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COMMUNICATION COMPETENCE

Communication competence is the degree to which a communicators goals are achieved through effective and appropriate interaction. What is communication? For most people communication is simply talk. It is a natural event. Students enrolling in an introductory undergraduate communication course will quickly reference a convenient and aging dictionary when asked to define communication and provide the following: Communication is a process by which information is e changed between individuals through a common system of symbols! signs! or behavior" #$ebster! %&'(! p. )**+. ,he fundamental problem with defining communication as nothing more than information e change is that information e change is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for understanding the comple process of communication. ,he naive perspective which allows one to define communication as simple information e change suggests that one can simply define engineering as the art of managing engines" - a definition unlikely to resonate with most professionals who study mechanical! electrical! chemical! civil! or biological engineering. The field of communication focuses on how PEOPLE use MESSAGE to ene!ate MEANINGS within and ac!oss "a!ious CONTE#TS$ CULTU%ES$ C&ANNELS$ and ME'IA( $hen we communicate we transmit #as by speech! signals! writing! or behavior+ information #thoughts and emotions+ so that it is satisfactorily received and understood. .uman beings do not e change data-we understand information. Communication researchers refer to the process as sharing meaning" and prefer to define communication as the management of messages for the purpose of creating meaning. In other words! the goal of communication is shared meaning and the primary function of communication research is to generate new knowledge about how best to ma imi/e the achievement of goals.

0 goal is nothing more than something you want to achieve. Communication goals are linked to another person1s thoughts and feelings. ,here are at least three general types of communication goals:

Self 2resentation 3oals #who we are and how we want to be perceived+! )+ 4elational 3oals #how we develop! maintain! and terminate relationships+! and (+ Instrumental 3oals #how we manipulate others! gain compliance! manage interpersonal conflict! use and recogni/e interpersonal influence strategies #anchoring and contrast effects! reciprocity! commitment! liking! social proof! authority! and scarcity+! etc.+ It would be a gross misinterpretation of this goals5based perspective #often referred to as functional or strategic+ to assume that goal achievement is in some way synonymous with the darkside" and should! therefore! be critici/ed and abandoned because it has an evil connotation. It may be more comforting for some people to substitute needs" for goals" as did psychologist Schut/ #%&**+ when he identified three unique interpersonal needs" that all of us have: 0. 0ffection #a desire to e press and to receive love+! 6. Inclusion #a desire to be in the company of other people+ and C. Cont!ol #a desire to influence the events and people around us+. 0dditionally! goals need not be e plicit or premeditated. ,he conversation we have with a stranger on an airplane may not be the result of a premeditated e plicit goal-but nonetheless serve to fulfill an implicit need for inclusion and thus! be purposeful. Communication is! therefore! strategic in as much as it is goal5driven. Craig #%&'*+ writes! )it would *e +ointless not to assume that discou!se is in some sense and to some de !ee intentionall, di!ected towa!d oals) #p. )7)+. ,his perspective is shared by many prominent communication researchers #6erger %&&8! Canary 9 Cody! ):::; <ellermann! %&&); 4oloff 9 6erger! %&& +. ,he primary goal of small group communication is to share meaning which leads to effective decision5making and problem5solving. 6ut how does one determine the effectiveness and appropriateness of any given interaction= 0nd even more important! how do we know if communication is competent=

What is Communication Com+etence?


Initially! Spit/berg #%&''+ defined communication competence as >the ability to interact well with others> #p.*'+. .e e plains! >the term ?well? refers to accuracy! clarity! comprehensibility! coherence! e pertise! effectiveness and appropriateness> #p. *'+. 0

