Natural Bridges in Interpersonal Communication
eBook - ePub

Natural Bridges in Interpersonal Communication

Randy Fujishin

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  1. 232 pages
  2. English
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  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Natural Bridges in Interpersonal Communication

Randy Fujishin

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About This Book

Randy Fujishin's Natural Bridges in Interpersonal Communication, Second Edition is a concise, practical, and reader-friendly book that introduces students to the basic concepts and skills of interpersonal communication.

The book presents the fundamental tools necessary to effectively communicate in face-to-face and online interactions in personal and professional life settings. Fujishin's approachable writing style engages students, inviting them to consider how best to approach their own opportunities to communicate with others. New to this edition, each chapter includes a discussion of foundational research, with suggestions for further reading and online resources.

This textbook is designed for Communication Studies, Business, and Career and Trade courses at the community college and four-year university level.

Online instructor materials that accompany the book include an instructor manual, sample exams, and a sample class schedule.

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Building Bridges to Others

There’s a story about a traveler who came upon a bridge to a city and saw an elderly man sitting near the entrance to the bridge.
“Old man, tell me what the people are like in your city,” insisted the traveler. “Well,” asked the elderly man, “what were the people like in the city you’re from?” “They were cold, untrustworthy, and hateful,” snapped the traveler with a frown. “You will find the people are the same here also.”
“If that’s the case,” grumbled the traveler, “I’ll just continue my journey elsewhere.” With those words, the traveler turned and walked away.
Later that day, another traveler came upon the same bridge. Seeing the elderly man he greeted him warmly, “Hello, friend! What are the people like in your city?”
“Well,” asked the elderly man, “what were the people like in the city you’re from?”
“They were welcoming, trustworthy, and loving,” smiled the traveler.
“You will find the people are the same here also,” the elderly man smiled in return.
The traveler gently touched the old man’s shoulder and said, “Thank you for your kind words, friend. I think I’m going to love meeting the people in your city.”
And as the traveler stepped onto the bridge, the elderly man whispered to himself, “And they will love meeting you.”
During your journey on earth you will encounter many people and you will have an impact on each individual you meet along the way. Whether it’s a neighborhood acquaintance, a colleague at work, a good friend, a family member, or even a stranger on a bridge, you will either enlarge or diminish the person each time you interact.
Even your most fleeting exchange can have a positive or negative impact on another person. And over the span of your life, the accumulation of all your interactions with others will determine, to a great extent, the quality of your life.
Every time you communicate with another person you either enlarge or diminish that individual. The first traveler’s harsh tone, frown, and terse response were reflected in the elderly man’s prediction that the traveler would find the people across the bridge cold, untrustworthy, and hateful.
The second traveler’s friendly greeting, smile, positive response, and gentle touch were also reflected in the elderly man’s prediction that he would find the people across the bridge welcoming, trustworthy, and loving.
The same city, yet each traveler would experience entirely different people based on his communication behavior toward them. You have the choice to build a bridge and not a barrier to another person.
A recent study of 2,000 individuals found that “Communication skills were the most important factors in developing and maintaining healthy, satisfying relationships” (Epstein, 2013). Far more important than level of education, income, and age, a person’s interpersonal communication skills were perceived by the majority of respondents as most essential in relationship development and satisfaction.
Communication skills are so powerful that they influence and shape our behaviors with one another. One study found that people have a tendency to adopt or mimic the postures, gestures, mannerisms, and verbal cues of their interaction partners without conscious awareness (Chartrand, 2003). This might explain why the old man in our opening story predicted that the two travelers would experience very different relationships with people in the same town, since others would reflect or mimic the very different communication behaviors of the travelers. People often mirror your behaviors back to you over time.
The single most important skill you will learn in this life is the ability to communicate effectively and lovingly with other human beings. Not just with your loved ones and friends, but also with everyone you encounter each day of your life: the cashier at the 7-Eleven, the colleague at work, the waitress at Denny’s, the salesclerk at Sears, the next-door neighbor, and the kid selling magazines at your front door. All these people and more make up the fabric of your life’s tapestry. No matter how fleeting or extended the exchange, your willingness and ability to communicate effectively and lovingly in each instance will establish a bridge to another person.
Family therapist Virginia Satir has suggested that “once a human being has arrived on this earth, communication is the single most important factor determining what kinds of relationships he makes and what happens to him in the world.”
The two travelers will experience vastly different life journeys because of their willingness or unwillingness to reach out, connect, and enlarge others. What kind of a life journey will you have?
Your journey on earth is brief. No matter what you think at this moment, life will race past you with ever-increasing speed and eventually you’ll come to the realization that what was important wasn’t the kind of house you lived in, the car you drove, or the jobs you had.
What will have mattered were your relationships with other people. Did you make a positive difference in the lives of others? Did you pay attention to others? Did you spend time with others? Were you supportive and encouraging? Did you listen more than talk? Did you smile? Did you hug? Were you kind in words and deeds? Could you laugh at yourself? Did you offer friendship? Did you overlook wrongs and forgive? Did you believe in others, even when they didn’t believe in themselves? In short, did you build bridges or barriers to others during your life?
Have you ever attended a funeral or memorial service? The tributes and testimonies always focus on the degree to which the deceased individual invested time, effort, and love in others. Did the person connect with others in meaningful ways during this life? Did the person build bridges in this lifetime that span death itself to those who are left?
Whether it is the spouse, a family member, a good friend, or a mere acquaintance sharing a story, the focus of their memories centers on the theme of connection and love. The speakers don’t speak of material possessions, fame, or power. They talk about the deceased’s ability and willingness to reach out and make a positive difference in the lives of others—to build bridges, not barriers, during life’s journey.
A small act of caring, the gift of listening, a helping hand, an act of support, an encouraging word, a hug, and an uplifting smile—that’s what they remember. And that’s what they will remember about you, if you are willing and able to build those positive connections to others.
The purpose of this book is to help you build bridges in your interpersonal communication in natural, easy ways. Like the second traveler, you will use simple skills to welcome, connect with, and enlarge others in your daily interactions. Nothing too complicated or difficult. They don’t require extensive scholarship, exceptional gifting, or unusual sacrifice.
You will learn basic communication concepts that will help you understand what happens when two people speak and listen to each other. You will be introduced to skills that will enable you to communicate effectively with others in ways that enlarge, encourage, and even inspire.
The communication skills are pretty easy actually. You probably have mastered some of the skills already. But there are many new communication behaviors and strategies that you will learn, practice, and implement in your everyday interpersonal communication.
Although these new skills might seem unusual or feel awkward at first, with practice and time each skill will become second nature to you. You’ll find yourself building bridges to others with greater frequency, ease, and desire. They will, over time, become natural bridges to others.
If you keep an open mind and heart, you’ll discover these skills will not only improve your interpersonal communication, but they’ll also be fun to put into practice. People will notice a difference in you. They might even bring your new behaviors to your attention by saying, “There’s something different about you—a nice difference.” And there will be, if you use these concepts and skills and reach out to others in positive, enlarging ways.
Effective interpersonal communication is more than just sending and receiving accurate messages with another person. It can give you the opportunities to enlarge rather than diminish, to build up rather than tear down, to make a positive difference in each life you touch every day of your life.
You will reap the benefits that are produced when you can understand and be understood by others in every aspect of your interpersonal life. Effective interpersonal communication will also provide you with greater effectiveness and satisfaction in your personal, professional, and civic life, when you can skillfully and genuinely connect with people, one-on-one, in face-to-face interactions, with openness, flexibility, and kindness. It will provide you with the skills to build natural bridges to others.
Let’s begin by looking at the basics of communication.

