"Communications Essays"

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The study of communications melds together the study of several different areas: language, writing, speaking, business, and psychology, just to name a few. Because it touches on so many different areas, communications majors can go on to careers in a large number of fields, such as: education, journalism, law, human resources, sociology, psychology, social work, entertainment, advertising, and international relations. Students who pursue graduate degrees in communications often focus on a particular aspect of communication.

Communications majors study on how people communicate, which involves verbal and nonverbal communication strategies. While different people communicate in different ways, there are several core theories that underlie the nature of communication. At the heart of communication is the concept of conflict; the goal of communication is to reduce, eliminate, or resolve the conflict between parties so that, even if they do not come to an agreement, they at least have an actual understanding of one another’s position. Therefore, communication breaks conflict down into two broad categories: constructive conflict and destructive conflict. As the names suggest, some types of conflict encourage communication, while others discourage communication.

Learning the strategies that discourage communication not only enables a person to avoid those strategies, but also to spot those strategies when used by others. Escalation, stonewalling, flooding, domination, retaliation, cross-complaining, defensiveness, and inflexibility are all negative communication strategies one sees in destructive conflict. Constructive conflict implies that the parties are willing to use positive communication skills and that the process becomes as important as the outcome, because the process allows the parties to gain a greater understanding of one another.

One important concept in communication is orientation. Orientation refers to an individual’s approach to communication, which governs how the person interacts with others. Orientation can influence one’s approach to conflict management as well as the communication strategies one uses. Collaboration is aimed at meeting the goals of everyone involved in the conflict. In contrast, confrontation focuses on one person’s goals and increases conflict. Integration refers to organizing characteristics and features of groups, which can lead to stereotyping. The concern with integration is that negative stereotypes can lead to prejudice if not adequately understood.

Communication often focuses on reaching a common goal or, at least, a mutually acceptable goal. To do this, communicators employ a variety of different strategies that are thought to encourage communication and collaboration. These strategies include: smoothing, accommodating, compromising, avoiding, competing, collaborating, and perhaps most significantly, forgiveness. In fact, for many aspects of communication, forgiveness is critical, as is realizing that conflict can be a productive experience.

Communication focuses extensively on group work. Many experts believe that Tuckman is correct and there are five stages of group development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. These stages are often combined with the six steps in the problem-solving process: define the problem; determine the root cause of the problem; develop alternative solutions; pick a solution; implement the solution; and evaluate the outcome. These steps are non-linear and may flow back into each other as solutions are tested and evaluated.