Interpersonal Journal Analysis
Throughout history, one aspect of human evolution that has been subject to intensive study is human interaction and communication. Sociologists and philosophers have for a long time been baffled by the factors that motivate certain human interaction and communication patterns. This has led to the formulation of several social theories that attempt to explain how and why humans behave and in a certain way and why they interact and communicate with each other in a certain way. Therefore, these theories attempt to predict the implications of certain human interactions and their associated modes of communication. This essay will three of these theories and assess their prediction credibility by comparing them with personal examples of human-human interaction and behavior recorded for a period of time. The paper aims to show whether the predictions made by these theories can be trusted and whether they do indeed reflect how and why humans behave in a certain manner.
The first theory is the expectancy violation theory. This is a theory that attempts to explain the unexpected behavior or actions of others when communicating. When people are communicating, they will naturally create or craft an expectation of how others will potentially react. The violation of this expectation essentially leads to a negative or positive perception depending on the relationship between the two individuals (West & Turner, 2009).
This theory essentially predicts that communication being a tool of exchanging information is high in terms of relational content and can, therefore, be used to violate the expectations of others. The theory then predicts that the exchange will be perceived either negatively or positively.
My interactions with a familiar person, Abdul support the predictions of this theory to some point and also disapprove the predictions of the theory significantly. First, Abdul had acted against my expectations where instead of admitting his error, he started a fight with me about the fact that he had not brought a pencil to class. I perceived this exchange negatively as per the prediction of the expectation violations theory and I was therefore very angry with him. However, other interactions with Abdul disapprove these predictions. For example, the familiar person teased me about my hair claiming that I looked like a witch. I perceived it positively because it was something that he was used to doing. In fact, it was almost the reverse of the expectation violation because I perceived positively something that would have been expected to be a violation of expectation.
In addition the fact that I did not know that he was originally from Indian despite being so close to him was obvious violation of expectation but he did not perceive it in any way therefore disapproving the prediction of the expectation violation theory.
The social penetration theory is another theory that was first created in 1973 by two psychologists, Dalmas Taylor and Irwin Altman (West & Turner, 2009). This theory explores the progression of human relationship and gives several propositions on how the relationship between two people, for example, (not necessarily lovers) progresses from the moment of their initial contact. The main premise of the theory is that as a relationship ensues and develops between people, their interpersonal communication essentially moves from being relatively shallow and non-intimate (sometimes referred to as small talk) to being deeper, more intimate and involving the discussion of personal and private matters (West & Turner, 2009). According to this theory, closeness between the two individuals also develops if the relationship proceeds in the manner described.
Therefore, the social penetration theory makes several predictions in regard to the level of self-disclosure as a relationship progresses. At the relationship development stage, there exists a pattern that is associated with greater disclosure at non-intimate levels. However, there is a gradual increase in disclosure from non-intimate and superficial levels to more intimate levels as the relationship develops into higher stages.
This theory applies perfectly to the recorded patterns of interaction with the unfamiliar person, who is a waiter at Starbucks. The predictions made by the theory clearly apply to the courses of interaction that I had since we first met. In the first day, my relationship with her was very superficial and formal, and there was no obligation on her part to talk intimately to me. In fact, she thought I was weird because I was almost forcing her to talk to me. The second time I met her was the same day, but at this point we had become already acquainted with each other and not surprisingly, there was a higher element of disclosure as predicted by the social penetration theory. She was more relaxed than me and instead of the formalities exchanged earlier, the conversation was deeper as I explained to her that I was not crazy. On her part, she asked my name that I gave her. This was a clear proof that the relationship had progressed. This was further proven the next day when I went to order, and she remembered my order. By the next day, the relationship had moved to yet another level and as the social penetration theory predicts and the communication level was even more advanced as it ultimately resulted in the exchange of numbers which was in itself a very huge step in the development of this relationship. In addition, she wanted to sit down for coffee with me as she wanted to know me more. This was an indication that she was ready for the relationship communication to move to even deeper matters and issues. This took place the next day and during this session, the communication was deep and intimate and involved a discussion of private and personal matters. For instance, she even told me where she was originally from which is Saudi Arabia. At this stage, the relationship had blossomed, and this is why the communication involved self-closure and had essentially moved from a superficial level to an intimate level.
The analysis above is a clear indicator or proof that the social penetration theory is very accurate when it comes to predicting the progression of communication patterns as a relationship develops, In this case, my relation with the Starbucks girl developed slowly because the communication initially started at a superficial level and then advanced toward deeper and more intimate matters.
The communication accommodation theory is another theory that is used to explain and predict human interaction and communication. This theory suggests that the interaction of people leads to a situation whereby people adjust their behavior, their vocal patterns, their speech and even their gestures as they attempt to accommodate one another (West & Turner, 2009). The theory assumes that humans are not statutory or inflexible and therefore, when it comes to interaction with others, humans are naturally inclined to adjust themselves so that they can accommodate others and reduce chances of tension, frustration or awkwardness. This is done with the intention of minimizing the social difference that may exist between the parties interaction (West & Turner, 2009). This is referred to as convergence. It is also done in order to set or to exhibit a positive image in front of the other party. One the other hand, adjustment can take a divergent approach whereby parties accentuate the differences (both social and linguistic) that exists between them. This is done with the intention of emphasizing the distinctiveness of each party.
Therefore, the communication accommodation theory predicts that when people start interacting, they will re-adjust themselves in order accommodate their peers. It also predicts that these adjustment is done with the intention to reduce social differences or accentuate the differences so that people can, hopefully, get along or constructively contribute to a certain common course.
This theory predictions were very true and accurate in the interactions between myself and my two group members. We were not very close previously and therefore when we were grouped together, we adjusted our communication elements. This adjustment took a convergent approach. As shown in my journal recordings, we adjusted our speech patterns and only talked about the things that we were all passionate about. For instance, the stress about the oncoming midterms as well as the impending internship. In addition, we met at common places such as Starbucks. All our interactions everyone were seemingly nice, and this could have been a communication adjustment to accommodate others. It was probable that one of us could not stand discussing exams, but they nevertheless adjusted themselves in order to accommodate the rest. I suspect this is what happened with MK when we were discussing about the oncoming midterms because when I asked if we could study together she did not respond which is an indication that she had only engaged in the conversation about exams because I had started it.
In regard to this, the predictions of the communication accommodation theory all came to fruition in my interactions with Dana and MK.
It is very clear that some of the theories advanced by sociologist to explain and predict human interaction and communications are viable and can be seen in daily human interactions. However, there are some whose predictions do not always come to fruition. In this essay, for example, it was seen how some of the predictions of the expectation violation theory came to fruition while others were not ultimately fulfilled in my interaction with the familiar person, Abdul. On the other hand, the predictions of theories of social penetration and communication proved to be true as evidenced by my interactions with the unfamiliar and acquainted unfamiliar person.
West, R., & Turner, L. (2009). Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis And Application Author: Richard West, Lynn Turner, Publisher: McGraw-Hill Human.