us create the most effective8133764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 82and appropriate responses to her or his messages. Perspective taking may also prevent us from allowing our initial hostile reaction to result in incompetent communication.Culture ContextPart I Communication and The SelfDo you identify with the politically and economically dominant culture in your country? Perhaps you perceive one or more of your co-cultures to be more signi?cant than the dominant culture in shaping your identity. Who we are and how we see ourselves are in?uenced not only by the dominant culture in which we live but also by the co-cultures with which we identify.Dominant Culture We have learned that no culture is exclusively individualist or collectivist but that cultures tend to be more one than the other. In a culture that is primarily collectivist, identity is based on group membership, such as the family or the work organization. Unlike individualist cultures, children are taught to be dependent on others.
29 Americans ?nd it dif?cult to fully understand that people may not think of themselves as distinct from others within collectivist cultures. In India, for example, the dominant belief is that all selves share an underlying consciousness. The Japanese self-concept derives from networks of people to whom people are obligated and vice versa. In Japan, the selfconcept is created in terms of group membership and interaction.30 Unlike collectivist cultures, being independent and self-suf?cient is highly valued in individualist cultures.
31 Children are taught to be self-reliant in such cultures, and they are encouraged to express their individualism via their room decorations, dress, hairstyles, and school papers. Individual identity can also be re?ected in verbal communication behavior, such as the manner in which we respond to others. For example, you may communicate an unpopular opinion among those who disagree with you or go out of your way to demonstrate that you are your own individual. For Americans, “being true to oneself is ?rst and foremost. Thus, Americans continually search for their individual identities and insist on others’ recognition of their different interests, styles, and preferences.
”32 Moreover, Americans incorrectly assume that people from other cultures embrace individualist values such as individuality, self-reliance, and independence. When asked about their culture, Americans often say that they have no culture, because they think that everyone is an individual who is free from the cultural assumptions that are imposed on them. The belief that each person is a unique biological and psychological being is deeply ingrained and seldom questioned among Americans.
33Co-Cultures Co-cultures within a culture, such as our ethnic groups, also in?uence our self-concept and communication. An ethnic identity is based on common traditions, values, origins, and history. An ethnic identity also includes the knowledge of belonging to a particular group and the sharedexperiences of its members. For example, the Native American co-culture is more collectivist than the more politically powerful EuropeanAmerican culture. This may result in a Native American employee feeling uncomfortable when singled out and praised by a superior in front of coworkers.
34 The gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual (GLBT) community is also considered by some to be a co-culture. The process of “coming out” includes exploring one’s sexual identity and sharing that identity with others. Achieving self-acceptance is a crucial step in coming out, and the process is easier when we are less reliant on others for our self-concept and self-esteem. A healthy level of self-esteem has also been found to be important after8233764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 83the coming out process in that it can mitigate the harmful psychological effects (e.g.
, depression) of societal oppression.35Social ContextJust as the culture context in?uences the self-concept, so does the context of family, friends, and individuals with whom we work. Many researchers believe that the analysis of the social context is critical to understanding the self-concept.36People with Whom We Work People with whom we work also affect our self-concept in terms of our perceived self-ef?cacy, the belief in our ability to manage prospective situations.38 Our self-ef?cacy perceptions are highly signi?cant in career persistence and success. Role models and persons who can provide us with on-the-job encouragement help us dispel doubts aboutour self-ef?cacy perceptions. Our self-ef?cacy perceptions are also in?uential in choosing a career, and “the low proportion of women in technical vocations can be traced back to women’s low perceived self-ef?cacy regarding technical problem-solving skills.
” Therefore, the communication of encouragement from female role models who work in technical ?elds can signi?cantly in?uence the self-ef?cacy perceptions of young women and encourage them to become computer scientists or engineers.39Gender ContextFrom the moment we are born, our sex in?uences others’ behavior toward us and how we perceive ourselves. Parents often dress male babies in blue clothes and female babies in pink. Little boys are given toy trucks and action ?gures, while little girls are given toy houses and dolls.