The Process of Communication

What are we talking about when we speak of communication? Well, there are many different definitions of communication, but for our purposes we’re going to use a simple, yet very helpful, definition that will make it easier for us to understand and improve our everyday interpersonal interactions. Communication is the process of transmitting messages to create shared meaning. The basic goal of communication is for two people to hold the same picture of an idea or feeling in their separate minds. The two of them share its meaning accurately and effectively, without distortion or misunderstanding.
If one person has a picture of a bridge in his mind and wants to communicate that idea or picture to another person so she shares his meaning, he will attempt to convey or transmit that image to her. He will create a message using words and behaviors so they will ultimately share the same picture in their minds—accomplishing the goal of communication. Notice how the process of communication unfolds in this example.
“I’ve been thinking about a bridge lately,” Paul said. “And maybe that’s where…”
“Since when did you like playing cards?” Sue interrupted.
“No, not bridge the card game, I mean a bridge you can drive on.”
“Oh, you mean a real bridge,” she smiled. “Like the Manhattan Bridge?”
“Well, sort of,” he continued. “I was thinking of the Golden Gate Bridge.”
“You mean the one in San Francisco?”
“That very same bridge,” Paul smiled. “I was thinking we might go there for our anniversary.”
“Really! That’s a wonderful idea!” Sue shouted. “I can see it already—taking our picture with the Golden Gate in the background! But can we afford to go?”
“Surprise!” he beamed. “Here are the plane tickets to San Francisco! Happy anniversary!”
Did you see how Paul had a specific bridge in his mind and Sue misunderstood his initial statement? Then they both created a shared picture or meaning after some back-and-forth clarification, so eventually they both envisioned the Golden Gate Bridge in their minds. Communication completed. This simple example lets us see what happens when two people communicate interpersonally. And this occurs hundreds of times every day of your life.
Some communication events are simpler than this example and some are more complex, but the process of transmitting and receiving messages so you both share the same meaning is the process of communication at work.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Communication can be divided into two forms or dimensions—verbal and nonverbal. You use both forms in the messages you send and receive.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is all spoken and written communication. Two people discussing the weather while standing in line at Costco, a mother giving advice to her son about what characteristics to look for in a friend, a speaker delivering a presentation to a large audience, and even a student reading a textbook are all examples of verbal communication.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is all communication that is not spoken or written. It’s your tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, movement, clothing, body type, eye contact, and even how you wear your baseball cap. It’s also your us...

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