Fujishin, Randy. Natural Bridges: A Guide to Interpersonal Communication. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Pp. xvi, 189. ISBN-13 978-0-205-82425-0; ISBN-10 0-205-82425-0 (paper) $50.20.
Of the many areas of communication studies, students typically flock to courses in interpersonal communication, seeing in them practical guides to friendship, relationships, and life rather than fascinating approaches to some of the most complex aspects of communication. Perhaps this is only natural, as our interests form not with theory but with practice and over time move to a deeper desire to understand our communication behaviors. Randy Fujishin's Natural Bridges offers a thorough introduction to interpersonal communication from the former perspective. Written for students in an introductory course, it takes a conversational, life-coaching stance: How can a young person become a better communicator with friends, family, loved ones? What practical advice can we glean from communication theory to make life better? His first words in Chapter 1 signal the approach of the book:
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. (p. 1)
This approach puts Fujishin in the role of a trusted older mentor, one who will safely guide students through interpersonal communication on a very practical level.
The book addresses the key areas of interpersonal communication in 10 chapters, making it ideal for a course on the quarter system, with its 10-week term. Each chapter follows a similar design: a story, a commentary on the story, examples of key concepts, definitions of each, explanation, and exercises. Chapter 1 explains what interpersonal communication entails, defining verbal and nonverbal communication, offering three very traditional models of communication (linear, interactional, and transactional), explaining six principles of communication, and discussing the qualities of effective interpersonal communication. Subsequent chapters break these areas down into more detail.
Chapter 2 draws on psychological studies to examine perception and its different factors. Fujishin provides practical ways to increase the accuracy of perception. He then turns to self-concept as a kind of self-perception and suggests ways for the student to become more self-reflective. Chapter 3 looks at verbal communication, identifying keys principles and levels of communication (surface talk, reporting facts, giving opinions, and sharing feelings). Building on this, the chapter ends with the idea of self-disclosure and its importance in relationships. The next chapter turns to nonverbal communication. Following …