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PRELIMINARIES.

DISCURSIVE PRACTICES

Foucault uses the concept of discursive practices or discursive constitutions in the


definition of discourse. A discursive practice in foucauldian terms is "the process through
which [dominant] reality comes into being".
According to Parker1

Discursive practice takes us through the ‘turn to language’ and ‘turn to


discourse’ to a conception of language as materially effective.

Within the Critical Discourse Analysis tradition, where discourse is defined as


language use in social practice, starting from the idea that discourses are forms of social
practice, Fairclough (1992:71) considers that discourse is "a specifically discursive practice”
and that discursive practice is itself a form of social practice. Thus,

Any discursive ‘event’(that is, any instance of discourse) is seen as being


simultaneously a piece of text, an instance of discursive practice, and an
instance of social practice. The ‘text’ dimension attends to language analysis
of texts. The ‘discursive practice’ dimension …specifies the nature of the
processes of text production and interpretation, for example which types of
discourse…are drawn upon and how they are combined. The ‘social practice’
dimension attends to issues of concern in social analysis such as the
institutional and organizational circumstances of the discursive event and how
that shapes the nature of the discursive practice. (Fairclough, 1992:4)

The analysis of discursive practice includes "how participants to interaction interpret and
produce texts.”(Tischer&Jenner)2 and
The discursive practice approach offers a new framework by which to
examine…texts – instead of examining texts as bounded and stable objects of
analysis, texts should be viewed as sites of discursive practices.(Allen&Hill)3

In Young`s opinion (2008:3)


Discursive practices are recurring episodes of social interaction in context,
episodes that are of social and cultural significance to a community of
speakers. Such episodes have been called interactive practices (Hall, 1995),
communicative practices (Hanks, 1996), while Tracy (2002) and Young (2007,
2008, 2009) use the term discursive practice.

1
Parker, I. Discursive Practice. Analysis, Context and Action in Critical Research – from
http.://www.discourseunit.com/papers/parker_papers/2004%20IJCP%20Discursive%20Practice.pdf
2
Titscher, S.&B.Jenner. Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis: In Search of Meaning -
fromhttps://books.google.ro/books?id=qpaVYyn5Jj8C&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=discursive+practice+faircl
ough&source=bl&ots=5dOMKcnWOt&sig=wyZG8gIjl7L8A5W1S_Y6PgCVMZ8&hl=ro&sa=X&ei=KsmmVL
HuC-nLygOfo4H4Cw&ved=0CB4Q6AEwADgU#v=onepage&q=discursive%20practice%20fairclough&f
=false
3
Allen, R.C. &A. Hill.The Television Studies Reader- from https://books.google.ro/books?id=
pf5QEQkbePsC&pg=PA174&lpg=PA174&dq=discursive+practice+approach&source=bl&ots=_FuZQGm7HM
&sig=J3FavTBanZEZctCTX2n4vpIODwY&hl=ro&sa=X&ei=Ms-mVL29BIWvUfK7gqgL&ved=0CGwQ6AE
wCDgK#v=onepage&q=discursive%20practice%20approach&f=false

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There has been considered that "the discursive practice approach is grounded in four
insights concerning discourse
a) the affirmation that social realities are linguistically/discursively constructed;
b) the appreciation of the context-bound nature of discourse;
c) the idea of discourse as social action;
d) the understanding that meaning is negotiated in interaction, rather than being present
once-and-for-all in our utterances. "4
The basis of a discursive practice approach is the insistence that discourse is action (it
accomplishes something) and not merely representation. The analyst must attend constantly to
what is being accomplished through the discourse.
Thus, "… the interactional resources that participants draw upon in constructing a
discursive practice can be summarized as:
 participants construct the boundaries of the practice
 they sequence actions
 they have strategies for taking turns
 they construct a participation framework
 they construct a register of practice-specific lexis and syntax
 they make meaning in a way that is specific to the Practice". 5

4
Discursive practice - http://www.anthropology.hawaii. edu/department/ specializations/
discursive/discursive.html
5
Communicative interaction and discursive practices -http://www.english. wisc. edu/rfyoung/336/ci and dp.pdf

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I. SOCIAL INTERACTION. VERBAL INTERACTION

I.1. Defining concepts

Objectives:
After reading this chapter students will be able to:
1. Define the term interaction
2. Make the difference between social interaction and verbal interaction
3. Define and illustrate different types of verbal interactions

There is a fundamental, powerful and universal desire amongst humans


to interact with others. (Hargie, 2011)

In a broad sense, the term interaction designates an action/a process that occurs when
two (or more) things/phenomena influence each other/one another.
It has become the object of study of sociology, psychology, biology, communication studies
and linguistics.
Etymologically - interaction involves mutual meetings. These meetings are based on a
system of rules that allow individuals to signal their presence, to “occupy” positions, to
manage turns to speak, to develop or end the interaction.
The issue of interaction gives rise to the term "individual" (person) (Goffman, 1973:19)
because it represents the meeting place of the individual with the Other/Others.
Interaction significance, as well as its forms, depends on the status and role assumed
by each individual, as these elements determine the manner in which others are perceived and
treated. The process of role taking is at the basis of the socialization process of the individual
who occupies a "place" and "requires" explicitly or implicitly that his/her dialogue partner
occupy a symmetrical or complementary role, because only thus they can perform an
exchange.
Interaction also means a complex game of mutual expectations in which subjects
constitute their identity.
Its functions are:
 the construction of social reality and social identity;
 the building of social relationships;
 the construction of meaning.
The interlocutors are transmitters of information and they engage in an activity based
on joint efforts meant to achieve verbal and behavioral cooperation. Any type of behaviour
becomes the message that must be decoded according to internal and external factors of the
communication situation.
The activity of each individual is conceived, organized and carried out according to the
presence and the activity of the Other (called "you" – i.e. a socially integrated individual) who
must not and cannot be missing, because he/she is the one who ensures the dialogic nature of
communication. Thus, the speaker always takes into account the presence of the Other ("...
any speech is addressed") (Jacques, 1979:152).
Bange (1992:211) considers that through reciprocity (of images, expectations and
motivation), the "Other" is acknowledged as an effective and active interlocutor and,
according to a principle of risk-taking (underpinning any type of activity), he/she will be
drawn into an exchange of information, into a dynamic and complex situational awareness of
the issue, partner, self-knowledge and self-defining in relation to those around him/her. Each
speaker is seeking to understand the other one, expresses his/her degree of understanding,
interprets his/her partner`s activity and demonstrates understanding explicitly or implicitly.

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In order to do this, he/she resorts to a wide range of semiotic codes (the verbal, nonverbal
and paraverbal ones).
It was Goodman (1992) who considered that communication is a vehicle for interaction.

The social interaction. In Goffman`s opinion, microsocilogy or social interaction

… is the process by which we act and react to those around us. In a nutshell,
social interaction includes those acts people perform toward each other and
the responses they give in return.

Social interactions are complex in their manifestations and interrelationships.