much more complete operationali/ation is provided by Friedrich #%&&8+ when he suggests that communication competence is best understood as >a situational ability to set realistic and appropriate goals and to ma imi/e their achievement by using knowledge of self! other! conte t! and communication theory togenerate adaptive communication performances.> Communicative competence is measured by determining if! and to what degree! the goals of interaction are achieved. 0s stated earlier! the function of communication is to ma imi/e the achievement of shared meaning." 2arks #%&'@+ emphasi/es three interdependent themes: control! responsibility! and foresight; and argues that to be competent! we must >not only ?know? and ?know how!? we must also ?do? and ?know that we did?> #p. %78+. .e defines communicative competence as >the degree to which individuals perceive they have satisfied their goals in a given social situation without Aeopardi/ing their ability or opportunity to pursue their other subAectively more important goals> #p. %7@+. ,his combination of cognitive and behavioral perspectives is consistent with $iemann and 6acklund1s #%&':+ argument that communication competence is: ,he ability of an interactant to choose among available communicative behaviors in order that he #sic+ may successfully accomplish his #sic+ own interpersonal goals during an encounter while maintaining the face and line of his #sic+ fellow interactants within the constraints of the situation. #p. %''+ 0 useful framework for understanding communication competence was designed by Spit/berg 9 Cupach #%&'8+ and is known as the component model of competence because it is comprised of three specific dimensions: motivation #an individual1s approach or avoidance orientation in various social situations+! knowledge #plans of action; knowledge of how to act; procedural knowledge+! and skill #behaviors actually performed+. ,he component model asserts that communication competence is mutually defined by by the interdependency of the cognitive component #concerned with knowledge and understanding+! the behavioral component #concerned with behavioral skills+! and the affective component #concerned with attitudes and feelings about the knowledge and behaviors+ by interactants in an interpersonal encounter within a specific conte t. 4ubin #%&'@+ e plains that communication competence is an impression formed about the appropriateness of another?s communicative behavior" and that one goal of the communication scholar is to understand how impressions about communication competence are formed! and to determine how knowledge! skill and motivation lead to perceptions of competence within various conte ts" #p. %7(+. $hen applying the component model to organi/ational communication conte ts! Shockley5Balabak #%&''+ divides motivation into two separate #though related+ elements: sensitivity #the ability to show concern and respect for others+ and commitment #the desire to avoid previous mistakes and find better ways of communicating through the process of self5monitoring+. ,his revised model consisting of four dimensions

#knowledge! skill! sensitivity! and commitment+ is used by 4othwell #%&&'+ to study communication competence in small group interaction. Cote that communicative competence is dependent on the conte t in which the interaction takes place #Cody and DcEaughlin! %&'@; 0pplegate and Eeichty! %&'8; 4ubin! %&'@+. Communication which is successful with one group in one situation! may not be perceived as competent with a different group in another situation. DcCroskey #%&')+ attempts to clarify the importance of competence when he writes! ,he domain of communicative competence includes learning what are the available means #available strategies+! how they have been employed in various situations in the past! and being able to determine which ones have the highest probability of success in a given situation #p. @+. Canary and Cody #):::+ provide si criteria for assessing competence which include! but are not limited to! perceived appropriateness and effectiveness. ,he criteria include adaptability! conversational involvement! conversational management! empathy! effectiveness! and appropriateness. ,hey are e plained in more detail below: SI# C%ITE%IA -O% ASSESSING COMMUNICATION COMPETENCE %. Ada+ta*ilit, .fle/i*ilit,0 The a*ilit, to chan e *eha"io!s and oals to meet the needs of inte!action com+!ised of si/ facto!s1 %. Social e perience 5 participation in various social interactions ). Social composure 5 refers to keeping calm through accurate perception (. Social confirmation 5 refers to acknowledgment of partner1s goals 8. 0ppropriate disclosure 5 being sensitive to amount and type of information @. 0rticulation 5 ability to e press ideas through language *. $it 5 ability to use humor in adapting to social situations; ease tensions ). Con"e!sational In"ol"ement a. 6ehavioral and cognitive activity b. Cognitive involvement demonstrated through interaction behaviors c. 0ssessed according to three factors %. 4esponsiveness 5 knowing what to say! know roles! interact ). 2erceptiveness 5 be aware of how others perceive you (. 0ttentiveness 5 listen! don1t be pre5occupied

