Course Notes Table of Contents

Learning Objectives

  1. Graph the process of interpersonal communication and describe the function of “noise” and the different types of noise which can occur
  2. Describe how people feel when they are the victims of poor listening
  3. Describe effective listening attitudes
  4. Define “tact,” “respect,” and “dialogue,” and be prepared to provide examples of each in written communication
  5. Define “flaming,” “stalking,” and cyber-bulling, and describe what is and is not considered appropriate e-mail etiquette
  6. Define acquiescence, assertion, and aggression, and indicate which one of these communication styles is the most functional in an individualistic culture.
  7. Describe the difference between a passive/aggressive and a confrontational communication style.
  8. Describe client, serial, gang, and corporate bullying, and what type of individuals bullies are most likely to target
  9. List the symptoms of emotional abuse, and describe ways in which this can occur at work
  10. Define “colloquialism,” and give examples of some Southern expressions that fit with this description
  11. List some phrases that can be confusing to a foreigner and why, and define ways in which you can be a more effective intercultural communicator


Barnabus is giving a talk to his fellow classmates. He looks out onto the sea of pasty, disinterested faces, reeling from the lack of interest which he perceives.

List the following:

  1. ways that audience members can convey disinterest
  2. ways that one can improve his/her listening skills

The Interpersonal Process of Communication

Signal and noise

SourceManagement, Robbins & Coulter, 2005, p. 258, Pearson/Prentice Hall

“Noise” is most often caused by poor listening skills. These include:

  • Allowing your mind to wander
  • Disinterested body language
  • Apathetic facial expression
  • Failure to ask questions

Most of what we express to other people is done through our body language. Experts have estimated that:

  • 7% of communication lies in content
  • 38% lies in paralanguage
  • 55% is in body language

What do these gestures mean?

  • Head tiled to one side
  • Scratching the head
  • Lip biting
  • Rubbing the back of the neck
  • Head nodding
  • Narrowing the eyes
  • Picking imaginary lint off your clothing


  • Personal hygiene
  • Cell phones
  • Food
  • Failure to ask questions
  • The 'zombie'
  • Personal debris syndrome
  • Fidgeting
  • Walking in front of the speaker
  • Unbroken eye contact

Barriers to Effective Communication

When you are a poor listener, people feel:

  • Devalued
  • Unimportant
  • Unappreciated
  • Unloved
  • Misunderstood
  • Not cared for
  • Dismissed

Source: Children of the Self-Absorbed, Nina W. Brown, New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2001

Effective listening

Read the following passage and answer the following questions, first by yourself, and then with a group of four people:  Rate the following statements as "Fact" or "Inference." 

Robert Smith, a department manager, called to an employee who was coming through the door twelve minutes after starting time.  Smith asked the employee to come into his office. "I am pleased you were able to make it in today despite the transportation problems.  My main concern is your lateness and absences.  Our company has specific rules here which say that any employee must call in if he or she expects to be more than ten minutes late.  I always take some corrective steps when an employee is late more than three time in one month." 

"I realize that getting your two children to school often makes it difficult for you to come in on time, but I still must ask you to do something to avoid this situation.  Please remember that the rules do provide for a written warning and then suspension before dismissal. I have no choice but to follow the rules and hope this meeting will be the last one we will need on this subject.  The real control is in your hands." 

Statements about the Story:

1.  The employee is a woman   F   I   F   I
2.  The employee's manager is Robert Smith   F   I   F   I
3.  The employee in the story was late that day.    F   I   F   I
4.  The employee was delayed by traffic that day.   F   I   F   I
5.  The rules of the company call for a warning after three or more latenesses in one month.    F   I   F   I
6.  The employee in the story has two children.   F   I   F   I
7.  The employee sometimes takes the children to school in the morning.   F   I   F   I
8. The rules provide for a written warning before suspension.   F   I   F   I
9.  The rules state that an employee must call in when he/she will be more than 10 minutes late.    F   I   F   I
10. This is the last warning that an employee will receive before suspension.   F   I   F   I

Source:  LuBen Associates, reprinted with permission


Think about one of the most common conflicts you have with your current roommate, or have had in the past with a former roommate. How did you handle the conflict?