These interactions can involve smiling, talking, or winking; threatening,
fighting, or debating; and negotiating, discussing, or litigating. The
interactions can be overt or covert, active or passive, brief or long-lived. They
can be organized, unorganized, or disorganized, direct or indirect, shallow or
intense, narrow or universal. And so on. (Rummel)6

Rummel introduces the difference between manifest social interactions (manifests),


understood as “…specific behaviors we perceive”and latents – “The complex of potentialities,
dispositions, determinants, and powers which underlie our manifest reality.”
He also mentions the fact that “The meaning of social interaction involves
understanding such behavior as act, action, or practice.” Starting from Schutz( 1967), which
he cites, Rummel defines the three concepts. Thus, in his opinion, actions are … “behaviors
leading to the accomplishment of some intention”; the act represents “the “behavior
describing the intention itself”, while practice incorporates the behavior that is customary,
conventional, habitual, rule following, normative, or moral.”

The social interaction presupposes a common territory, a desire of sharing information, a


sort of equilibrium between accomplishment of personal needs and the other`s needs.
Any social interaction is characterized by several distinct features; among them, there
are
a) the desire of "meeting the Other" within a common territory, with the aim of
sharing information about the self and about the world in general;
b) the desire to establish a connection/relationship with each other, based on respect
for mutual goals.
Analysing a social interaction means taking into consideration some important aspects,
such as:
 the participants` activity of making linguistic choices (selection of structures,
registers and styles) and coding information, as well as their activity of decoding
messages in various contexts;
 the speaker`s permanent adjustment to his partner (this can be noticed at the level
of the interactional skills that individuals possess or acquire, as well as at the level
of the strategies they choose in order to accomplish their interactional goals);
 the participants` reciprocal activity of evaluation of knowledge, attitudes,
(verbal/nonverbal/paraverbal) behaviour.
c) the existence of both consensus and conflict in interaction.

McQuail (1999) distinguishes between social interaction and communicative interaction.

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Rummel, R.J. Understanding conflict and war https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills /NOTE10.HTM

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The social interaction (a permanent feature of all societies) is a framework and support for
the verbal interaction. It can be made up of gestures only; made up of gestures and words or
made up of words only.
The term has in view the “meeting” between two/more individuals, as well as the
mutual recognition cues they exchange; interaction is thus a dynamic process.
Interaction means mutual agreement. It is a co-ordination/co-operation between
individuals; it allows them to play their everyday social roles and, at the same time, to set into
motion images, through their behaviour.
An ongoing process/action can be adjusted (or not) by the verbal activity, that
becomes a verbal interaction.

Verbal interactions represent “a set of interactions in which participants have the


opportunity to become enunciators." (Vion, 1992:132)
During the interaction, participants occupy certain “positions”; their reciprocal
positioning is to be noticed (Bonta, 2004 b: 22) at the level of
 the locutor`s self-involvement activity;
 the tone the locutor uses;
 the individual`s attitude and whole behaviour;
 the degree of taking into account the interlocutor`s words;
 the nature of the listening cues;
 the use of positioning markers.
The verbal interaction is only a subcategory/particular aspect of the social interaction;
it involves, as the name denotes, verbal exchanges between participants. The interaction
depends on the relationships established between the two individuals and, at the same time, it
affects this relationship. The messages vary greatly on the people involved in interaction. The
nonverbal cues need to be taken into consideration too, as they add meaning, clarify it or even
change it.
The term verbal interaction suggests the mutual determination and explicit or implicit
consent, an action exercised by the speaker/locutor on the receiver/interlocutor, and vice versa.
According to Kerbrat-Orecchioni

…all verbal interactions can be considered as a series of events that


make up a" text "produced in a determined context. (1992:29)

Participants to verbal interactions have defined conversational goals (even if they


often show divergent interests), as well as voluntary or involuntary signs of mutual
recognition, a desire for cooperation and negotiation of meanings, of interactional positions
and of the distance between them during interaction.
Their verbal or nonverbal feedback during interactional exchanges reveals their level
of understanding or agreement, assesses, stimulates the exchange, and offers reward
(encourages the verbal interaction partner during the communicative activity) or penalty
(discourages further exchanges or certain communicative movements, behaviours/attitudes).
Both the speaker (locator) and the receiver (interlocutor) perform different communicative
activities and exchange their roles during the interaction. This means that each individual
influences the other(s) he meets and, in his turn, is influenced by him or her.
Each interaction provides the participants with possibilities of choices - in terms of what
to say (the topic; linguistic choices); how to say (the style, the register the communicative
strategies) or when to say it.

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I.2. Typology of verbal interactions

Various parameters can establish a typology of verbal interactions. Thus, having in view
the channel of communication, verbal interactions can be:
 face-to-face interactions (between members of the family at home; between friends;
between people at work place; between people in different contexts: doctor and
patient; shop-assistant and customer; etc);
 online interactions – through instant messages, interacting in real time (the
communication messages are synchronous); sometimes, these interactions establish
connections with people one would never meet or interact otherwise. At the same
time, online interactions provide exposure to other cultures, becoming a helpful
instrument for intercultural interaction/communication;
 phone interactions.
Taking into consideration the number of participants, the distinction appears between
 dyadic interactions
 group interactions
Vion (1992) has in view the following criteria:

1. symmetry vs. asymmetry


The criterion distinguishes between
a) symmetrical interaction – individuals tend to adopt similar behaviour; they show respect,
understanding and empathy with each other and try to minimize the possible differences
existing between them. The interaction is grounded on equal power between participants. This
type of interaction includes conversations between friends, between brothers or sisters,
husband and wife, or between work fellows.

b) asymmetrical/non-symmetrical interaction - individuals tend to maximize the differences


between them or, even, to create differences. They are situated on two different positions (one
is on a high position and the other one is on a low position); the types of behaviour are
different, but adapted to each other; the interaction is grounded on differences in power (that
can be given by social status and roles, age, gender, knowledge, expertise, physical aspect,
clothing, etc). Interactions between parents and children, between employer and employee,
between doctor and patient enter this group. Besides them, other forms of interaction, such as
the interview or the dispute, are also non-symmetrical types of interactions.

2. cooperation vs. competition


Some interactions are based on cooperation (e.g. the conversation) while others are
based on competition (e.g. the dispute, the interview), though all interactions are characterized
by an equilibrium between the two.
In Rummel`s7 terms, “Two opposing directions of interaction can be defined: solidary and
antagonistic. The first involves acts of similar intentions and a mutual orientation of the
parties towards helping each other achieve these intentions.” In the case of antagonistic
interaction, “..the parties may intend to hinder each other from achieving their purpose. ”
3. the nature of results/ends
Some linguists consider that almost all interactions have specific ends; conversation is
the only interaction that is characterized by an internal end, its function being that of
affirmation and confirmation of social relationships between/among individuals.

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Rummel, R.J. Understanding conflict and war https://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills /NOTE10.HTM

6
4. the formal vs. informal character
The formal/informal character of the exchange is given by the number of participants;
the nature of the interactive framework; the manner of opening/ending the exchange; the
nature of the listening cues.

