About Rabby

Michael Rabby, PhD, serves as a consultant, author & professor specializing in social media, relationship building, and statistics-based research. Here, I muse about these things, along with the occasional comment about music, sports, and whatever else strikes my fancy. After all, it is still communication.

Couples Communication Exercise: I Said, You Said

By Guest Writer Jessica Colburn

A man playing the game Battleship while his wife washes dishesI have had a serious long-term romantic relationship, and even though we are not a married couple, we still have had our fair share of communication problems throughout our relationship. Sometimes it is easier to simply give up, because it feels like your words are not heard.

Boyle, Parr and Tejada emphasize the importance of couples communicating effectively and clearly. To them communication counseling is the key to success in committed relationships. According to the article, couples need to focus on the clarity of the message.
To do this, the couples counselor helps them distinguish between the speaker and listener roles and educates them how to communicate efficiently and clearly especially when emotions are involved. In the I Said, You Said exercise, non-verbal cues are eliminated and the couples attention focuses on the verbal messages the partner is sending. Though non-verbal cues are very prominent in communication, they are often easily misunderstood and the actual message is not taken seriously or correctly.

I Said, You Said

Communication Exercise for Couples:

Step 1: The therapist leads the couples through the exercise by assigning one individual the speaker role and the other the listener role. The couples sit back-to-back, so they can practice focusing on the verbal messages being sent rather than being sidetracked by the non-verbal cues. Next, the speaker gives instructions to draw a picture on the clipboards, which they both do. The speaker and listener can then focus on playing one role at a time and trying to send a clear message. After the couples have completed the exercise
they return face-to-face and discuss their experiences with the therapist.

Step 2: This exercise involves the same techniques, except the therapist wants the couples to progress towards an emotional level. Now, one partner shares a fun memory or experience from their relationship and then the listener repeats exactly what the speaker
just expressed. They exchange roles and follow the same process, ending with questions that reflect their positive emotions.

Step 3: The therapist instructs the couples to follow the same pattern as before, sitting back-to-back. However, this time the speaker shares a sad memory. Now, the couples have a discussion about the differences of the two emotions, as well as distinguish between sharing sadness and not anger. This shows that emotions can play a big role when
trying to communicate effectively.

Step 4: Now the partners advance to the stage where they have a conversation about opposing views. However, the partners cannot address anything that has recently resulted in anger or previously discussed that has created an intense debate. The speaker is
instructed to state their position and then the listener repeats what they heard the speaker say. This gives individuals the opportunity to state their opinion about the topic without having to defend their position.

Step 5 or Quid Pro Quo: In the last step of the exercise the therapist introduces the value of quid pro quo. By using this technique the partners are asked to try to make a small change in their previous statements. Next, the speaker tries out their new revised stance on the issue and the listener repeats what is said. They then switch roles and the therapist becomes more involved in the conversation as the couples become more comfortable communicating about these strong issues. The therapist can help the couples communicate more effectively and clearly by having the couples focus on their tone,
word choice, and volume, which can ultimately hinder or help the message.

In all, couples should know that they can learn from these exercises. Communication is one of the most important aspects of committed relationships, but also includes an on-going work in progress. Nonetheless, if taken seriously, couples can improve their
communication skills by focusing on effectively and clearly stating the message. Also, this can help teach couples the dominance of non-verbal messages over verbal messages. Emotions can sometimes affect the spoken message; however after a couple learns to speak with clarity the emotional aspect can be addressed without changing the
content of the message. Overall, this exercise should be used during earlier stages of a relationship, if communication problems should arise. Even though it is optional to have a therapist present, it is highly recommended for guidance and suggestions during the activity.

Parr, P., Boyle, R., & Tejada, L. (2008). I Said, You Said: A communication exercise for couples. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 30(3), 167-173.

Deception in online dating

By Guest Writer Christina Arnold

Manti Te'o on sideline

Manti Te’o

On the internet, it’s easy to create an online persona that radically differs from your offline self.  When it comes to online dating, it seems even more likely that people will be deceptive about their true selves in an effort to get a date.  But are there certain attributes that make it likely that someone will exaggerate about themselves?  And how much will someone lie to score a date?

In the article “Strategic misrepresentation in online dating: The effects of gender, self-monitoring, and personality traits”, researchers examined what factors make it more likely that a person will misrepresent themselves to a potential online date.

