Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills

By John O. Greene; Brant R. Burleson | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Communication processes are a source of fascination for scholars and laypersons alike. Our collective penchant for inspecting, explicating, and critiquing this uniquely human activity is remarkable, on one hand, for its enduring character (being the object of two millennia of recorded intellectual scrutiny), and on the other, for the panoply specific phenomena, philosophical perspectives, and theoretical frameworks brought to bear in this endeavor. And yet, there is a thread that runs through all this work—over the centuries and across the spectrum of thought. This unifying theme is a concern with skill—the notion that communication may be done “well” or “poorly”—and skill enhancement, the idea that individuals, properly informed or trained, might come to “do it better. ”

The focus on communication skill is doubtless due, in part, to the fact that much communication is a pragmatic enterprise—directed at accomplishing an array of practical tasks (e.g., negotiating treaties to resolve armed conflicts between nations, conveying information clearly in the classroom, winning votes in popular elections, consoling a sad friend, preserving one's property and freedom in courts of law, enhancing cohesiveness in work teams, settling on a price for potatoes in the village marketplace). But the importance of communication skills does not stem entirely from the influence they exert in accomplishing such specific, situation-bound objectives. Beyond these narrower ends, professional success, relationship satisfaction, personal fulfillment, psychological well-being, and even physical health depend upon the social interaction skills of the individual—and those of his or her associates and interlocutors.

In light of the importance of communication skills, it is hardly surprising that they have been a continuing object of study by scholars and researchers from numerous disciplines, including virtually every branch of communication (e.g., interpersonal, group, organizational, health, public, mass), several areas of psychology (cognitive, social, clinical, developmental, and industrial), as well as a variety of other disciplines, including education, family studies, business management, and nursing. Scholars investigate public speaking, group discussion, listening, persuasion, conflict management, explaining, organizational leadership, social support, relationship

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