If we are to look at some of the most frequent types of interaction in daily life, we can
identify their particular traits:
a) Daily Conversation - (Bonta, 2004b:47-50):
 it occurs in various situations, in both formal and informal contexts;
 the amount of time dedicated to such interation depends on the participants (their
physical and phsychic disposition; the interactional objectives/goals they have in mind;
the relationship established between them);
 the social status and the roles of the individuals do not represent an essential factor,
although sometimes they may affect the interaction, acting as restrictive factors
(Ruxăndoiu, 1999:39);
 the relationship between participants is, generally, a symmetrical one (presupposes
equality between participants);
 usually, none of the participants tries to dominate the communicative flux;
 any of the participants can initiate or end the interaction;
 a great freedom in the process of the negotiation of meanings and relationships;
 spontaneous affective structures;
 elliptical constructions;
 sometimes, the understanding of terms is done through reference to contextual
elements.
Interaction in conversation is seen as part of daily rituals (Goffman; 1967; 1973; 1974)
that ensure the individual his integration into a social group. According to Goffman,
individual`s actions in social interactions are guided by Rules of Conduct. The two acts that
they include are deference and demeanor.
Deference is closely connected with the individual`s positive assessment of his partner of
interaction/interlocutor and it consists in acts of appreciation and respect paid towards the
latter. They are meant to establish/re-establish interpersonal relationship. Deference is easily
noticed (a code of conduct with others)8 in two types of rituals:
1. presentation rituals – greetings, compliments, invitations; minor services. These rituals
specify what the individual should do in interactions in order to show his
respect/appreciation/love: shaking hands, hugging, cheek-kissing, bowing, etc.
2. avoidance rituals – the individual, in his attempt of showing appreciation, avoids
“entering” the other`s private space (spatial, temporal or emotional)
Demeanor is “the code of conduct of oneself” 9 . It addresses the individual`s self-
image/presentation of the self, through their appearance, movements/actions or self-control; it
is dictated by the image the individual wants to create for the others; by the way in which he
wants to viewed/perceived by the other participants to interaction.

b) Classroom interaction
In the classroom, the interaction can be perceived at different levels:
a) teacher – learners (the teacher addresses to the whole class at the same time);
b) teacher – learner/a group of learners (the teacher addresses to the whole class but he
expects only one learner or a group of learners to answer);
c) learner – learner (during pair- work);

8
Erving Goffman: Interaction Ritual – from http://www.icosilune.com/2008/08/erving-goffman-interaction-
ritual/
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Idem

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d) learners – learners (during group work).
Through interaction, learners can de rive meanings from classroom activities (Chaudron,
1988).
The interaction between teacher and students satisfies a wide range of needs/ends:
articulating identity, displaying appropriate self-expression, sharing information, sharing
feelings, managing impressions, motivating ends, motivating means. Effective interaction
implies instructional support (through interaction, students develop critical thinking, inquiring
attitudes, get abilities in analysis and synthesis, put language into actual use and develop
skills that are necessary for future achievement). It also involves co-constructing knowledge
in a friendly environment, where students feel secure, encouraged, motivated and supported in
their learning effort, where they can voice opinions while having access to needed
information. Students` learning is guided and supported by teachers and their discourse in this
type of interaction represents an attempt to attain satisfactory goals for teachers (learning
agenda) and students (individual and collective needs). The teacher`s discourse in interaction
is meant to influence students, to produce certain effects on them and help them.
The most important process is that of questioning. Morgan and Saxton (1991) distinguish
between different types of questions, according to the function they have in the classroom
interaction:
a) questions which elicit information;
b) questions which shape understanding;
c) questions which press for reflection.

The interaction created in the classroom between teachers and students certifies its
effectiveness through its
 orientation (it is assumed, addressed and has in view certain objectives/goals);
 power (it contributes to the construction of a discourse based on action through certain
speech acts and linguistic and non-linguistic choices; at the same time, it encompasses
skills and strategic means in order to attain goals) (Bonta 2004b).
The classroom interaction has the following characteristics:
 it presupposes a pre-determined institutionalized setting;
 the amount of time for this interaction is constrained by school time-table and the class
allotted time;
 the social status and role of the participants have influence upon the structure of the
interaction (they determine the rules concerning the initiatial/opening and ending
sequences, the amount of speech time, the strategies to be applied);
 the relationship between participants is asymmetrical (enhanced by the postion of the
teacher in front of the classroom/behind the teacher`s desk);
 the teacher controls the communicative flux;
 the teacher is the one who selects the next speaker (in a direct way, by naming the
students, or indirectly, by addressing the question to the whole class and allowing
students to self-select);
 the students` interventions are reduced from a quantitative point of view, as compared
to those of the teacher;
 the asymmetrical postions of the participants allow for few possibilities of meaning
negotiations;
 the interactional exchange is made up of three moves: the teacher asks a question; the
student answers; the teacher evaluates the answer);
 the predominat discourse functions are: informative (information is conveyed);
instrumental (the teacher tries to determine the students to „act”/give
answers/react/ead/write); interactional; lingusitic (stricly linked to the didactic
activity); managerial; affective;
 the topic of discussion is strictly linked to the institutionalized setting;

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 the development of the interaction takes place on the basis of questions/answers or
requests for action.
Interaction analysis displays charcateristics with discourse analysis and conversation
analysis. Nunan (1992:161) establishes the difference between them

Discourse analysis Conversation Interaction


analysis analysis
Method of Invented Naturalistic Elicited
generating Elicited Naturalistic
data Naturalistic
Invented
Mode Spoken Spoken Spoken
Written
Type of analysis Categorical Interpretive Interpretive
Units of analysis Linguistic Non-linguistic Both linguistic
and
non-linguistic

As seen in the table above, interaction analysis has in view naturalistic samples of spoken
language and it takes into consideration both linguistic and nonlinguistic cues, in an attempt
of identifying both rhetorical and social routines realised in speech.

c) Doctor-patient interaction
Ong et al. (1995:903) consider that

…among inter-personal relationships, the doctor-patient relation is one of the


most complex ones. It involves interaction between individuals in non-equal
positions, is often non-voluntary, concerns issues of vital importance, is
therefore emotionally laden, and requires close cooperation.

The communication between doctors and patients has different purposes:


 to create a good interpersonal relationship
Literature in the field has identified the necessary ingredients” of this social
relationship: conveying interest, honesty, a desire to help, devotion, non-judgemental attitude,
social orientation, mutual trust (Ong et.al., 1995: 904). Empathy is also necessary.

Emphatic doctor-patient relations consist of: eliciting feelings,


paraphrasing and reflecting, using silence, listening to the patient is saying,
but also to what hei s unable to say, encouragements and non-verbal
behavior” (Ong et al. 1995, 904)

 the exchange of information


There are two process that need to be taken into account: information-giving (patients
give information about their symptoms) and information-seeking (doctors need information
in order to establish the right diagnosis and treatment plan).
 making treatment-related decisions.