Our gender identity becomes a part of our self-concept beginning at age four to seven years, and it is at this point that our self-concept begins to be affected by what we believe about femininity and masculinity.40Furthermore, the way women and men describe themselves is in?uenced by gender expectations. Women typically mention characteristics such as generosity, sensitivity, and having care and concern for others when asked to describe themselves. Women also tend to be more concerned about their body image and physical appearance than are men. On the other hand, when men describe themselves, they don’t tend to comment about their physiques. Instead, they typically mention characteristics such as ambition, energy, power, and control.41Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationFriends and Family Family members, especially our parents, contribute to our selfimage and self-esteem in a variety of ways.
Similarly, signi?cant others also contribute to who we think we are and how we evaluate ourselves. Friends, teachers, coaches, and bosses are examples of signi?cant others who Family members, especially ourin?uence us with their communication and the labels and names parents,contribute to our selfthey choose to call us. For example, positive labeling, such as telling image and self-esteem in aa child that he is “bright” and “creative,” can enhance the selfvariety of ways. concept. On the other hand, constantly telling a child that she is “stupid” or “a monster” will most likely damage the self-concept, even if the labels are incorrect and unrealistic.378333764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 84Part I Communication and The SelfGendered self-conceptsare a matter of degreerather than polaropposites.84Of course, many men have self-concepts that include care and concern for others, just as many women have self-concepts that include power and control.
Similarly, a recent study of gender, self-esteem, and group membership illustrates that that both women and men possess an equal sense of self-worth based on their relational group memberships.42 Therefore, it is best to think of gendered self-concepts as a matter of degree rather than as polar opposites.Individual ContextOur self-concept is in?uenced by the expectations we have of ourselves based on our self-ful?lling prophecies and our inner critic.Self-Ful?lling Prophecies Self-ful?lling prophecies concern the expectations we have and the predictions we make for ourselves.
Self-ful?lling prophecies are evident when we behave in ways that reinforce our self-perceptions and self-expectations, and they can make a predicted outcome of an event likely to occur. For example, perhaps you perceive yourself as unable to sustain a relationship because of a past experience. You may have experienced relational dif?culties previously, and your past experiences cause you to predict that you won’t be successful in your social life.
Therefore, while on a date, you demonstrate a lack of con?dence and communicate beliefs such as “I don’t know why you said you’d go out with me.” The result of your negative self-reinforcing behavior is that your predicted outcome (your date will not be successful) is now more likely to occur than if you hadn’t perceived yourself as socially inept and hadn’t predicted a failed social life. Hopefully, your self-ful?lling prophecies that include positive predictions and result in positive outcomes outnumber the self-ful?lling prophecies that include negative predictions and result in negative outcomes. Consider Figure 3.
4, “The Cyclical Nature of SelfFul?lling Prophecies,” we can see that self-ful?lling prophecies reinforce the self-concept, affect behavior, and can in?uence how others perceive us.33764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 85Figure 3.4: THE CYCLICAL NATURE OF SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECIES ahI amWhich provesthat..
.I predict that Iwill pass my classes…ssork hard and pamy cl ses…
asanIcep a relation’t k eshWhich provesthat…ip…I predict that mydate won’t be successful..
.Isdaanmy y stupid things y…rldateleaves eaInner Critic Self-ful?lling prophecies are also in?uenced by what some psychologists call an “inner critic.” Our inner critic produces intrapersonal communication messages such as “I’ve failed at this before and I’ll fail at this again” and “I’ll never reach my goals.” Everyone has an inner critic, and we often believe that this inner voice communicates the truth. Our inner critic tends to focus on what isn’t ?nished and ignore what we’ve accomplished.
The demanding and judging inner critic is cited as a reason for the approximately 90% of college students who admit that they feel inferior to others in one way or another.43NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENONDEFENSIVENESSave you ever felt that your self-concept was under attack, and you responded with attempts to protect your self-concept, even at the expense of others? If so, you experienced the communication of defensiveness. When confronted with face challenges, people often become defensive and communicate defensive reactions. Defensiveness refers to a physiological, emotional, and cognitive response that results from the perception that our face is threatened or is under attack. Think Defensiveness refers to aback to a recent situation in which a signi?cant other criticized you. physiological, emotional, andIt doesn’t matter whether the criticism concerned an issue of major cognitive response that resultsimportance (e.g.