Imagine the following dialogue between you and your roommate:

You Every time I come into the room, your stuff is all over the place. In fact, last night I tripped over your MP3 player and bruised my knee. It seems like I am the one who is always cleaning up this room. I’m sick of it.
Your roommate I get the feeling you’ve been put out for a while…go ahead dude.
You When we moved in, we had an agreement that we would take turns cleaning the dorm room. Ever since you started dating Franchesca, you’re in your own little messy world. The problem is that you’ve dragged me into it.
Your roommate Dude, I’m clued in. It seems like you’re fed up and you want me to do my fair share of the work.

Your roommate conveyed the following effective listening attitudes:

Responsibility: “I don’t have the power to change others, only myself.”
Non-judgment: “Refraining from judging others will assist me in listening to them effectively.”
Equality vs. arrogance: “I allow others to be on an equal level with myself.”
Non-defensiveness:  blame and self-righteousness have no place in collaborative communication
Collaboration:  the process in which individuals work with one another.

Research shows that the average person on the job spends 40 percent of his time listening, 35 percent talking, 16 percent reading and 9 percent writing. On average, people only are about 35 percent efficient listeners.

  1. [Good listeners] listen with understanding and respect.
  2. [Good listeners] step outside themselves to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  3. Good listeners do not judge or blame the other person.
  4. Good listeners try to get to the root of the problem without becoming emotionally explosive.

Source: HRMagazine, November 2001

In addition,

  1. [Good listeners] paraphrase
  2. [Good listeners] don't over-talk
  3. Integrate what was said
  4. Exhibit affirmative heads nods and appropriate facial expressions

Adapted from Management, Robbins & Coulter, 2005

Your roommate attempts to apologize for his/her inappropriate behavior in the above scenario.

Your roommate Dude, I'm sorry. 
You Well, you should be!  I've had to wallow in filth for the past semester.  I should have changed roommates a long time ago.

What's wrong with the above exchange?

Behavioral graciousness suggests that apologies should be accepted in a humble fashion, with an acknowledgement (if appropriate) of wrong doing on behalf of the "wronged" party.

Good listeners’ first priority is not to defend themselves or to score points by putting others down, but to resolve the conflict in a way that preserves the relationship.

Explication of the word "dude:"  


I found the quote below in Dale Carnegie's book, "How to Win Friends and Influence and People." It concerns tact, "the art of stepping on someone's shoes without ruining their shine."

"Benjamin Franklin, tactless in his youth, became so diplomatic, so adroit at handling people, that he was made American Ambassador to France. The secret of his success? “I will speak ill of no man,” he said, “… and speak all the good I know of everybody.” Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. A great man shows his greatness,” said Carlyle, “by the way he treats little men.”

Instead of condemning someone, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness.”

Tact is a form of conversational graciousness.  Issues are stated in a way to invite dialogue, or conversational reciprocity. Dialogue is speech in a respectful fashion.


Rephrase the following e-mail from student to instructor in a more tactful manner:


My grade is not posted - you said it would be posted by Monday. Am I to assume you will post this today?


Phone Etiquette

Everyone's personality is just as identifiable on the phone as it is in person, you just need to know what to look for.

Indirect and Open

"How are you?" or "I'm glad to hear from you again," are typical Steady Relater greetings. Like those telephone company TV commercials, their warmth can seem to transcend the limitations of the phone lines. Although they prefer more personal interactions with people, they will also settle for indirect contact -- especially if the person is pleasant and non-threatening. They project this people orientation by phone and like to build a personal, first-name relationship with callers. Even if they do not know you, they may say, "You don't have to be formal. Just call me Alice." They may project a desire to know you personally or provide you with good service.

They communicate with steady, even vocal intonations to convey friendliness, comfort, and a sense of relaxation. Relaters tend to be naturals at listening to others' ideas and feelings, whether on the phone or in person. They tend to be interested in the blow-by-blow, point-by-point description of what you did yesterday or the sequential pattern of how to complete a certain task. You are probably talking to a Relater if you notice slower than average speech patterns, more moments of listening than of speaking, and references to actual, real-life experiences regarding either products or mutual acquaintances.

"I'll look it up for you"

Steady Relaters tend to express themselves in a rather tentative manner in both their face-to-face and telephone conversations. "I'll need to consult Mrs. Adams before I can make that decision," or, "I'm not sure we can do that, but I'll get back to you as soon as I find out." As in other aspects of their lives, they often defer to the more human, proven way things have always been done. They typically feel more comfortable making decisions based on conferring with others rather than by themselves. "What do you think?", "How do you feel?", and "What do you recommend?" are all common questions this type may ask.