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II. INTERACTIONIST THEORIES

Objectives
After reading this chapter students will be able to
1. List the interactionist theories and their main characteristics
2. Mention the contributions these theories have brought to the understanding
of verbal interactions

II.1. Psychological and psychiatric approaches

The psychological and psychiatric School in Palo Alto (main representatives-


Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson) is a therapeutic approach that transfers to casual
communication the results of the studies on marital relationships dysfunction and the
problems of schizophrenic children. Research has led to the conclusion that these
dysfunctions are due to the relational system in which individuals act.
Researchers support the idea that individuals engaged in interactions achieve (through
their behaviour) an exchange of energy and information between themselves and between
themselves and the environment. They are constantly engaged in an activity based on a tacit
understanding, on a verbal agreement for cooperation through which they manage to
“discover” themselves/to get self-knowledge and to establish the position towards others,
recognized as active speakers.
The Palo Alto School established the axioms of communication, supporting the ideas
that
 one cannot not communicate/it is impossible not to communicate
Communication is inevitable (as not only our words communicate; it is also our appearance,
posture, clothes, hair style, gestures, the way we talk, we walk, or even our silence that
conveys information about us/about our feelings, attitudes, values). In other terms, according
to Porcar and Hainic (2011:11)

…within each interaction, every behavior has a message value, i.e., it


represents some sort of communication…Activity or inactivity, words or
silence, everything has a message value. These behaviors influence others,
and others, in reply, cannot not react to them.

 communication is to be noticed at two levels: informational and relational


During our communication we transmit information and we also establish different types of
relationships, that can help us interpret the informational level

The content of communication is the message while the relationship is defined


through the commitment and behavior of the partners. The relationship
indicates the way in which the message asks to be understood. (Porcar and
Hainic, 2011:12)

The problems/difficulties/disfunctionalities at the relational level influence the entire


interaction (the communication between individuals); a good relationship between two
individuals makes the communication process smooth and effective. It is considered that the
relationship level is metacommunication (as it is communication about communication).
 each participant to interaction organizes the communication flow differently so
that “each defines his/her behavior as a reaction to the other`s.”

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 the informational component is conveyed in a digital way (through words that can
arbitrary in what they mean), while the relational one, in an analogical way.
The analogical communication includes kinetics, posture, gestures, facial expression, voice
inflection rhythm, tone of voice, etc.
 communication establishes symmetrical or complementary transactions between
participants.
In the symmetrical transactions the responses are similar to the stimuli while in
complementary transactions the responses and the stimuli are of different types.

Communication has an irreversible character; once the message is transmitted, it


cannot be taken back and it has effects upon the other person - it influences us in one way or
another, even if we are aware about this or not; we can “sweeten” it a little if necessary, we
can re-formulate some of its parts, modify it, but its effect cannot be eliminated completely;
Communication is a process of permanent adjustment and negotiation between/among
individuals; they adjust their verbal or nonverbal behaviour to each other and at the same time,
have the possibility of negotiating different elements of the interactional process: the positions
they occupy; the relationships established; the self-images or the meanings conveyed.
Adjustment depends on certain variables: how well individuals know each other, their gender,
age or cultural belonging.

II.2. Ethnosociological Approaches

In sociology, interactionism is a theoretical perspective according to which human


interaction is at the basis of such social processes as cooperation, negotiation or conflict.
Strauss (2008), summarized principles of interactionism:
 actions are embedded in interactions—and so carry meanings;
 interactions generate new meanings as well as maintain old ones;
 actors’ interpretations of a situation’s temporal character may differ according to
perspectives;
 contingencies arising during a course of action may affect its duration, pace, or
intent;
 interaction implies an intersection of actions, implying differences among actors’
perspectives;
 many participants in interaction necessitate alignment or “articulation” of
respective actions;
 memberships in social worlds and sub-worlds condition actors' perspectives (and
interactions);
 interacting (accumulating) social processes create, maintain, and reinvent social
structures.
Among the most important theories entering this group, there are:

1. The Ethnography of communication/of speaking - (Dell Hymes and Gumperz)


Ethnography of communication manifests interest in the sociolinguistics of interpersonal
relationships, which allows for a dynamic analysis of verbal exchanges, the mechanisms that
govern them and the interaction rituals.
Dell Hymes offered us the Speaking Model that identifies the elements of the linguistic
interaction:
 Settings – including: physical circumstances; time; place; the psychological
frame in which the speech event is performed;
 Participants – including: the speaker; the listener/audience/message addressee;
other participants to the communicative event;
 Ends – goals; outcomes of the communicative event;

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 Acts - the content of the message; the speech acts involved: requests, commands,
complaints, greetings, etc.);
 Key - the tone or manner of uttering a speech act: seriously, playfully,
optimistic/pessimistic, etc.;
 Instrumentalities – include: the channel of communication; the codes; the forms;
the styles of speech; the language varieties;
 Norms - rules that guide the interaction and the interpretation of messages;
 Genres - the type of activity in which participants are involved: conversation,
discussion, debate, interview etc.
Dell Hymes understands that the communicative competence is not only based on the
knowledge of grammar, but also on the knowledge of appropriate social conventions. He
insists on the appropriateness of language use in a certain social context that ensures
interaction between/among participants. He also stresses the role of the context in which
communication takes place and explores how language is used in various contexts.
Gumperz emphasizes the importance of the physical and the socio-cultural context in
which the interaction takes place, assuming that it is important to separate the speech data
from the context in which they occur. For him, the context is not something given in advance,
but something that defines itself in the course of the interaction (the idea will be taken up by
Goffman) and it is based on inferential practices in line with the conventions that speakers
share (or not).
He is also interested in code variations, which he differentiates according to two factors: the
situation (situational code-switching) or the individual who is apt to choose the code
(conversational code-switching).

2. Ethnomethodology
Ethnomethodology is a sociological perspective founded by the American sociologist H.
Garfinkel in the early '60s (Studies in Ethnomethodology, 1967). Its starting point is the
symbolic interactionism. Ethnomethodology tries to explain how individuals in the interaction
process can build the illusion of the social order, mutually agreed upon, even if they do not
understand each other and have different views in a given stage of interaction, within a
limited period of time.
It differs from other sociological schools of thought due to the perspective through which
it looked upon and interpreted the social order.
According to it,
 individuals manage to produce meaning through a complex psychological process;
 the order is produced in the mind of individuals (the social actors) who are forced
to order and organize into a coherent system the set of impressions and
experiences with which they are confronted in everyday life;
 each individual communicates these opinions to others and at the same time, he
receives information from them; this thing becomes possible only in the process of
interaction.
Therefore, ethnomethodologists are interested in the processes that individuals have at
their disposal and through which they construct reality and society as a whole, because social
reality is their own creation/product and the social order exists only when individuals agree
upon it.
In interaction, each utterance is an activity of a particular type of the locutor, who expects
the interlocutor to decode the conveyed message and to cooperate, voluntarily, in the process
of meaning construction.
Cooperation and reciprocity are, therefore, two conditions for the development of this
process. Cooperative activity appears as a process of negotiation:

12
Negotiating means agreeing on how the activity will be done and on its
significance. Any activity that must be coordinated must be negotiated.
(Bange: 1992:29)

Ethnomethodology gives great importance to retrospective interpretation (the individual's


past behaviour re-interpreted and re-evaluated, taking into account the parameters of the
present moment).
Present experience is given a new dimension, and the events that were previously ignored
due to their minor significance stand at the basis of interpretation

3. Symbolic interactionism
Symbolic interactionism (1920-1930) is an American sociological school of thought
focused on the role that communication plays in building and maintaining society. The
concept was coined by Herbert Blumer (a former student of Mead); he believed that
 human beings and their activities can be better understood if put into relation with
the environment in which they live;
 there exists a dynamic interaction between human beings and their environment:
human beings act towards things around them, taking into account the meanings
that these things display;
 meaning is, therefore, a direct result of individual`s interaction with everyone
around him/her.
The key concepts with which this school of thought operates are: interaction, symbols,
interpretation and self-concept. The interaction is considered a fundamental process of social
life of all human activities as it determines the individual`s behaviour and becomes the only
place within which meaning is produced.
The social interaction turns the individual into an active agent of his own development. It
is produced by means of symbols, i.e. "created in an arbitrary way (through words, gestures,
objects, visual images) that acquire meaning through social consensus." (Goodman, 1992:55)