, “You habitually lie to people”) or minor importance (e.g., “You leave the lights on in the computer room when you from the perception that our faceleave”); if you believed that your self-concept or face was threatis threatened or is under attack. ened, you probably felt defensive.HChapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationIward worker..
.Defensive ReactionsWhat do you typically do to reduce the physical and psychological discomfort when someone communicates a face-threatening act? If you are like most people, you probably respond with a defensive reaction. Defensive reactions (sometimes labeled “defense mechanisms”) defend your self-concept and public face when you are feeling threatened.8533764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 86Defensive reactions are typically inappropriate and ineffective responses to challenges to our face; they can communicate disrespect and discon?rmation, promote heated arguments, and cause conversation partners to ignore relational problems and potential solutions. The various types of defensive reactions include sarcasm and verbal aggression, excuses, avoidance, and denial.44Sarcasm and Verbal Aggression It’s very tempting to strike back at a critic who communicates a face-threatening act.
Striking back at the source of the criticism with sarcasm and verbal aggression is one example of a defensive reaction. For example:Part I Communication and The SelfOther:You:Other:You:Excuses We can attempt to save face when we’re the target of face-threatening communication by suggesting that the communication is of little importance or isn’t within our control.Other:You:Other:You:Other:You:Other:You promised you’d call yesterday and you didn’t.Yeah, well, it got real busy at work and no one could ?ll in for me. Too busy for a phone call or email?Well, you know how the boss snoops around to see what we’re doing. I didn’t want to get in trouble.
Besides, you hardly ever check your email. So I guess it’s better to blow me off and not even try to call, even after you got off work!I got off work late and I was really tired. Besides, I thought you were out and that it was no big deal that I didn’t call.It is a big deal! You made a promise and you broke it!Avoidance We can avoid dealing with face-threatening acts by ignoring the communication, changing the subject, and/or physically leaving the room where our conversation partner is speaking.Other:You:Other:You:Other:You:Other:86You’re not seriously going to wear that, are you?You should talk. I saw what you wore yesterday and you looked ridiculous! I’m only trying to help.Thank you sooo much.
I’ll be sure to send you my “before and after” photos.I am really mad at you!(You wear headphones and listen to music as you pretend not to hear.) Did you hear me? I need to talk to you about something important! Take off those headphones!(You slowly take off the headphones.) I don’t know what the problem is, but why don’t we talk about it later. I want to ?nish listening to this. (growing increasingly frustrated) No! This is important; I want to talk about it now!Hey, I just remembered that what’s important is ?nishing my English paper tonight; it’s due tomorrow.
(You begin to walk out of the room.) Wait a minute! (shouting) I want to talk about this now!33764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:47 PMPage 87NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENOAnalyzing Your Defensive ReactionsNI V AT I OExplain the following four types of defensive reactions to someone who knows you well and who has criticized you in the past:••••Sarcasm and verbal aggressionExcusesAvoidanceDenialDenial The denial of face-threatening communication undermines the perceptions of others. One interesting note about defensive reactions is that they are often strongest when the criticism directed toward us is true.45 Even when we secretly agree with the facethreatening communication, we may deny its validity in an attempt to save our desired social identity.Other:You:Other:You:I know you want a home entertainment center for our apartment, but there’s no way we can afford it.Sure there is.
If I want something bad enough, I always buy it and things work out in the end.But the payments for a complete system are at least $500 a month. Even if we wanted to just get a plasma HDTV without all the other equipment, we’d have to rob Peter to pay Paul. And we’d also have to get more insurance because we both know that there’ve been some burglaries in the complex. Nah! No one would want to rob our junky little apartment. Trust me; you worry too much.
NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENONNondefensive Reaction SkillsCompared with defensive reactions, nondefensive reactions validate a critic’sthoughts and feelings and communicate respect, even if we disagree with the criticism directed toward us. Asking open-ended questions, guessing about speci?cs, agreeing with the truth, and agreeing to disagree are ways to respond to others in a nondefensive manner.46 However, before communicating nondefensive reactions, we must learn to recognize that we are feeling defensive. When we sense the Asking open-ended questions,onset of a rapid heartbeat, experience shortness of breath, and feel guessing about speci?cs, agreeing“hot under the collar,” we should ?rst take a deep breath and pause with the truth, and agreeing tobefore speaking by silently counting to three. This will slow us down and prevent an ineffective and inappropriate response such as a disagree are ways to respond todefensive reaction. We can then train ourselves to immediately ask others in a nondefensive manner.an open-ended question.Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationAsk your conversation partner for speci?cexamples of defensive reactions youcommunicate when your face is threatened, and determine whether you have a habitual response that can beclassi?ed in one of the aforementionedcategories.
(Be prepared for somedefensiveness on your part.) Discusshow you can protect your self-conceptin a more effective and appropriatemanner in future communicationepisodes.8733764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:48 PMPage 88Asking Open-Ended Questions Face-threatening and critical communication is sometimes offered in general terms; therefore, asking open-ended questions can help us understand our conversation partner. For example: Other:You:Other:You:Other:You:I don’t like your attitude!What have I done?(laughing) You are such an idiot!Why are you saying this?You don’t pay enough attention to me!When was the last time I ignored you?Part I Communication and The SelfAsking an open-ended question demonstrates that we are trying to understand our conversation partner and enables us to move to additional types of nondefensive responses.
88Guessing About Speci?cs Even after asking an open-ended question, we may still be unsure of the meaning of a face-threatening act or criticism. Ournext step may be to guess about speci?cs. Guessing about speci?cs enables our conversation partner to communicate an in-depth response and examine her or his assumptions. For example: Other:You:Other:You:Other:You:Nondefensive skills areespecially important inthe workplace wheregiving and receivingcriticism are part ofthe job.I don’t think you care about me.Why not? (Open-ended question)You don’t treat me right.
How do I act when I don’t treat you right? (Open-ended question) You act like you don’t care.Is it because we’ve been staying in on Friday and Saturday nights? (Guessing about speci?cs)33764 03 066-095 r2 saOther:You:Other:9/4/075:48 PMPage 89No.Is it because I didn’t hang out with you at Chuck’s party? (Guessing about speci?cs)Yeah, well, I guess so.Agreeing with the Truth How many times have you criticized someone and expected a nondefensive response of agreement? Most of us typically prepare and mentally rehearse our responses to a partner’s expected defensive reactions. Agreeing with the truth is a nondefensive response that is rarely expected.
This response also has potential for de?ecting a conversation that can get out of hand if it includes defense mechanisms. For example:You’re just being dif?cult.You’re right; I am.This is the third time you’re late!I’m sorry. I’ll really try to be on time from now on.What you said was so rude.Yeah, I know. I need to be more careful.
Notice that these responses do not include self-put-downs. We can agree with the truth if we believe that the comments directed to us are accurate or likely. However, sometimes criticism and face-threatening communication are overgeneralizations (e.g., they include the words always or never) or negatively relate to our overall self-concept. If this is the case, we can agree with the portion of the comments we believe to be true and disagree with the rest.Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationOther:You:Other:You:Other:You:CATHY © 1993 & 1988 Cathy Guisewite. Reprinted with permission.
UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE. All Rights Reserved.8933764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:48 PMPage 90Agreeing to Disagree When we remain calm and rational during a face-threatening act, we often ?nd there is some truth to what our partner tells us. However, even if we can’t ?nd any truth in our partner’s comments, we can validate his or her right to have an opinion. For example:If you keep partying the way you do, you’re going to ?unk. You may be right, but I think I can handle it.Why do you listen to that stuff? It’s awful.I respect your opinion, but I like alternative music.
Of course, it goes without saying that we must be aware of our nonverbal communication, especially our tone of voice, when we communicate any type of nondefensive response. Sounding angry or sarcastic communicates defensiveness and prevents us from interacting in a competent manner. In general, communicating a nondefensive response in a voice that quivers with emotion is better than striking back in anger or responding with other defensive reactions that neither validate nor attempt to respectfully keep a conversation going. Remember to be realistic about the guidelines and skills designed to improve selfconcept and communication.
