Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Communication Research Paper

Communication is a complex process that can be viewed in many ways.” (Trenholm 17). We use models to help us understand the process of communication in order to interpret and analyze certain situations. These models help to arrange our thoughts, investigate the situation at hand, and find ways to improve our communication. Both the psychological model and the pragmatic model exemplify good communication and establish development in many interactions among people. Models become useful in order for analysis, when a problematic interaction occurs that may cause the persons involved, misunderstanding, frustration, and or conflict.

Many disagreements and arguments commonly arise between two people living together, such as roommates in college. I have personally experienced a problematic difference with my roommate, Sarah, this year concerning the purchasing of food among other necessities that has caused me much frustration. Every week I find it necessary to purchase food and water. I seem to be the one to go out to the grocery store to purchase the food that is needed for both Sarah and me. Last week, slightly irritated, I kindly asked Sarah what it was she needed to satisfy her for the week. She handed me a list of several items that she wished me to get for her. I took her list, collaborated it with mine, and headed to the grocery store to buy what we both wanted. Everything listed I happily bought, knowing full well that I would be reimbursed. When I returned, I showed Sarah what I had bought and informed her what she owed me. She told me that the next time she would go to the grocery store, purchase what we needed, and we would be equal. I hesitated for a couple of seconds, but then agreed. I trusted that the next time we needed anything I could rely on her to buy the items that we desired not having to worry about paying her back.

By Friday, we seemed to have run out of bottled water and food. For the first time, she offered to go to the grocery store. I made a list of the things we needed and she assured me she would return with them just like I returned with what she wanted. Sadly, however, when Sarah returned, she came in with only a six-pack of Diet Coke and a six-pack of bottled water. She left a note on my bed explaining to me that I owed her half of what she paid for the drinks. None of the items I had listed she bought. Aggravated, I grabbed my bike and pedaled as fast as possible to the grocery store to obtain the things I listed for her to buy originally. When I came back, I angrily stored my food away on the shelf and in the refrigerator, and refused to speak to her the rest of the evening.
Ending an interaction in an irrational manor is not healthy and does not exude good communication. Using the psychological model and the pragmatic model, I can better understand a more effective way to interact with my roommate and solve the problem more maturely. The psychological model is, “a process whereby two or more individuals exchange meanings through the transmission and reception of communication stimuli.” (Trenholm 25). As projected by this model, “an individual is a sender or a receiver who encodes and decodes meanings.” (Trenholm 25). According to the pragmatic model, “communication consists of a system of interlocking, interdependent behaviors that become patterned over time.” (Trenholm 32).

“ Communication is most successful when individuals are of the same mind-when the meanings they assign to messages are similar or identical.” (Trenholm 26). Examining the interaction through the psychological model, I can first discuss both Sarah’s mindset and mine. I believed that it was logical and fair that if I went to the grocery store and purchased items that were needed, Sarah would either reimburse me with exactly half of what I paid or the next time things were needed, she would be the one to pay. On the other hand, Sarah figured if I bought items for us to enjoy out of the goodness of my heart, however, when she purchased food or drinks, it was her understanding that I would pay her half of what she had paid. I encoded my message to Sarah to buy the food I wanted for the week, if she wasn’t going to pay me back for the last set of groceries. This message traveled along a channel until it reached Sarah. It was up to her to decode my message and reply accordingly. Unfortunately, Sarah did not. She chose to take my list of groceries and only buy what she wanted for the week. She encoded to me that she wanted me to pay her back half of what she paid for the drinks she bought. I decoded the message and became very furious with her and decided to ignore her for the rest of the evening. Our communication was clearly unsuccessful because the meaning intended by me differed from that of Sarah’s. Our mental sets were so far apart that there was no shared feelings or thoughts.

The psychological model shows ways that both the sender and receiver can improve communication. It suggests that a sender should try to see things from the receivers’ point of view. It also explains that the sender should make themselves clear when decoding a message to receivers. In my interaction with my roommate, I could have sat down with her and together created some ground rules for the purchasing of food. We could have then made an agreement and signed a piece of paper to make sure that we both fully understood each other and what each other wanted. The receiver too can improve their communication by listening more carefully to the sender and ask questions if necessary to check their understanding. In this case, Sarah could have listened better to what I was asking of her and asked questions if she was confused. With these ways of improvement I would have found myself less aggravated and more satisfied.

“To understand communication, you need to understand the moves people use as they work out their relationship to one another.” (Trenholm 32). It is seen through the pragmatic model that the focus is on the action, what the sender and receiver are actually doing in response to each other’s messages. Sarah handed me a list of items she wanted. I understood that if I bought groceries, upon my return I would be paid back. Instead, Sarah offered to purchase the next set of groceries the following week instead of paying me back. I agreed. I handed Sarah a list of the things I wanted. I understood that she would return with what I requested her to buy. Sarah then went to the store and came back with only drinks, none of which I had wanted. She left me a note asking for money. It was clear to me that she obviously didn’t understand me and for that matter I certainly did not understand her. I then angrily went to the store, purchased what I wanted and ignored Sarah that evening. Every move each of us made affected each other’s actions. The end result of the interaction was upset.

Just like the psychological model has ways of improving communication, so does the pragmatic model. According to the pragmatic model, “the best way to understand and improve communication is to describe the forms or patterns that the communication takes.” (Trenholm 34). Taking a look at the communication patterns in my interaction with Sarah, I can conclude that our responses to one another were ineffective and intensified the problem. Both Sarah and I could have played the communication game better by working out a more effective set of moves that would make us both happy. Instead of focusing on each other’s personalities, the focus should have been on the actions that took place during the interaction. Sarah and I could have sat down and talked about each other’s understanding of the purchasing of food for our dorm and talked about what actions frustrated us. This kind of problem solving would also result in a happier ending, with both of us understanding one another.

While the psychological model deals with mental sets, encoding and decoding messages, and the noise level, the pragmatic model is concerned with what actions took place to cause the person’s involved upset and frustration. Although each has different focuses, both of these models share a common goal of improving communication. They both suggest understanding each other’s messages and figuring out ways to satisfy both persons involved. The psychological model and the pragmatic model both propose strong and useful ways of analyzing and improving interactions, but with this particular interaction, the psychological model does a better job of examining this problem and making improvements more successfully.

The interaction between Sarah and I can best be examined through the psychological model because it analyzed and improved our situation more thoroughly than the pragmatic model did. I thought it was best to purchase food and drinks if I was going to be paid back or promised free of charge on the next set of groceries. Sarah thought she wasn’t obligated to pay me back for groceries and then, charge me half of what she paid for the drinks. Although our messages back and forth seemed to be understood, they were not. We had different mindsets and our messages were perceived by one another differently. The psychological model helps to better understand the messages being sent and received. This model says that by understanding mindsets and messages clearly, one can improve communication. If Sarah and I had a better understanding of each other’s needs and wants and had come to an agreement on the purchasing of groceries, we possibly could have avoided this problematic interaction.

Though the psychological model is the most popular view of communication, it poses some problems. According to Trenholm, the psychological model ignores the social context in which communication occurs, it treats messages as if they were physical objects, and the only way for good communication to occur is if people can agree on ideas eventually. With all models, error is likely to occur and may cause malfunction in certain interactions, however, this model systematically helped me to improve my communication with my roommate by understanding her thoughts and massages. In the future, I plan on using the psychological model if I ever am faced with a problematic interaction that deals with the misunderstanding of messages, in order to demonstrate good communication.

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