The individual becomes a keen observer of the surrounding world, interprets it and then
makes decisions concerning the situation, the participants to interaction, the relationship
between them and the strategies to be used. The individual selects, checks, assesses and re-
evaluates meanings and even transforms/change them, if necessary

The concept of Self (Mead, 1934) is the key concept of the interactionist theories. Using
this concept, interactionists focus on the problem of identity and on the subjective aspects of
social life. According to Mead, the self develops during social experience, as a direct
consequence of the fact that
 the individual has the ability/desire and duty that through language, to observe his
own actions from the other's perspective;
 he has the ability to take over the other`s "role" in interaction, constantly reflecting on
his own person from the other`s perspective.
At the same time, he “places” his conversation partner in a role corresponding to that
taken by him. The individual becomes an active subject of his own development while the self
becomes a social product. This draws the conclusion that the symbolic interactionism focuses
on how the self develops and how social order is created constantly.
Symbolic interactionism studies face-to-face interactions, based on the idea that
society consists of organized and structured interactions between/among individuals.

4. Dramaturgy/dramaturgical perspective
Dramaturgy is represented by the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman - (La mise en
scene la vie quotidienne, 1973, Les Rites d'interaction, 1974, The presentation of Self in

13
Everyday Life, 1959). It stems from symbolic interactionism. Goffman is particularly
concerned with everyday life interactions. For him, the interaction becomes a place of mutual
positioning, of construction and development of social self from a double perspective: as
image and as actor. This allows the individual to claim a certain identity, but at the same time,
to assign an identity to the conversation partner.
Goffman`s conception, according to which everyday interaction can be interpreted in
terms of a theatrical perspective (as a show/performance in front of others and shaped by the
latter) allows for the use of domain-specific concepts, such as: stage actor, role,
“figuration”/face-work.
The concepts of dramaturgy, role and performance hint at the individual`s communicative
behaviour. Goffman attaches particular importance to the concepts of
 stage (the social frame of interaction);
 appearance - capable of providing information on the status of the actor (formal/
informal);
 props - including clothes, or various other objects belonging to the actor (house, car,
etc.) and providing evidence on the social status, gender, age or job;
 manner (the actor`s own behaviour).
According to Goffman (1973:35) the individual performs the role, which becomes the
basic unit of the socializing process and which is performed according to rituals, in front of an
audience; performance must be done in a convincing manner.
Goffman states that the interaction functions according to rules and develops through a
series of exchanges that are synonymous to ritual units. In interaction, the individual
manifests his "pattern of conduct" (a complex set of verbal and nonverbal acts through which
he expresses views regarding his own person, the situation and the other participants) and
develops his/her identity/persona10.
The image the individual displays becomes his/her “face”, (a whole set of elements which
he/she values). The individual tends continually to defend it, since "face" is always an
"object" of conversation threatening acts of conversation. In order to defend it, the individual
resorts to "figuration"/face-work. This explains various linguistic phenomena, such as the use
of preliminaries, justifications, excuses, implied meaning, entailments, or strategically used
speech acts.
Any communicative behaviour generates meanings within the already created meanings.
Goffman enriches the aim of social interaction analysis with the concept of sensitivity.
This is done by a concern to analyze an important element of social interaction, namely the
presentation of self.

5. Social exchange theory


The origins of the theory are in economics and behavioral psychology. It is based on the
idea that the interaction can be understood as a social exchange, the actions of individuals
being motivated by benefits and costs. Its framework was established by George Hamans
(Social Behaviour, 1961).
During episodic encounters/interactions and lasting relationships, individuals motivate
their actions through their preferences and the short-term or long-term goals they establish for
their interactions, as well as through the many ways they can accomplish them. The benefits
they can get during or after the interaction (they receive identity, appreciation, affection,
mutual agreement) enhance their actions, while they avoid or are acting prudently when these
actions might involve high costs (waste of time and energy, loss/damage brought to personal
image). They expect, generally speaking, that the benefits they could get should roughly be

10
Greek = "the mask we wear"- a term that reflects our conception of self: what we try to sustain about
ourselves, the self that we believe we have, the self that we “project” and which the others perceive.

14
equal to the costs at stake. Obtaining approval/agreement in the social interaction is,
metaphorically speaking, what money is in the economic exchange.
Interactions go on when participants recognize the possibility of obtaining a benefit;
whenever the cost appears to be higher than the benefit, individuals tend to "flee the stage" of
interaction.
A sustained social relationship implies a balance of profits and costs.

III. ELEMENTS OF VERBAL INTERACTIONS

Objectives
After reading this chapter student will be able to:
1. List the elements of verbal interactions
2. Define context, identify its typology and the role it plays in interaction
3. Identify types of participants
4. Identify types of messages
5. Understand the role of channel in conveying messages
6. Identify different types of noise that can affect the understanding of messages in
interactions.

III.1. Context

Interaction always takes place in a context. The term refers to the conditions that precede
or surround the communication between interactants: the set of factors that influence the act
of communication; the environement in which the communication develops (the social and
psychological circumstances; the space and time when the communication takes place; the
conditions in which the code is used, etc). The context influences the form and the content of
the interaction and stimulates or it hiders them.
It has been admitted that the context is characterized by the following dimensions:
1. the physical dimension – makes reference to the indoor or outdoor space in which the
interaction takes place. Participants to face-to-face interaction share the same physical
context; this is why, the contextual data are implicit and they do not need to mention
them while talking:

Take it from here!


Put it there!
What is this?
Go there!
2. social-psychological dimension – includes the status relationship between participants,
as well as such elements as: formality; informality; cooperativeness; competitiveness
3. temporal dimension – has to do with where a particular message fits into a sequence
of communication events; it could answer the question: Is it appropriate to say this
joke now? (for example)
4. cultural dimension – includes the rules, norms, beliefs and attitudes of the people who
are interacting, that are passed from generation to generation

III.2. Participants /interlocutors

Any interaction involves at least two participants.

15
According to Stotz (1991:97) “the notion of participation does not merely concern ’talking’,
but also ‘attending.’ Each of the participants to verbal interaction functions as a source
(encodes his/her thoughts and feelings; formulates and sends the message) and a receiver
(receives and decodes the message).
According to André-Larochebouvy (1984:93), participants are of four types:
 by right – the participant to interaction to whom one can address even though he
does not want to (the members of the family and the people belonging to the
immediate environment);
 legitimate - a work colleague, a friend, a relative to whom one can address if the
first one wants to;
 authorized– the one we address to in a certain situation in which the social status
or the roles are very well defined;
 unlikely /improbable – the unknown participant, who, due to the situation, may
remain as such.
As for the receivers of messages, Goffman (1974) distinguishes between
a) ratified hearers – who are of two types the direct recipient/addressed /privileged) and
the indirect/unaddressed/unprivileged (whose presence is identified in the
conversation with three and more than three participants)
b) unratified hearers – who are bystanders (observers; spectators; they do not take part to
interaction). They are called
 “overhearers" (people we notice whenever we are in a public place such as a
theatre, a restaurant or a shop; they can hear what we are saying while being
engaged in an interaction) or
 "eavesdroppers" (individuals who have the opportunity to capture a conversation
in which the message is not “sent” to them, but we are not aware of their presence).
They are "witnesses" to the respective interaction, analysed by André-Larochebouvy
(1984). In the case of a dyadic conversations, by their mere presence, they can bring changes
of various types:
a) at the level of the the subject under discussion:
 reviewing key issues (partners of interaction pay much more attention to the topics
discussed in public)

Let`s not talk about this here.