As mentioned in theprevious chapter, guidelines can fall short, and skills don’t always work. For example, you can’t assume that the competent communication you direct toward a more powerful person will be returned in kind. Consider the nondefensive response of agreeing to disagree. Telling your college professor “I respect that you gave my project a ‘D,’ but I believe I deserve a better grade” is not likely to result in your desired outcome. Similarly, after receiving criticism at work about arriving late, a response such as “You’re correct when you say that I’ve been late a lot, but I disagree that it’s causing problems” will probably result in defensiveness, anger, and the possibility of having to ?nd a new job. The best course of action when communicating with someone more powerful than you may be to remain silent or use other communication tactics designed to save face and reduce defensiveness.
NIOCSKILTMOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGEMWLKNOMPETENOCOMPart I Communication and The SelfOther:You:Other:You:Nondefensive ReactionsNRespond to the following situationswith nondefensive reactions:• You and a friend go on a vacationtogether, and you act as the “principalphotographer.” Upon viewing theprinted photographs, your friend tellsyou that the photos are blurry, youdidn’t take enough “people shots,” andyou’re an overall lousy photographer.How can you respond nondefensively?• You are in the beginning stages of aromantic relationship.You and yournew signi?cant other tease each other,and the taunts and barbs becomeincreasingly intense. All of a sudden,your signi?cant other declares,“You90are de?nitely not like my ex!” How canyou respond nondefensively?• You work very hard on an assignmentfor one of your classes.You aredisappointed when you learn youreceived a “C” for the work, and youbecome angry as you walk to yourprofessor’s of?ce to talk about thegrade. However, you realize that it’sbest to communicate nondefensivelywith your professor. How can yourespond nondefensively?• Your boss calls you into her or hisof?ce and says that a coworker hascomplained about your actions onthe job. How can you respondnondefensively?33764 03 066-095 r2 saNIOCSKILTOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMMWLKNOMPETENON9/4/075:48 PMPage 91THE DARK SIDE OFSELF-CONCEPT ANDCOMMUNICATION: INFLATEDSELF-ESTEEMelf-esteem was once assumed to in?uence students’ grades, sexual behavior, substance abuse, and relationships with peers. In 2000, the American Psychological Society (APS) created a task force headed by Roy F. Baumeister to examine scienti?c studies that included objective measures of self-esteem. After review. . . people with high self-esteem ing more than two hundred studies, the APS task force concluded that are signi?cantly happier andlow self-esteem predisposes young people to engage in neither sexual more satis?ed with their livesbehavior nor drug or alcohol abuse. Additionally, although there is a correlation between self-esteem and grades, the task force revealed than people with low tothat achieving high grades leads to higher self-esteem (not the other moderate levels of self-esteem,way around). The APS task force found only two consistent ?ndings and people with high self-esteemconcerning the bene?ts of high self-esteem: people with high selfare persistent and resilient. esteem are signi?cantly happier and more satis?ed with their lives than people with low to moderate levels of self-esteem, and people with high self-esteem are persistent and resilient.47 Surprisingly, the APS task force discovered a dark side to self-esteem that affects academic performance and interpersonal relations.SIn regard to academic performance, the APS task force found that arti?cially in?ating students’ self-esteem can actually decrease grades. One study reviewed by the task force revealed that attempts to bolster self-esteem among struggling college students can back?re. When at-risk students received messages that instructed them to boost their selfesteem (e.g., students were told to think, “I can be proud of myself,” “I can do this,” and “I am satis?ed with myself ”), the result was an average failing grade. On the other hand, when at-risk students received messages designed toinstill a sense of responsibility for their grades (e.g., students were told to think, “I need to work harder,” “I can learn this material if I apply myself,” and “I can control what happens to me in this class”), the result was an average passing grade.48 Similarly, people with in?ated self-esteem often become defensive in the face of embarrassment, criticism, and having their authority questioned. In the academic setting, receiving passing grades that don’t actually re?ect academic performance in K–12 classes can cause college students to become offended, demoralized, or angry when they don’t achieve the grades they believe they