Men Talk: An Exploratory Study of Communication Patterns and Communication Apprehension of Black and White Males
Jordan-Jackson, Felecia F., Davis, Kimberly A., The Journal of Men's Studies
Black talk, White talk. Is there still a difference? If so, who takes the initiative to make adjustments when communicating with the other? It is often assumed that the dominant culture, being the one in power, dictates social norms including those related to communication; therefore, if anyone makes an adjustment in communication patterns, it would be the cultural "underdog," the group without power (Hall & Freedle, 1975; Hewitt, 1986; Johnson & Buttny, 1982; Kochman, 1981; Rich, 1974). Although this argument seems logical, more recent studies have suggested that in the case of Blacks and Whites communicating, factors other than race may have a strong influence on communication patterns. For example, Booth-Butterfield and Jordan (1989) found that both Black and White women converged their communication when changing from a racially homogeneous group to a racially heterogeneous group. This pattern suggests a change in behavior, and possibly a change in focus and attitude, from those found when earlier studies on interracial communication were conducted (see Cohen, 1972; Katz & Cohen, 1962; Katz, Goldston, & Benjamin, 1958; Katz & Lawrence, 1960).
In a time when community, governmental, and academic institutions are focusing on issues associated with culture and diversity, it is important not to lose sight of the basic yet pertinent issues of communication because it is through communication that norms and values of a culture are reflected, transformed, and delivered. By examining communication we might tap into how far we have come in our battle of racial and cultural equality and, equally if not more important, how far we have to go. Ultimately, studying this aspect of communication may promote understanding of ways to promote effectiveness in interethnic communication (Hecht, Ribeau, & Alberts, 1989).
EMPIRICAL RATIONALE AND LITERATURE REVIEW
Interracial communication, particularly between Blacks and Whites, has been the focus of a plethora of research over the years. Much of the earlier research on the topic indicated that there are differences in communication patterns and styles between Blacks and Whites (Gudykunst & Hammer, 1987; Kochman, 1981; Pennington, 1979). When considering differences in Black and White communication patterns and styles, we must consider how at times in U.S. history there was blatant intolerance of behavior that was different from that of the cultural norm. Racial integration in school, business, and society contributed to how people of different races interacted with each other. One might reason that Blacks would feel powerless and tentative in their communication with Whites, and in turn Blacks would be perceived as less efficient and less competent than their White counterparts. Although it is apparent that communication differences still exist among Blacks and Whites in general and between Black and White males in particular, the type of differences we find today may deviate from those indicated at certain points in our history. Today, it would be interesting and useful to examine what communication patterns are occurring among and between White and Black males who are, for all intents and purposes, of equal status. To this end, this study examines communication of Black and White males as they interact in racially homogeneous and racially heterogeneous groups. More specifically, this examination seeks to identify how racial composition of a group and dyad affects communication patterns of acquainted and unacquainted men. Accommodation Theory, Uncertainty Reduction Theory, and Communication Apprehension are used here to help explain anticipated behaviors.
The central notion of accommodation theory "... is that during interaction individuals are motivated to adjust (or accommodate) their speech styles as a strategy for gaining... the following goals: evoking listeners' social approval, attaining communicational efficiency between interactants, and maintaining positive social identities" (Giles, Mulac, Bradac, & Johnson, 1987, p. …