The user of an online dating service is able to customize their profile to exactly how they want it, which may make it more likely that they  will misrepresent themselves to appear better to a potential suitor—especially because of the high amount of competition that can be found on these sites.  However, since online dating sites usually encourage face-to-face meetings early on, most users are discouraged from any blatant deception about themselves.  The anticipation of a face-to-face meeting, along with the knowledge that your profile can be saved or printed out and looked at later, helps to stop any obvious misrepresentation since it would easily (and quickly) be found out.  Because of this, any misrepresentation is usually small, and is usually explained away by the user as their desirable (and potential) ‘future self’ (for example, their ‘future self’ may be thinner or more fit than their current self).

The authors looked to evidence in Evolutionary Psychology to create hypotheses that could help predict what could lead to deception in online dating.  Evolutionary Psychology suggests that women are more likely to look for men that have more resources and are committed for the long-term.  Both of these traits show that the man is willing and able to take care of any future offspring in the long-term.  Men, on the other hand, look for women who show signs of fertility (e.g., whether they’re young and healthy).

From the surveys, the authors found that men were more inclined to lie about their personal assets (i.e., resources), personal interests, and personal attributes than women were.  Women, on average, misrepresented their weight to a higher degree while men were more likely to lie about their age (it’s safe to say that the older a man is, the more likely he is to be more financially stable and have more resources).  However, older women  tended to misrepresent their age more—which goes back, again, to the Evolutionary Psychology theory that men look for signs of fertility (like youth).  Men were also more likely to lie about characteristics that signaled they were interested in long-term relationships.

The authors also discussed the “Big 5 personality traits” that might help predict deception—neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness.  They found that extroverts lied about past relationships more (because they were more likely to have a variety of sexual encounters), but misrepresented their personal interests less.  People low in conscientiousness misrepresented more because they didn’t have a strong concern for future consequences, and those who were less open to new experiences were more likely to misrepresent themselves to look like they were more interesting.

So while, yes, there is a likelihood that a person will lie about themselves to some degree on a site, I don’t think it should turn anyone away from online dating.  Any lies that you’re told can usually be discovered upon your first face-to-face meeting with this person.

Hall, Jeffrey A., Namkee Park, Hayeon Song, and Michael J. Cody (2010). “Strategic Misrepresentation in Online Dating: The Effects of Gender, Self-monitoring, and Personality Traits.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27,: 117-35.

Building a Blog Cabin during a Financial Crisis: Circuits of Struggle in the Digital Enclosure

By Guest Author Michael Sullivan
After twenty-five years in construction I had worked my last days at a steady job in December of 2008. At a time when tens of thousands of other workers in construction were also laid off, it was time for me to make a change. The days of people wanting to flaunt their wealth by building opulent homes of exaggerated size for the number of people living in them was coming to an end.
At the same time a cable television show called “Blog Cabin” (airing on the DIY channel) was experiencing a very successful show that combined the actual construction of a luxury cabin with advise from viewers submitted via the shows blog on their website. As I had found the demand for large trophy homes was diminishing the producers of Blog cabin were coming to the same conclusion. The show had built a community of bloggers who not only gave their suggestions on what color paint to use or what choice of tile was best, but had become intertwined in each others lives. When one community member got sick others raised concern on the blog while the shows producers disregarded these comment and were focused more on what benefited the show.
The producers of blog cabin were using the web 2.0 platform [which specific platform? that is quite a general term...]  to generate more profit for the show’s website as well as the television show. The website gathered information from viewers as they registered for the website, accumulating this information and shared with advertisers on their website and cable broadcast.
It seems the shows producers were exploiting their viewers by taking their suggestions and comments and incorporating them into the show more than their own writers contributed. One of the main draws for people to get involved in the blogging process for Blog Cabin was that all those who contributed to the house would be eligible for a drawing at a chance to win the house being built. This enticement had given the fans concern of the cost of owning the home if they were to win it. The value of the cabin being built in 2008 was at 750,000 dollars. This home would be taxed as income and with state and federal taxes the viewers had estimated the taxes to be about $250,000; most admitted they could not keep the cabin if they won it. The bloggers by now had become a close community and had gotten to know each other through their posts and had become known as “The Off-Site Build Team”. The Team had started making request for the show to build an more affordable home where the winner would stand a better chance of keeping it if won by one of them. The producers failed to reply with affordable building plan options for the viewers to choose from and limited them to more grandiose home plans. The fans were unable to get other accommodations from the producers such as a plaque for a member of their community suffering from cancer.
This article makes the case that the contributors to the Blog Cabin show were being exploited and their input and ideas were being used on the show and building of the cabin and they got little too no considerations from the producers of the show. As the community of bloggers had shared hardships and triumphs within their own lives, the show had only sought to get the information needed for advertisers and to complete a successful show.
Robert W. Gehl and Timothy A. Gibson (2012). Building a Blog Cabin during a Financial Crisis: Circuits of Struggle in the Digital Enclosure. Television & New Media  2012 13: 48-67.