deserve.49Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationAcademic PerformanceInterpersonal RelationsIn addition to affecting academic performance, in?ated self-esteem affects interpersonal relations. Some educators believe that children in school programs designed to “enhance positive self-perceptions” actually have learned self-importance and self-grati?cation. Another unfortunate result of such programs is that children fail to learn respect for others.50 People with in?ated self-esteem also tend to become defensive and seek reassurance91Part I Communication and The Self33764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:48 PMPage 92when others criticize or correct them. Additionally, adults with in?atedself-esteem believe that they get along well with others, communicate support to partners, and manage con?icts well. However, when rated by others, such individuals are labeled antagonistic, rude, unfriendly, and overall less likable than people with less self-esteem. In fact, in egothreatening situations, people with in?ated self-esteem are liked signi?cantly less than people with lower self-esteem.51Overall, self-esteem is now considered to be a multilayered concept, and respondents in self-esteem studies may include individuals who are narcissistic or who pretend to have higher levels of self-esteem than reality suggests. Researchers believe that further studies should focus on the various meanings and components related to self-esteem. Experts also suggest that high self-esteem should develop from achievement (instead of assuming that achievement should result from high self-esteem). Educators are now encouraging “earned self-esteem” that results from meeting standards at home and in schools. Similarly, we can “re?ne” our self-esteem by focusing on setting goals that mutually bene?t self and other. For example, instead of focusing on making a good impression when communicating, we may want to focus on learning new information or better understanding our conversation partners’ ideas.52 Focusing on goals that bene?t ourselves and others can stabilize our sense of self-worth and may help us avoid the dark side of the self-concept.A Case Study in Ethics:“I’m a Loser . . .”We have learned that competentcommunication includes an ethicaldimension of well-based standardsof right and wrong.Asking “HaveI practiced any virtues today (e.g.,integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, andresponsibility)?”“Have I done moregood than harm?”“Have I treatedpeople with dignity and respect?”“Have I been fair and just today?”and “Have I made my communitystronger because of my actions?”can provide us with a systematicapproach to dealing with everydayethical behavior. Read the followingsituation and consider whetherrequiring students to write “I’m aloser” sentences is an ethical way toin?uence self-concept and behavior.Think back to your days in middleschool. How would you feel if ateacher made you write “I am a loserbecause . . .” as a result of notcompleting your homework? Farfrom a hypothetical situation, Spanishteacher Julie Barrentine had studentswrite “loser sentences” over andover on a piece of paper if they failedto complete their assignments. The92idea to use the word loser inthe sentences, which came fromBarrentine’s students, was intendedto be a humorous way to motivatethem to ?nish their homework.However, parents complained toschool of?cials once they found outabout the loser sentences. In additionto stopping the practice, of?cials sentletters of apology to all ofBarrentine’s 137 students.The loser sentences story wasexposed in the media, and manypeople indicated that they thoughtthe teacher crossed the linebetween “discipline” and “humiliation.” Some parents suggested that Barrentine be disciplined so shewould be perceived as a “loser.”However, others responded thatthey were happy to see a teacherwho held students accountable forcompleting their assignments. Emailsto the Dallas Morning News aboutthe incident included the following:• “God forbid that kids getdisciplined because they don’tdo their homework . . . or foranything else, for that matter.”• “None of the parents orprincipals addressed the realissue—the students not turningin their work.”• “The teacher was wrong inapplying the term ‘loser’ to anystudent. While it is ?ne whenone kid says it to another, ittakes on an entirely differentmeaning when coming froma teacher.”One parent in particular suggestedthat the loser sentences could havea damaging effect on students’ selfconcept.