The first communication issue I will address is my general inability to express emotions when I engage in conversation with others. People whom I know well have remarked upon the fact that I often come across as “difficult to read,” or that I sometimes seem “apathetic” or “cold.” In most instances, this interpersonal coldness is not intentional on my part, but I think it is largely a product of my upbringing. My parents always emphasized the need to maintain an image of strength and invulnerability, and I believe that I internalized these beliefs as a child. In fact, I often grow annoyed at people who display a great deal of emotion in their communication, and I often view them as “feeling sorry for themselves,” or as making attempts at interpersonal manipulation. However, for the majority of people, the display of emotion in interpersonal communication is a natural occurrence, and, moreover, it is a desirable trait in a communicator (Beebe et al 152).
Often, people who do not express their emotions in the course of communication are viewed as suspicious or as making attempts to “hide something.” As stated previously, this is not my intention when I come across as cold or unresponsive in interpersonal communication, but this is something I will strive to work on in the future. Effective communication is not only comprised of words and ideas, but nonverbal expressions, as well. It is important to respond to a friend’s news that they failed an exam not only with a verbal expression of “I’m sorry,” but also with the corresponding facial expressions, such as a frown, or a furrowed brow (App et al 606). Thus, I will make an effort to be more expressive in my future attempts at interpersonal communication.
In addition to my overall inability to express myself emotionally in the course of communication, I have also been told that I sometimes display inappropriate emotional responses to people. For instance, I often laugh at the announcement of tragedies, and this response is, for the most part, involuntary. In many ways, I believe this is related to my inability to emote appropriately, and so I think this is largely a compensatory measure used to forestall accusations of “coldness.” However, as the textbook, lectures, and my outside research indicates, inappropriate emotional expressions in the context of communication are often interpreted in a negative light, and can also indicate mental illness. In their 2006 study of inappropriate emotional responses, Finger et al found that individuals who display morally or socially inappropriate emotional responses are often viewed as being possibly mentally ill (417). Indeed, there are several mental illnesses that can create the appearance of inappropriate emotional responses in individuals, and these are depression, schizophrenia, and psychopathy (Finger et al 418). While it is my sincere belief that I do not suffer from any of the above-noted mental illnesses, I do nonetheless display inappropriate emotional responses from time to time, and I believe that this impairs my communication abilities.
The display of appropriate emotional responses is an important aspect of interpersonal communication. When most people express distressing or traumatic events that have occurred to them, they expect empathy and the correlating emotional response in return (Beebe et al 371). For this reason, it is important to ensure that one reacts in an emotionally appropriate manner to the things that their friends or partners speak of. As I grow and mature as a communicator, I will take special care to ensure that I respond in an accepted manner to news that my friends and family members have experienced a traumatic event. For instance, when a friend reports that they have experienced a death in the family, I will take care to express emotions of grief, shock, and sadness. These expressions are what people expect, and I will try to thusly conform to this expectation.
Another issue I struggle with in the course of interpersonal communication is my tendency to misinterpret the emotional cues that others communicate in the course of conversations. For instance, when I witness someone give a tight smile when announcing bad news, I often misinterpret this nonverbal behavior as happiness that the unfortunate event has taken place. In most instances, I am wildly incorrect in this perception, and often pay the price for this, in terms of outright scolding or social marginalization. When people communicate the instance of traumatic events that have taken place in their lives, they often expect a reciprocal expression of grief, which validates their sadness and grief (Beebe et al 122). When such an afflicted individual receives a response of laughter or apathy, however, it can often make them feel that their life experiences are meaningless, to which they often respond with anger or hostility. I acknowledge that I have problems with properly interpreting the emotional cues that others provide in the course of interpersonal communication. Thus, drawing upon the information given to me in the textbook and in the lectures, I will work to ensure that my responses to the subtle emotional cues given by others in the course of conversations is always appropriate, and displays an appropriate emotional response.
The ability to communicate effectively is a complex and nuanced venture that entails many risks. In my instance, the major risks entailed in interpersonal communications have largely to do with the seeming inability to generate emotional responses, and when I do generate emotional responses, they are often inappropriate. However, the close examination of textbook materials, course lectures, and the evaluation of outside research can help me to overcome these many obstacles in my interpersonal communication style. Prior to the performance of this assignment, I was largely unaware of the detrimental effect that my communication style had on other people. However, now that I am aware of this negative effect, there is something I am able to do about it. To begin with, I will now make a concerted effort to express emotions with others as I engage in conversation with them. Furthermore, I will do what I can to ensure that these emotional expressions are “appropriate,” that is, I will not laugh at bad news, and I will make every attempt to ensure that my responses cannot be interpreted as “condescending.”
App, Betsy, Daniel J. McIntosh, Catherine L. Read, & Matthew J. Hertenstein. “Nonverbal channel use in communication: How may depend on why.” Emotion 11.3 (2011): 603-617. Web. ProQuest.
Beebe, Steven A., Susan J. Beebe & Mark V. Redmond. Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others, 7th edition. Boston: Cengage, 2013. Print.
Finger, Elizabeth C., Abigail A. Marsh, Niveen Kamel, Derek G.V. Mitchell, & James R. Blair. “Caught in the act: The impact of audience on the neural response to morally and socially inappropriate behavior.” NeuroImage 33.1 (2006): 414-421. Web. ProQuest.
Mehu, Marc & Klaus R. Scherer. “Emotion categories and dimensions in the facial communication of affect: An integrated approach.” Emotion 15.6 (2015): 798-811. Web. ProQuest.