Direct and Open

"What's up?" or "What's happening?" are usual Interacting Socializer opening lines. They are sometimes so animated that their gestures can be transmitted via the phone lines. How? By their varied, emotional vocal inflections/intonations and their colorful choice of words that may tend toward exaggeration. "Really? That's fantastic!" or, "You have to be kidding me!" The telephone can be a favorite toy that enables them to both prolong conversations and recharge themselves, especially when no one else is physically around. "I just called because I'm bored." You may also detect background noise when you speak to individuals of this type. They sometimes put on the TV or radio just for the sound, visual stimulation, and activity.

On the phone, Socializers speak rapidly and emotively. "I feel that if we go through with this plan, the community will resent us as anti-environmentalists," or, "I feel that I've contributed enough to this organization over the years to allow me to talk about this." Other styles may more naturally use thinking words, instead.

Say it with feeling

Typically, you will notice a wide range of vocal inflection and intonation and a tendency to want to know your reaction. "Do you feel that way, too?" They liven up conversations with personal anecdotes and may keep you on the phone longer than you had anticipated. If you need to extricate yourself from an extended monologue, try something like, "Well, Don, it's been great talking with you. I'm really looking forward to our appointment on Monday!" If you say it with feeling, the Socializer may already eagerly anticipate your meeting.

Indirect and Guarded

"Good afternoon, Mr. Lomis. This is Jonathan Williams. You asked me to call back Monday morning." Formal greetings are one tip-off that you may be dealing with a Cautious Thinker. Time-conscious individuals of this type often get to a task just when they say they will. Monday morning it is!

"May I speak with Mr. Holmes or Dr. Brothers?"

Thinkers prefer brief, to-the-point telephone calls. Although they may not tell you, call them Mister or Ms. or Doctor or whatever their titles happen to be. Thinkers sometimes view jumping into a first-name basis as invasion of privacy, so they deal with others on a more formal basis. If you think they are talking about to Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Joyce Brothers, chances are you have contacted a Thinker.

Careful and correct

Like Relaters, Thinkers tend to express themselves in a rather tentative manner. "I'll check on that and let you know tomorrow." Alternatively, they may want to provide you with information so you can form your own conclusions. "I have a copy of the Governor's report in my files. If I send it to you, perhaps you can find what you're looking for." Both these approaches satisfy Cautious Thinkers' need for caution and correctness. They simply may not want to be misquoted or, possibly, involved in the first place.

Direct and Guarded

When speaking on the phone to a Dominant Director, treat her the same way as in a person-to-person contact. Think of the ABC's: Keep it abridged, brief, and concise. Prepare your delivery with the bottom line in mind: "The trend in your industry is toward computer-generated graphics. The research we have conducted with other typesetters in your area indicates increased profits of 20 to 30% over two years. I'd like to meet with you for 10 minutes to show you the numbers and see if this concept interests you."

They waste no time

It is not unusual for a Director to call someone and, without saying hello, launch right into the conversation. "You've got to be kidding; the shipment from Hong Kong will kill us . . . by the way, this is Jack." When other people cannot keep up with their speed, they may view them as incompetent.

On the telephone, determine whether the person sends power signals. Dominant Directors want to pick the time and place to meet. They often speak in a sort of shorthand -- concisely and pointedly -- and sound cool, confident, and demanding. When Director Dennis phones, he actually says, "Sue? Dennis? Tony!" Talking to him is like speaking to a human telegram. He reduces the concept of brief and to-the-point to another dimension. As commanding speakers who tend not to listen to others, they naturally want to direct the conversation toward their goals. Under stress, they can become defensive and aggressive, attacking others personally to show who is in control. They dislike using touchy-feely, emotional terms and prefer sensible thinking terminology. "I think we'll implement this plan tomorrow," or, "I think this discussion is over."

Source:  Tony Alessandra,


  • Think of your comments as printed in a newspaper
  • Do not use all caps
  • Always include a subject line. E-mails are electronic letters; as such, they should contain a salutation, a body, and a closing.
  • Don't try to contradict or refute a person's ideas too quickly
  • Put aside your own views when responding to others
  • Expect the participant's language to be different from your own
  • Avoid negative feedback

"Comments should be polite, understated, and use positive language. Online we are very sensitive. We will get your point. Using bold, frank, overstated language conveys an emotional aggressiveness that hinders your message. Online, be polite. Understate rather than overstate your point. Use positive language. Your ideas will get better reception."