“People in authority don’t realize that little things like thismake a big difference in someone’sself-esteem. Negativity is destroyingour young children,” she wrote.53Do you believe the “I’m a loser”sentences re?ect well-based standards of right and wrong? Do you believe thatwriting loser sentenceseffectively in?uences self-concept andbehavior? Is it acceptable for studentsto call each other “loser” but notacceptable for teachers to apply thisterm to their pupils?33764 03 066-095 r2 saNOTIOCSKILTMU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMWLKNOMPETENON9/4/075:48 PMPage 93CHAPTER SUMMARYWe can enhance our motivation to communicate in a competent manner by• Understanding that it’s important to studyself-concept because our self-conceptin?uences how we accept praise, defendviewpoints, and communicate ouraccomplishments. Our self-conceptalso affects how others perceive us.• Creating realistic goal statements designedto improve our self-concept.• Making a mental inventory of our talentsand strengths and reviewing them when wehave a down day or when someone’s criticismis especially hurtful.NOTIOLCTMU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGESKILWCOMMNWe can improve the chances that we will be perceived as a competent communicator by knowing that• Although the self-concept is in?uenced byinherited traits, our self-concept is essentiallyformed, sustained, and changed by ourcommunication with others. The Pygmalioneffect and social comparison stronglyin?uence the formation and developmentof the self-concept.• The self-concept is based on characteristicswe believe we possess (self-image) andcharacteristics we believe to be worthwhileor valuable (self-esteem).The self-conceptis also multidimensional, is in?uenced bywhat we disclose to others and what othersdisclose to us (as illustrated by the JohariWindow), and is subjective. Our desiredself-concept is the “face” that we chooseto present to others.• Our self-concept is in?uenced by culture,social, gender, and individual contexts. Culturesthat are primarily individualist suggest thatpeople have unique identities. Similarly, ourfamily, friends, and people with whom wework signi?cantly affect our self-perceptions.Socialization (especially what people learnabout masculinity and femininity) also affectshow we perceive ourselves. Finally, the selfful?lling prophecy and our inner critic in?uence our self-concept.• Defensiveness refers to protecting our facewhen we feel it is threatened or under attack.Defensive responses, including sarcasm andverbal aggression, excuses, avoidance, anddenial, are inappropriate and ineffective waysto defend our self-concept when it isthreatened.• In?ated levels of self-esteem can negativelyaffect academic performance and interpersonal relations. People with in?ated selfesteem often become defensive in the face of embarrassment, criticism, and having theirauthority questioned. Focusing on goals thatbene?t us and others can help to stabilize oursense of self-worth and avoid the dark sideof the self-concept.Chapter 3 The Self-Concept and CommunicationKNOMPETENONIOCSKILTOTU N I C ATI V AT I OLEDGECOMMMWLKNOMPETENONWe can perform the following skills to improve our communication as it relates to our self-concept:• Using facework to help save our face andothers’, such as glossing over a mistake oracting as if one’s face hasn’t been threatened,responding with humor, communicating anapology, offering an explanation to minimizeresponsibility or to justify behavior, andphysical remediation.• Communicating nondefensive reactionssuch as asking open-ended questions, guessingabout speci?cs, agreeing with the truth,and agreeing to disagree when our faceis threatened.9333764 03 066-095 r2 sa9/4/075:48 PMPage 94RESPONDING TO OPENING BLOGBLOG RESPONSE: “I’M SO FAT”Pretend you are actually leaving a comment on I’m So Fat’s blog site. Consider why I’m So Fat has developed her or his self-concept and what advice you might offer to improve it. Compare your response with the comments written by your classmates.Part I Communication and The SelfNAMES TO KNOWRoy F. Baumeister, p. 91—psychologist at Florida State University who has published extensively in the areas of emotion, interpersonal processes, and identity. Baumeister recommends that researchers should de-emphasize the study of self-esteem and concentrate on self-control and self-discipline to bene?t self and society. George Herbert Mead, p. 68 (1863–1931)—philosopher and psychologist whose major contribution to the ?eld of social psychology was his analysis of how the human self arises in the process of symbolic interaction or communication.Martin Seligman, p. 72—psychologist and best-selling author who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. Seligman is known as a founder of positive psychology, a research area that encompasses positive emotions, positive character traits, and positive institutions. Erving Goffman, p. 77 (1922–1982)—sociologist who was a pioneer theorist in the area of face-to-face interaction and who developed the dramatistic perspective to study interpersonal communication. Goffman’s classic 1959 book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, continues to in?uence modern students of symbolic interaction.