Driving the evolution of human communication is the absolute necessity for humans to be able to communicate effectively with each other, as we are a social species, seriously needing and wanting interaction with others.
Psychological research has shown that people, who remain isolated from others, whether self-imposed or forced, suffer depression, anxiety, lowered immune system functioning and a shorter lifespan. In other words, the importance of communication among humans in regards to living a full and healthy life is just as important as having water and food.
Types of Communication
Through verbal and nonverbal communication efforts, we attempt to inform others how we feel, what we are thinking and what we expect of them. We do this to satisfy a desire or need that we think will make us happy or at least provide us with a sense of gratification, albeit temporary.
Things we do frequently when engaged in both styles of human communication involve:
- Persuasion can be rational and fact-oriented or irrational and based on a subjective, emotional perspective
- Advising others for unselfish or self-serving reasons
- Asking questions for information or clarification
- Expressing emotions to emphasis a point we are trying to make
- Attempting to gain power over another
Since the beginning of civilization, social scientists, philosophers, and psychologists have used various theories and approaches in an attempt to understand human communication. They attempt to understand how, why and what type of communication conveys the complex contents of one brain to another completely separate brain.
Popular communication theories include:
- Two-step flow of communication -- Also called the "Multistep Flow Model,” this theory suggests humans formulate the majority of their opinions from information that is communicated by "opinion leaders.” These are people in power who have been influenced by newspapers, television, magazines and other mass media outlets
- Narrative paradigm -- Developed by Walter Fisher, the narrative paradigm asserts that all meaningful human communication consists of providing a "story" or line of events that we have experienced. In other words, this theory claims that we can only understand reality through its characters, conflicts, ends and beginnings, thus basing our interpersonal communication styles on our view of reality as an ongoing story.
- Social Exchange Theory -- Theorists promoting the Social Exchange Theory state that the driving force behind human relationships is self-interest and gratifying the needs of the self. However, this does not mean that being interested in only the self is a bad thing, especially when conflict is involved. According the SET, self-interest may improve a relationship by providing each party with what they were seeking before the exchange by using good communication skills.
- Uncertainty Reduction Theory -- When two people, who have never met, or hardly know each other, must interact, the intrapersonal communication styles of both parties usually focus on trying to eliminate the high uncertainty level existing between them. Not knowing what another person is going to say or do seems almost dangerous to us, causing feelings of nervousness and wariness. The communication styles among people who are strangers or near-strangers will therefore be superficial, concealed and limited to only what is necessary.
As a relatively new kind of theory arising from the growth of the Internet, virtual communication theory deals with how we communicate with others in cyberspace, or over a computer, without being able to view the nonverbal aspects of communication. In addition, sociologists also study the effect that proximity has when people communicate over the Internet using instant messaging, chat rooms or webcams.
Interestingly, research has found that communication styles differ drastically between two people who are standing next to each other and two people who are not physically together. It also appears that physical separation and not being able to interpret non-verbal communication is less inhibiting than the old-fashioned way of human communication, allowing people who interact online to say things they normally would not say to each other.
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