2( Con"e!sational Mana ement a. .ow communicators regulate their interactions b. 0daptation and control of social situations c. $ho controls the interaction ebb and flow and how smoothly the interaction proceeds d. .ow topics proceed and change 3( Em+ath, a. ,he ability to demonstrate understanding and share emotional reactions to the situation b. Ceed not lead to helping" the other person c. Cognitive understanding d. 2arallel emotions @. Effecti"eness a. 0chieving the obAectives of the conversation b. 0chieving personal goals c. 0 fundamental criteria for determining competence *. a. b. Fpholding the 0 fundamental A++!o+!iateness e pectations for a given situation criteria for determining competence

Communication competence involves both knowledge and performance. 0 competent communicator has acquired #and continues to acquire+ appropriate knowledge of the principles #norms or rules+ of human communication relevant to his or her e perience of communicating in various cultural settings. In addition! a competent communicator has #and continues to develop+ the ability to perform appropriately in these settings! taking a wide range of factors into account. Gou might be competent in some areas of communication but not in others. Gou may know certain rules of communication5 effectiveness but be unable to perform in accordance with these rules in real life; you cannot demonstrate communication competence in that situation. For e ample! you might know the principles of public speaking but not be able to deliver an effective speech! possibly because you lack practice. Cote that academic and applied interest in communication competence is a $estern attitude that may not be shared by people from other cultures. Communication competence itself is a $estern concept. 3iven the priority placed on demonstrating high5level communication skills in many workplaces! you should continue to develop communication competence throughout your life. Gou can do this by accepting communication challenges! being willing to reflect on your communication performances and asking others for feedback on your communication abilities.

$estern values of relating credibility to perceptions of individual e pertise! trustworthiness and dynamism. In some communication conte ts! credibility may not be demonstrated by behaving as an individual with energy and dynamism! but rather by being quiet! reserved and respectful and by fitting in with the protocol of a group. 0 preliminary study carried out in Cew Bealand! for instance! indicated that in Daori communities a credible and competent communicator is one who is able to connect with others as a member of a wider group! knows and uses correct behaviours and procedures for the conte t! uses rich and poetic language including proverbs! tells stories! and attends to the comfort of communicators. For communication conte ts in which you are involved! you are the one who will decide how to respond to feedback from others and even whether you will pay attention to some of the wide variety of communication cues present in any situation. Hducators who conduct training for Aob5selection interviews help their clients to ?be themselves? and also to monitor verbal and non5verbal cues in the interview. ,raining #often with video replay+ includes practicing alternative ways of responding so that Aob seekers gain confidence in representing their knowledge! skills and e perience appropriately in what is often a very stressful communication conte t. ,his would be an e ample of a conte t in which self5monitoring of appearance and behaviour can indicate communication competence. Im+!o"in communication com+etence Gou can use the following checklist of specific aspects of interpersonal communication to review your communication competence. Chec4list of inte!+e!sonal communication s4ills Pe!sonal +!esentation I Jress appropriately. I Donitor personal grooming. I Fse presentation aids: tools! computer and audiovisual technology. I Donitor punctuality. Listenin s4ills I Concentrate on what the other person is saying rather than your solution. I Jemonstrate listening by attentive body posture. I H press empathy for the other person?s thoughts and feelings. 5uestionin s4ills I 0sk open and closed questions to e plore and focus. I 0sk enough questions to clarify and check your understanding of the other person?s meaning. O!al6+!esentation s4ills

I 2repare what you want to say. I Focus on key information. I 6e sensitive to the cultural conte t and protocol of the situation. I State your point of view politely and tactfully. I Speak clearly with variety and emphasis. I Donitor feedback and adapt as appropriate. Custome!6se!"ice s4ills I 6e accessible and listen to the customer with empathy. I Create a helping climate and build rapport. I 0cknowledge the customer?s point of view. I .ave a good knowledge of products! services and contracts. I 0dmit mistakes! as appropriate! and offer solutions. S4ills fo! wo!4in in teams I Contribute information. I Donitor progress and keep team members informed of developments. I Clarify obAectives. I Support each other. I Seek feedback on the team?s efforts. I 3ive feedback to people who might be supporting the team #for e ample administrative staff! colleagues! relatives+.