Back soon

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Apologies for letting the blog sleep… I have had a really, really good reason– I swear I do!

In any case, the monthly updates should resume in the near future…

Ruling the Twitterverse

By Guest Author Heather Martin

Twitter is more complex than expressing love for a sandwich in 140 characters or less. Instead, the platform has evolved into a beast of influence and a tool to look at trends. The more expert users of Twitter have become Social Media Influencers (SMI). What are the traits of the people?

Four prominent social media practitioners were investigated to explore public perceptions. These selected individuals, Brian Solis, Deirdre Breakenridge, Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang, work in the public relations field or deal with the social interactions of corporations and consumers. Their backgrounds and photos were presented, alongside YouTube videos of their work. Utilizing the California Q-sort (CAQ), 32 college undergraduates were surveyed to analyze and quantify audience perceptions of SMIs.

The students responded to questions regarding 100 different attributes sorted into nine categories of each individual. The answers were then averaged to determine correlation. The results yielded a prototype of the SMIs and found the individuals to be “verbal, smart, ambitious, productive, and poised.” What were they not seen as? “Self-pitying, self-defeating, and lacking meaning in life.”

These SMIs profiles coincided with those of CEOs. Both are seen as obviously being leader types. But contrasts did emerge. A CEO was seen as someone who is “difficult to impress.” However, a SMI was “more likely to be sought out for advice.” This is the important piece, having the approachable characteristic and two-way interaction.

The results show that Twitter and social media matter, but their success hinges on the audience and what the interactions entail. In this study, the judges were younger and in college. Perhaps they are more likely to be receptive to perceived experts. It does present a stepping stone in a new direction for companies seeking to build ties with consumers. Twitter long ago shifted from a playful dalliance into a powerful branding tool.

Companies like Zappos are very active on Twitter when it comes to assisting their customers. I once joked that they needed a section called “Stripper Shoes” and a company representative quickly replied and suggested brands for me to check out. And I didn’t even tweet them specifically– they have a search running to track people who aren’t even addressing Zappos directly. Zappos has a good grasp and sense of fun when it comes to servicing their customers and it certainly isn’t hurting their business to suggest I check out the shoes by Promiscuous.

To stand out, CEOs and companies need to balance being approachable and having personality and not just existing as a monolith in social media.

Freberg, Karen,  Graham, Kristin, McGaughey, Karen, & Freberg, Laura A. (2011) Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public Relations Review, 37, 90-92.

Some Evidence that Blogging is Beneficial

By Guest Author Eduard Nagornyy, found at @eduardNagornyy and http://eduardnagornyy.tumblr.com/ .

A t-shirt promotes bloggingMillions of people blog. Some blog just to vent and others do it to manage their distress (an emotional release). What many might not know is that blogging, for the majority of users, is therapeutic, socially supportive.

Initial research was done on the psychosocial (the relationship between individual thought and behavior, and certain social factors) benefits of blogging. Many bloggers blogged the initial research and created discussions about it.

Baker and Moore compared the responses in these discussions to the results of the initial research on social connectedness, satisfaction with friendship, and psychological distress; essentially they sought to determine if the blogging community agreed or disagreed with the initial research. They took three weeks to complete where searches were done on specific blog search engines (e.g. Google Blog Search), and they looked for any reference to the initial research. 167 sources found (English-written blogs) generated nearly 500 comments. The comments were then categorized under individual users (289 unique user comments) that commented on the initial research. The majority of the results agreed with the initial research, with 55% whole-heartedly supporting the results, 25% accepting the results, 11% feeling neutral towards the results, 6% opposing the results, and 3% that were unfriendly (comments that were angrily vented with foul language).

This research indicates that blogging can be beneficial. 80% of the users here claim to have a positive experience while blogging. Some of the benefits include increased self-esteem and self-worth, less stress after participating, emotional release, higher trust in others, inter-mixing socially, and friendship fulfillment. The overall well-being of a person who blogs might be higher quality because of recognized social support than that of a person who does not blog.

So, for those people who are under a lot of stress, make a blog and vent. Join the millions of other users who do the very same thing and release yourself emotionally. It might be surprising how therapeutic blogging can be and the social support behind it. On a side-note, this second-wave of research was done using dialogue, meaning that the authors used the responses to the research as evidence. This type of procedure is not widely used but the authors claim it should be used more often, especially since technology is allowing the participation of users with the research and results. The procedure provides the researchers and their methods more transparency.

