Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills

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

CHAPTER 1
EXPLICATING COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE
AS A THEORETICAL TERM
Steven R. Wilson
Purdue University
Christina M. Sabee
Fresno State University

There is a vast research literature on communicative competence. By searching the PsyInfo database in January 2000, using only the terms communicative competence and communication competence, we generated a list of 570 dissertations, articles, books, and book chapters. Although our list includes entries dating back to the mid-1950s, more than 90% of the works have been published since 1980, and 50% have appeared since 1990. A parallel search of PsyInfo using the broader term social competence produced 2,616 relevant works.

Research on communicative competence is diverse. Works on our list are authored by scholars from communication, psychology, sociolinguistics, human–computer interaction, child development, gerontology, education, speech disorders, social work, medicine, management, and marketing. Some investigate communicative competence within professional roles and relationships, such as competencies for teachers (e.g., Rubin & Feezel, 1986), health care providers (e.g., Cegala, Coleman, & Turner, 1998), patients (e.g., McGee & Cegala, 1998), organizations and their members (e.g., Jablin & Sias, 2001), and conflict mediators (e.g., Donohue, Allen, & Burrell, 1988). Others explore competence within personal relationships such as friendships (e.g., Collier, 1996) and families (e.g., Lindsey, Mize, & Pettit, 1997). Some specify competencies for students from preschool (e.g., Stohl, 1983) to college (National Communication Association, 1998). A burgeoning literature highlights competencies that facilitate intercultural interaction (e.g., Chen & Starosta, 1996; Wiseman & Koester, 1993).

Why have so many scholars, from so many fields, studied communicative competence within so many relational, institutional, and cultural contexts? Our hunch is that scholars, as well as the contemporary Western societies in which most live and work, widely accept the following tacit beliefs: (a) within any situation, not all things that can be said and done are equally competent; (b) success in personal and professional relationships depends, in no small part, on communicative competence; and (c) most

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