The Influence of Interpersonal Communication Variables on Group Communication Satisfaction

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of the current study is to investigate the effects of the interpersonal communication concepts of willingness to communicate, self-monitoring, and loneliness on the group outcome of communication satisfaction. Although a significant body of research exists in the communication literature on communication satisfaction, comparatively little attention has been given to the effects of communication behavior on this group outcome.

It is intuitively obvious that communication behavior would have a major impact on satisfaction. Researchers frequently assume that effective communication skills facilitate the development and maintenance of successful, satisfying relationships (McCroskey, Daly, Richmond & Cox, 1975). People engaging in interactions look for cues/feedback from others to let them know what kind of impression they are making (Bandura, 1977; Carver, 1979). For instance, if a conversational partner looks involved and attentive, a person is likely to infer the partner finds the conversation interesting, which would increase the satisfaction with the interaction. On the other hand, if the partner seems uninvolved and inattentive, a person is likely to infer the partner finds the conversation uninteresting, which may promote a lack of satisfaction.

The group outcome in this study--communication satisfaction-- is grounded theoretically. It has been associated with mental health (Rogers, 1961), feelings of competence and efficiency (Bochner & Kelly, 1974), and successful interaction (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959). Satisfaction is an emotion people experience when they are successful in their pursuits, and it plays a central role in humanistic (Rogers, 1961), social exchange (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959), and physiological (Clynes, 1978) approaches to communication. These theorists are united in their belief that effective communicators experience greater satisfaction.

WILLINGNESS TO COMMUNICATE

In American culture, interpersonal communication is highly valued. Individuals are evaluated in large part on the basis of their communication behavior. Although talk is a vital component in interpersonal communication and the development of interpersonal relationships, people differ greatly in the degree to which they communicate. Some individuals tend to speak only when they are spoken to; others speak constantly.

The concept of an individual's tendency and frequency of communication has been reported in the research in the social sciences for over half a century (Borgatta & Bales, 1953; Goldman-Eisler, 1951). More recently, this variability in talking behavior has been linked to a personality-based predisposition termed "Willingness to Communicate" (McCroskey & Richmond, 1987; Richmond & McCroskey, 1989).

Underlying the willingness to communicate construct is the assumption that it is relatively consistent across a variety of communication contexts and types of receivers (McCroskey & Richmond, 1990). Thus, it is presumed that the level of a person's willingness to communicate in one communication context (like talking in a small group) is correlated with the person's willingness to communicate in other communication contexts (such as giving a speech, talking in meetings, and talking in dyads). It is also presumed that the level of a person's willingness to communicate with one type of receiver (like friends) is correlated with the person's willingness to communicate with other types of receivers (such as acquaintances and strangers) (McCroskey & Richmond, 1990).

Empirical data indicates that willingness to communicate is a personality-type characteristic that often has a major impact on interpersonal communication in a wide variety of environments (Richmond & Roach, 1992). High willingness to communicate is associated with increased frequency and amount of communication, which are, in turn, associated with a wide variety of positive communication outcomes. …