Baker, J. R., & Moore, S. M. (2011). An Opportunistic Validation of Studies on the Psychosocial Benefits of Blogging. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(6), 387-390.

Implications of improper email format in an academic community

By Guest Author Kelly Roby

I see parallels in the social consequences of improper email etiquette in academia and business. I believe that the parallels of increased use of technology and lack of focus on proper communication have grown at a rapid rate.

Stephens et al., conducted two studies using Interaction Adaption Theory (IAT) to examine improper or casual out-of-classroom emails and the impact these had on the student, student credibility, message attitude and overall willingness of a professor to comply with simple requests for a face-to-face meeting. IAT helps explain how individuals choose to respond to communication in either a matching or complementary manner. To accurately predict a response to interaction IAT uses three conditions:

  • Requirements (R)-what the receiver feels is necessary in an interaction
  • Expectations (E)-anything anticipated in the interaction and typically considered social norms or prescriptions
  • Desires (D)-what one hopes or prefers to occur in the interaction

R, E, and D form to make the interaction position (IP). When this position is compared to actual behavior (A), a positive or negative reaction occurs.

Study one utilized 152 instructors ranging from full-time tenured professors to adjunct faculty, with an average age of 38.0 years. It attempted to identify the affect on instructor opinion towards the student by manipulating message quality and familiarity.

Study two involved a more-pinpointed effort to expound on the results of study one. The intent was to identify whether generational differences had influence on student email content, why students might violate instructor expectations and the specific email aspects that bother professors more than students.

The results of the two studies points to a correlation between the use of casual email and text messaging. While generational aspects were evident, they were not significant enough to explain the reason for student decorum in out of class communication and professors’ response and opinions to such violations. The results supported the general consensus of a need for instructional emails from professors, and also identified a negative opinion towards students with casual or improper email. It is hypothesized that second and third order effects of continued violations could follow students to the business world and possibly generate the same affects from future employers and business relationships.

All in all it appears that with the increase of technology, the perceived need for training on proper correspondence rules and techniques has changed. With the rush of everyday life and immediate electronic conversations via texting, it appears that young students are creating habits that might echo beyond school. Effective communication is a vital skill in the business world. If students do not learn proper etiquette, it is quite likely they will expose themselves to embarrassment and criticisms in a business environment were perception is reality. Their communication with professors is a good place to start!

Stephens, K.K., Houser, M.L., & Cowan, R.L. (2009). R U Able to Meat Me: The Impact of Students’ Overly Casual Email Messages to Instructors. Communication Education58(3), 303-326.

The Decision to Forgive: Sex, Gender, and the Likelihood to Forgive Partner Transgressions.

By Guest Author Andrea Milholland

Most people crave the closeness and security found in romantic relationships.  However, as humans, we also make mistakes that can put these relationships in jeopardy.  As a female who is currently dating, I am curious to discover if gender plays a role in likeliness to forgive a romantic partner, and why.

In this study, 145 heterosexual couples (ranging from causally dating to married) completed surveys concerning their individual gender role, forgiveness towards their partner, relationship satisfaction, and apology trends.  The researchers discovered the following:

-Gender role: Four gender categories for both sexes emerged based on a BSRI scale: masculine, feminine, androgynous (masculine & feminine), and undifferentiated (neither masculine nor feminine).
-Forgiveness: Concerning biological sex, men were found to be the most forgiving.  Women reported more feelings of ‘hurt’, which affects their likelihood to forgive. However, concerning gender roles, feminine/androgynous men and women were more likely to forgive their partners when compared with masculine/undifferentiated.
-Relationship Satisfaction: Both men and women were more likely to forgive when satisfied with their relationship.  Women, overall, showed more relationship satisfaction than men.  Couples involved in longer relationships tended to rate higher in terms of relationship satisfaction.
-Apology trends: Men apologized slightly more often, with more sincerity, according to their partners, than women did.

In essence, forgiveness is dependent on a variety of factors, including the severity of the transgression.  Forgiveness is seen as an interpersonal act that requires empathy, caring, and understanding.  Traditionally, these traits are viewed as feminine in most societies.  However, it is important to note that feminine and androgynous men were most likely to forgive. Regardless of gender, relationship satisfaction was found to be the primary factor regarding likeliness to forgive.