I prefer not to discuss it here or now. We`ll do that when we meet at my place.
 avoiding proper names of third parties;
 avoiding too personal questions or even abandoning the subject, if it could
endanger in some way or another one of speakers`s “face(s)”
 approaching a subject with a more neutral character;
b) at the level of the behavioral attitudes (behaviour and attitudes are kept under control);
c) at the level of the discourse type (the conversation between two physicians in a private
situation is different from the conversation between the same speakers, in the presence of
their patients).

III.3. Message

The message represents the content of communication (the individuals`s ideas, feelings,
attitudes). In order to be understood, it needs to be converted into a code by its sender and
transferred as a discourse (text) to the receiver, via a particular channel.
Any type of interaction is a combination of verbal and nonverbal cues. In any face-to-face
interaction messages are both verbal and nonverbal. Messages contain information, whose
value take into consideration three aspects (Frunjină and Teşileanu, 2002:53-56)

16
a) the informative value – established by the mathematical theory of communication
(Shannon and Weaver, 1949); it is strictly linked to the degree of uncertainty that the
receiver has before receiving the message: the greater the degree of receiver`s
uncertainty as regards the event incorporated in the message transmitted, before it is
transmitted, the greater the informative value of the message, after the event took
place;
b) the semantic value – depends on the content of the message, on the significance that
the receiver attaches to it (the semantic value depends on the type of words that are
used: the larger the number of new/rarely used words, the greater the semantic value;
the lower the frequency of the same words in a message, the bigger the semantic
value);
c) the pragmatic value – is given by the effect the message has upon the receiver (a
message with a high pragmatic value contains a surprise element for the receiver).
From another perspective, the research in the field has identified:
a) workplace messages – classified, in their turn, into:
 messages sent from a higher level of a hierarchy to the lower levels (downward
communication): messages from employer to employee: orders, explanations,
appraisals, etc.
 messages sent from the lower levels of a hierarchy to the higher levels (upward
communication); they include job-related activities: suggestions, ideas for change,
requests, etc.
 lateral messages – they are messages sent between equals (people having similar
social status and roles)
b) metamessages – are messages about messages :

Do you understand what I am saying?


Let me explain this to you in details.

c) feedback messages (the reaction to the sender`s messages) – convey information about
the messages sent by speaker; these messages are indicators of the way in which the
listener/partner of interaction received, understood (in the terms intended by the
speaker) and responded to the messages sent by the speaker. They are verbal or
nonverbal messages (a nod of the head, a gesture, a smile, etc.) eand enable the
speaker to evaluate the effectiveness of his/her message.

At the same time, the feedback may convince the recipient that the sender cares
for his/her opinion. Once it has been received, the feedback may provoke a new
idea with the sender, which may start a new cycle of transmitting information.
(Čekerevac and Ristić, 2006:62)

III.4. Channel

Channel designates the medium through which the message is conveyed. Normally, in
any type of interaction, more than one channel is used. In the case of face-to-face interaction,
the channel is both visual and auditory. The participants to interaction see each other; they can
even touch each other and use their gestures, face expressions, posture or distance, in order to
complete, clarify, and amplify the meanings of the conveyed messages.
According to DeVito (2005), the channels may be:
- vocal-auditory (carrying speech);
- gestural-visual (facilitates much the nonverbal communication);
- chemical- olfactory (accommodates smell);
- cutaneous –tactile (through which individuals make use of touch).

17
III.5. Code

The sender’s task is to transform that idea into a form which can be
transmitted to the recipient who will be able to understand it. This process is
called the coding process, and it represents translating an idea into a form, e.g.
written or spoken language, which the recipient can recognize. (Čekerevac and
Ristić, 2006:61)

Code represents the system of signs and symbols that are used to render meanings, as
well as the rules and conventions that make their use possible.

III.6. Noise

Noise is the element/the disturbance that interferes with the message; it prevents the
listener from a good understanding of the message; it distracts the listener.

The factors which damage the clarity of a message are called noise and they
can decrease the effectiveness of communication. (Čekerevac and Ristić,
2006:61)

Noise can be of different types; it can become a real barrier in communication:


a) physical noise – made up of external factors (car noise, music, sunglasses, etc.) that
can hamper the interaction/the transmission of messages:

What did you say? I can`t hear you. It`s too much noise here, outside.
Come on, are you kidding? I can`t see this in your eyes cause of the glasses.
Turn the music down! I cannot hear what you are saying…
b) physiological noise – factors that are strictly linked to the participants` health
condition or their linguistic abilities:

Sorry; I can`t have this discussion now; I`m too tired. Let`s talk about it
tomorrow morning.
c) psychological noise – created by the participants` pre-conceptions, stereotypes,
prejudices

(Mother to teen daughter): Don`t insist on the idea. I know the answer in
advance: it is NO.Such parties are dangerous.
d) semantic noise – created by the participants` differences in meaning systems: the use
of jargon or dialect, for example:

What does <octopus> mean?

III.7. Feedback

Feedback represents the reaction/response that the listener/receiver of the message gives
to the speaker/sender.
The classification of feedback takes into account several criteria. Thus,
 according to intentionality - feedback can be voluntary or involuntary;
 according to the type of cues it is based on – feedback can be verbal (comments;
criticism; appreciation; pieces of advice), nonverbal (a nod; a smile; applauses; a sigh,
a frown) or a combination of the two;

18
 according to the function it has – feedback can be effective; descriptive; evaluative;
motivational (intended to encourage and support; to motivate).
These last four types of feedback can be easily detected in the interaction created in the
classroom:
a) effective feedback
An effective feedback is the one that represents a positive process and that is meant to
improve the situation or performance; this is why criticism or any harsh comment will not
have the expected results. This type of feedback needs to be well-timed and given regularly;
it also needs to be as specific as possible and to be given from an “I” perspective (as using
“I” statements, the feedback will not hurt the other person :

I really liked the way you did it.


When you said that, I felt a little bit awckard.
Good work. I feel proud of you.
I feel happy whenever I notice your progress.
It should also be focused on behaviour (on what the person did and how it was done), not on
personality.

b) descriptive feedback – specifies/tells students what they need to improve and how to
improve their performance. Effective descriptive feedback is clear, specific and done in a
positive note. It addresses both cognitive and motivational factors. It focuses on the
students` strength and way to improve performance:

Your composition tells me that…


What I really liked in your paper is…
You need more/less…
One thing to improve your work is…
You might try to…
c) evaluative feedback – summarizes students` achievement; evaluates rather than
instructs; makes observations about students` learning process and strategies; shows
students the relationship that establishes between their efforts and their work; tells
students how they compare to their peers
d) motivational feedback – promotes intrinsic motivation (which represents the main
objective of the teacher in the instructional process)

That`s great!
You`ve made progress!
Good job!
Well done!
Giving feedback effectively is a skill. This means that it is necessary that it should be
practised, in order to be improved.