From Draves, "Teaching Online," 2002

Don't Touch that Send Button: tips on e-mail dos and don'ts

Individuals using e-mail as opposed to conversation are much more likely to see a rapid escalation in conflict between the parties. This is why some companies have prohibited e-mail…because it severs relational bonds.  Because e-mail does not have the verbal clues and richness of face-to-face conversation, conflicts can snowball.  E-mail was intended for bulk communication of a routine nature, and not to communicate personal or sensitive issues.

Scenario: Read the following e-mail messages and suggest what is wrong with them:

First Scenario TEAM,
Second Scenario When is the homework assignment due?
Third Scenario The assignment would be easier if you would bother to give better instructions. Catch a clue.
  • Flaming: sending or posting messages that are deliberately hostile or insulting (
  • Stalking: Sending repeats of the same e-mail, or sending an inordinate number of e-mails within a short period of time

Again, email was intended to automate the communication of routine information. It is not a medium to send offensive messages that people are too cowardly to express in person.

Remember:  E-mail is a tool, not a weapon



Types of Self-Expression


Acquiescence Assertion Aggression
(passive aggressive)   (confrontational)


Assertion: “I” statement to promote collaborative problem solving

  • Bad:
Some people may not like three-legged races.
  • Good:
I don’t like three-legged races; I think they are childish.

Acquiescence: Expression of needs in a non-existent, or mealy-mouthed manner

Aggression:    Bullying, and combined with an aggressive, dominating, confrontational style.

How do bullies select targets?

  • Being good at one’s job
  • Being popular with people
  • Standing up for a colleague who is bullied
  • Being honest and having integrity
  • Gaining recognition for achievements

Client bullying: employees bullied by those they serve, nurses bullied by patients, teachers bullied by students

Serial Bullying: phenomenon in which one person after another is picked on and destroyed

Gang Bullying: phenomenon in which half of the people are happy for the opportunity to behave badly; those and the ones who remain silent and gain power, control, and protection from the serial bully

Corporate Bullying:

Phenomenon in which individuals are:

  • Constantly criticized
  • Ridiculed, dismissed, ignored despite high achievement
  • Belittled, demeaned, and degraded
  • Teased to embarrass and humiliate
  • Subjected to unpleasant memos, emails with no verbal communication immediately, particularly prior to weekends


Emotional Abuse

  • Domination
  • Verbal Assaults
  • Abusive Expectations
  • Emotional Blackmail
  • Unpredictable responses
  • Gas-lighting
  • Constant Chaos

Possible Consequences:

  • Depression
  • Hypervigilence
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Cognitive disruption
  • Obsession
  • Physical side effects

Cross-cultural Communication

Language barriers can exist in our very own language, due to slang, colloquialisms, and regional phrases. Examples of Speaking Southern…
Note that assertion is a Western, individualistic value: [remember the example about wind-blowing]

Foreign faux pas 

Phrases that may cause confusion to a foreigner:

“It made me as nervous as a cat in a room full of rockers”

“You rock”

"Kicked butt"

“He/she’s long in the tooth”




Write three phrases that are particular to Tennessee. If you are from the North, write three phrases that you think are particular to your area.

Cross Cultural Communication Web sites:

Below are some websites of non-verbal communication gestures:
A world of gestures
Examples of non-verbal communication

Nodding the head up and down:  In Bulgaria means ‘No”

Gesturing by forming an A-OK sign with your thumb and fore-finger:  In Brazil, Singapore, Russia, and Paraguay this is vulgar

Pointing to yourself: In Germany or Switzerland it insults the other person

Source: Irwin/McGraw Hill, 1999

The meaning of gestures around the world; Gestures around the world

The Jargon of Politically Correct Terms

What do the following phrases mean?

  • Physically challenged
  • Educational equity
  • Undocumented workers
  • Monocultural
  • Senior
  • Vertically challenged
  • Indigenous people
  • Differentially sized people
  • Visually impaired

Source: Robbins, Organizational Behavior, 1993

Jargon:  language that is peculiar to a specific group of people, that is unintelligible by the majority.

What do the following words mean?

  • Aquadextrous
  • Carperpetuation
  • Disconfect
  • Elbonics
  • Frust
  • Lactomangulation
  • Peppier
  • Phonesia
  • Pupkus
  • Telecrastination

Tying it all Together…

Consider the Chain, Wheel, and All Channel networks. Which communication network is a team more likely to use? Which communication network is a bureaucracy more likely to use?

The wheel

SourceManagement, Robbins & Coulter, 2005, p. 268

In which organization type will you see the most active grapevine and rumor mill?

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