Understanding that relationship satisfaction has the largest impact on forgiveness, it is important for the partner to weigh the positives and the negatives resulting from their significant other’s flaw or mistake.  If the transgression does not compare to the happiness caused by the relationship, forgiveness is beneficial.  However, if this is not the case, the relationship should end.  Based on this study, if you view forgiveness as a positive trait in a significant other, it is best to look for increased feminine or androgynous characteristics.

 

Sidelinger, R., Frisby, B., & McMullen, A. (2009). The decision to forgive: sex, gender, and the likelihood to forgive partner transgressions. Communication Studies, 60(2), 164-179.

Connections between self-esteem, commitment, and verbal aggression in romantic relationships

Old novel with picture of woman screamingAn anonymous contribution:

Growing up in a well rounded family, I never noticed a connection between verbal aggressiveness, commitment, and my parents’ self esteem. I personally perceived my parents as a committed couple that had a normal amount of verbal aggression.

In a survey of 76 heterosexual couples from a Midwestern university, researchers looked at the connection between these variables. To qualify for the study one had to be at least 19 years old and in a romantic relationship for at least a month. Specifically, the survey looked at:

  • Verbal aggression, which occurs when a person intentionally attacks another with the intention to humiliate or embarrass a person
  • Self-esteem, the value one puts in themselves and how they view themselves
  • Commitment, which involves how much one perceived their partner to be committed to them and how committed one is to their partner

The researchers found that self-esteem and commitment levels correlated positively. If a person thought that their significant other had high levels of commitment to them, then their self-esteem tended to be higher. This went both ways. If one’s self-esteem was high then their commitment to the relationship was high as well. It was also found that if one perceives their partner as being very committed their self-esteem was high also. Results showed that self-esteem and verbal aggression were closely related. As one’s self-esteem went down, one’s tendency to use verbal aggression went up. Finally, it was found that one’s own commitment to the relationship and the perceived commitment of the partner were not correlated to verbal aggression. After all the research was finished and analyzed, researchers found that there still needed to be more studies done on sociometer theory and its validity.

This study provides several key insights.  If you want your relationship to be relatively stress free, you should take your partners self-esteem into consideration. By showing high levels of commitment to your partner, you can help raise their self-esteem. By raising your partner’s self-esteem, you can reduce their tendency to use verbal aggression resulting in a less stressful relationship. After reading this study, I personally would try my hardest to let my partner know that I was committed to them.  By doing this, I feel that it would help raise my partner’s faith and commitment to me while simultaneously raising their self esteem. All of these things would help make the relationship potentially last longer and more satisfying.

Rill, L., Baiocchi, E., Hopper, M., Denker, K., & Olson, L.N. (2009). Exploration of the relationship between self-esteem, commitment, and verbal aggressiveness in romantic dating relationships. Communication Reports, 22(2), 102-113.

Technology’s Effect on Communication in the Workforce

By Guest Author Chad Matsui

Bill Nye and a Naval officerIn the workforce, communication is absolutely essential to guarantee a successful business.  Over the past couple of decades, there have been hundreds of technological breakthroughs that have made communication over long distances a buttons-push away.  Information and communication technologies (ICT’s) have continued to improve the quality, accuracy and ease with which people can communicate over physical distances.  However, what has seemed to be only helpful to the workforce has turned into a dilemma, as ICT’s can not only bring people together with little difficulty, but they can also block people out with the same ease.

Leonardi and colleagues investigated how many managers allowed their workers to work out of their homes by using ICT’s, which would allow easy access to the worker.  36 people were interviewed who stated they employed workers and let them work out of the office.  32 of the 36 participants (89%) provided ICT’s for the worker to use, meaning the majority of businesses used in this study consider communication an important factor to employees working out of the office.

People carry the belief that communication is important to off-site workers.  However, over the past few years  a growing concern exists over whether or not the ICT’s used to help communication between workers has actually helped more than harmed.  Leonardi and colleagues also found that workers who worked at home strategically used the ICT’s to reduce communication between other workers to conceal the fact that they did not do all the work they needed to do.  8 of the 26 (22%) of the surveyed workers acknowledged the use of “disconnecting” from their ICT’s as a viable tactic to increase the distance of their colleagues and superiors.

ICT’s have allowed workers to stay at home while remaining a dedicated to their company.  People can now handle personal problems or obstacles in the privacy of their own house and still stay on top of their workload while away.  However this technological connection between worker and business can also hinder the workforce as communication solely relies on the workers to be available and willing to connected.

 

Leonardi, P. M., Treem, J. W. & Jackson, M. H. (2010). “The Connectivity Paradox: Using Technology to Both Decrease and Increase Perceptions of Distance in Distributed Work Arrangements.” Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35, 85-105.