19
IV. UNDERSTANDING VERBAL INTERACTIONS

Objectives
After reading this chapter, the students will be able to list and show understanding of some of
the main concepts with which verbal interactions operate

A set of concepts may help us understand the problem of verbal interactions in terms
of form, content and functions (Bonta, 2004a). Among the most used ones:
 interactionist approaches
 a term that refers to the symbolic interactionism and the trends derived from it;
 interactionist approaches are concerned with "discourse updated in concrete situations
of communication" (Kerbrat-Orecchioni, 1996:16)

 adjustment/interactional accommodation
 it is a basic feature of language manifested in oral communication and it refers to the
permanent concern of the participants` positioning (according to predictive and
interpretative reasoning), with a clearly defined strategic objective;
 it is an adjustment to the interaction partner and to circumstances, by choosing the best
strategy for action in a certain situation ;
 this type of activity can be identified at the level of communication/interaction
opening sequences, of turn-taking, of choice of topics, the style used and of linguistic
and nonlinguistic behaviours;
 the activity of this type aims at setting the communication framework,
accomplishment of individual goals, establishing, developing and maintaining
interpersonal relationships, eliminating confusion in decoding, as well as at agreeing
on meanings

 interactional completeness
 the principle that explains the "global agreement that is meant to close discussion"
(Baylon, Mignot, 2000:215); it obliges participants to interaction to satisfy the
conversational rituals in order to reach the end of the negotiation;
 it is performed when the current speaker reaches the transition relevance place and his
manner of action is somewhat predictable for his interlocutor, due to various types of
skills that the latter possesses

 interactional competence
 a set of skills available to participants to interaction and which help them to cope with
different situations in interaction;
 interactional competence includes both a sociolinguistic competence (the ability to
interpret the social meaning of the the variety of language used in a specific context

20
and to use the language with the meaning which is appropriate to the situation in
which communication is done) and a strategic one (the ability to use the appropriate
communication strategies)
 it is viewed as
a) the ability to understand the social context in which communication takes place, after
having taken into consideration the social status and the role of the interlocutor, his
attitude, the shared information, the communicative purpose and the degree of
formality;
b) the ability to handle a set of verbal or nonverbal strategies in order to initiate,
maintain, finish and redirect the conversation in different circumstances

 interactional constraints – constraints (of place, time, relationship, physical or


emotional nature) that can explain the change in circumstances for the entire
interactional structure

 interactional game
 any interaction becomes an interactional game, at the level of which certain other
important games are identified:
a) the game of the participants (participants` positioning; participants` verbal or
nonverbal activity; the change in the participants` roles)
– takes place simultaneously or alternatively;
- each of the participants to the social interaction becomes a “player” who, during the
development of the interaction gets the quality of a “strategic player” as he/she proves the
abilities of putting into practice the language resources, of anticipating reception of his/her
messages and of “building” a discourse adapted to partner and situation
b) the game of the code(s)
– once in the social interaction, the individual tries to make himself/herself understood
by the other(s); this is why he/she resorts to a large display of signs (verbal, nonverabal and
paraverbal) endowed with significance

 interactional history
– a term described by Goffman as a set of interactions to which the individual took part or
assisted, and which give an account of the interlocutors` strategic competence, during the
interaction (it can explain elliptical structures, abrupt openings or endings, choice of a
particular strategy, etc.)

 interactional management
 makes reference to the ability the speaker proves in order to control the interaction
to partners` satisfaction;
 we have in view the management of self images/of impressions and of the
strategies that operate at the level of participants (encoding, decoding,
interpretative, turn-taking, active listening, politeness strategies, conflict solving
and face-work strategies) or at the level of form (opening, maintaining and closing
interaction/conversation strategies) and at the level of content (introduction of
topics, correlation of topics, argumentative strategies and persuasive strategies)

 interactional negotiations
 explicit or implicit set of activities conducted among the participants in interaction,
aiming to clarify their positions, behaviours and meanings
 can be run in peacefully or not, depending on the status and role of participants, their
power/their authority or individual pursued objectives

21
 rules/rules of interaction - rules that guide interactions, supporting their operation
in a given community

 interaction rituals - as opposed to community rituals, they are repetitive


behaviours, habits and patterns linked with habits and socio-cultural models

V. INTERACTIONAL COMPETENCE

The skill to communicate represents an activity of the spirit, which is changed


and transformed in time and by experience. It simultaneously points to the art
of living, the beauty of a relationship with people, and raises the culture of
communication to a higher artistic level. (Čekerevac and Ristić, 2006:62)

An effective interaction is based on interactional competence. The concept explains


“…the sociocultural characteristics of discursive practicesand the interactional processes by
which discursive practices are co-constructed by participants.”11 The concept makes reference
to the individual`s knowledge and use of mostly unwritten rules that operate at the level of
interaction in various communication situations. It includes

 knowledge about the organization of interaction (how to initiate it; how to close it;
how to maintain it);
 knowledge about meaning negotiation;
 knowledge about the appropriate use of nonverbal cues (gestures, kinesics, posture,
gaze, prosimity, rhythm, prosody, intonation, etc).
Young (2008) identifies the following characteristics of the interactional competence:
 it can be observed/identified at the level of spoken interaction (although the nonverbal
elements are seen as important);
 it can be identified in a discursive practice (discursive practices are “recurring
episodes of social interaction in context, episodes that are of of social and cultural
significance to a community of speakers.”);
 it involves the individuals` recognizing and responding to expectations of what to say
and how to say it (as a consequence of the fact that these practices are recurrent);
 it is the basis of successful interaction (Kramsch, 1986:367):

Whether it is a face-to-face interaction between two or several speakers, or the


interaction between a reader and a written text, successful interaction
presupposes not only a shared knowledge of the world, the reference to a
common external context of communication, but also the construction of a
shared internal context or “sphere of inter-subjectivity” that is built through
the collaborative efforts of the interactional partners.

11
Communicative interaction and discursive practices -http://www.english. wisc. edu/rfyoung/336/ci and dp.pdf

22
 it presupposes that participants to interaction should “mutually and reciprocally”
employ these resources in social interactions; this means that interactional competence
is co-constructed;
 interactional competence varies with the practice and the participants to it, as it is
related to what the other participants do (this distinguishes interactional competence
from communicative competence).
According to Young (2008:71), the interactional competence includes a set of resources
that the participants bring to interaction; these resources are classified as follows:
a) identity resources
– the participation framework: the identities of all participants in interaction;
b) linguistic resources
- register: the features of pronunciation, vocabulary and practice that are characteristic
to a practice;
- modes of meaning: the ways in which meanings (interpersonal, experiential, textual)
are constructed in a practice;
c) interactional resources
- speech acts (the choice and the organization of speech acts);
- turn-taking: knowledge about the system (selecting the next speaker; beginning or
ending a turn);
- repair: the ways in which participants know how to solve different interactional
problems.

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VI. INTERACTIONAL SKILLS

VI.1. The skill of communicating verbally

VI.1.1. Using the language

Language is a functional tool. At the same time, it is bound to its situational context and
to what is being communicated in the respective context.
The information within the message is encoded and transmitted through words that can be
analysed at three distinct levels: phonetic, lexical and morpho-syntactic. Words have forms
and meanings. A complete and correct decoding of messages must take into consideration
a) the denotations of words (the objective, impersonal meaning of words; the meanings
that appear in dictionaries)
b) the connotations (the subjective, personal meanings of words, the entire field of
associations, suggestions and implications that surround words and which are directly
associated with the individuals` experience, their emotional overtones and favourable
or unfavourable judgement).
Krauss (2002:1) considers that

…language endows human communication system with the properties of


semanticity, generativity, and displacement, allowing people to formulate an
unlimited number of meaningful novel messages that are not tied to the immediate
present.

Semanticity hints at the idea that “in human communication, signals stand for things,
which is to say that they have meaning”; generativity means that “all languages are capable of
generating an infinite number of meaningful messages from a finite number of linguistic
signals”, while displacement makes reference to the fact that

…language makes it possible to communicate about things that are remote in


space or time, or indeed exist only in the imagination. (Krauss, 2002:3-4)

Participants to the created interaction produce various speech activities (speech acts).
According to Searle (1971), they could be of several types:
a) assertives (assert something, draw a conclusion, evaluate, represent, report a state of
facts; they are of the type: assertion, information, report):

It is raining.
The conclusion is that they have sent the parcel, but we haven`t received it, yet.

24
The report is ready. You can hand it in to your boss.
b) directives (help the locutor determine the interlocutor to do something; they are of the
type: request, demand, order, question, a piece of advice, recommendation):

Please, bring me the dictionary!


I recommend you should go and tell them the truth!
My advice is that you should take the medicine.
c) promisives (constrain the locutor to do something in future; they are of the type: offer,
oath, promise):

I promise to write to you as soon as possible.


I swear to take revenge.
d) expressives (contribute to the expression of mental states of the locutor; are
represented by excuses, thanks, congratulations, confessions):

I don`t like the way you talk to her.


I totally dislike this kind of behaviour.
I feel awful to tell you the news.

e) declaratives – are of the type of declaration or condemnation.

I hereby pronounce you man and wife.


I sentence you to five years prison.

Many characteristics of the language use are in a close relationship with the aspects of
the situation (setting) in which the interaction is produced: the time and place of the
respective interaction; the participants to interaction; the relationships established between
them; the type of channel chosen for the transmission of the messsage; the code; the topic
(subject matter).
According to McCornack (2010:181-187), in order to improve the verbal interactions,
it is necessary to understand the fundamental characteristics of language, as identified by
Ellis (1999):
a) language uses symbols (items to represent other things) - words are symbols that
represent people, objects, events, ideas;
b) language is governed by rules

…govern the meaning of words, the way individuals arrange words into
phrases and sentences, and the order in which individuals exchange
words with others during conversation. (McCornack, 2010:182)

 the constitutive rules indicate which word represents which object (these rules
define the meanings of words);
 the regulative rules indicate the way in which language should be used in
communication (for example, they indicate how to form a grammatically
correct sentence or when a particular form is appropriate);
c) language is flexible
 individuals are creative and they generate words/phrases that they use in
particular situations, in particular contexts, with particular people;
 dialects represent a category of such creative variations; they are shared by
people living in a particular region;
d) language is cultural

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 using and understanding one language does not mean only knowing the rules
of the respective language; it also means knowing the cultural meanings
beyond the words, as they incorporate one`s cultural beliefs, attitudes, thoughts
and values;

Moreover, people use language differently depending on the extent to which


they assume that others share their cultural beliefs, attitudes, and values. (Mc
Cornack , 2010:185)

 when people belong to high-context cultures (cultures that share extensive


knowledge), they can resort to such communicative interactive techniques as
hinting, implying or suggesting meanings, as these are decoded in a easy way;
 when they belong to low-context cultures, this is not possible; they tend to
make their "information obvious in the words themselves”( "Here are my
thoughts on this situation…”; "This is what I mean…”) (Mc Cornack,
2010:186);
e) language evolves - language changes constantly; people change constitutive or
regulative rules; they also create new words and phrases
Language is made up of words. Words, in their turn, have several roles (Stewart,
1988:149-152):
a) they refer to or stand for things;
b) words perform actions - thus, in the case of "I promise”; "I bet”, the words are
functioning as actions;
c) words evoke emotions;
Words have the power of evoking emotions in various degrees. When someone calls us
"darling”/ "sweetie” or , on the contrary "stupid”/ "clumsy”, the respective words make us
feel happy or angry/nervous.
d) words can reduce uncertainty (they can limit the conclusions that we may draw about
something or someone);
e) words can express complex and abstract ideas
This is because "…complexities and abstractions require words.” They can help us to clarify
feelings, judgments, opinions or positions.
f) words can promote human contact; they can bring people together.
Having these in view, research in the field of verbal interaction has established the
functions language has. According to McCornack (2010) they may be summarized as follows
a) sharing meaning - when interacting with other people, there are two types of meaning that
are shared: denotative meaning and connotative meaning;
b) shaping thought and perceptions of reality - the basic idea is that language shapes how we
think;
c) naming - this means "…creating linguistic symbols for objects” (Mc Cornack, 2010:192);
these symbols are used to communicate meaning during the interaction with other people;
d) performing actions - through words individuals perform actions: they thank; make
requests/invitations/suggestions; they apologize, etc; the actions are performed through
speech acts;
e) crafting conversations;
f) managing relationships - Duck (1994) considers that

Our personal and professional relationships are largely defined


through the verbal information we exchange online, over the phone,
and face-to-face.

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The negotiation of meaning that occurs between the participants to any social interaction
is meant to ensure a clear understanding between interaction partners. Although, more often,
it ocurrs between participants belonging to different cultures, it is also present between native
speakers of the same culture.
It is revealed by some processes that can be identified during the communication activity,
at the level of the language used:
 asking for clarifications/clarification requests

A: I think you are wrong.


B: Excuse me?

A: They have brought the padlock.


B: The what?

A: They have sent him behind the bars.


B: Behind the bars? What do you mean?

 repetitions

A: I cannot see where the error is.


B: What did you say?
B: I cannot see where the error is. I thought I did it the right way.

 re-formulations of statements, questions, promises, etc.

A : Let it down.
B : Down ?
A : Let it on the floor.

 confirmation check

A : Have you found the book ?


B : The book ?
A : Yes, you were looking for it a few mnutes ago, when I came home.

 corrections

A: She enjoy the holiday.


B: You mean, she enjoys the holiday.

 comprehension check

A: She is busy at home at this hour.


B: She has already arrived, right?
A: Right.

Questions represent important elements in the process of communication/verbal


interaction between people. They are used at every level of social interaction, irrespective of
the individual`s age or gender, irrespective of the context in which communication takes place.
Questioning is

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…one of the most widely used interactive skills and one of the easiest to
identify in general terms. While at a surface level questioning seems to
be a straightforward feature of communication, deeper analysis, at
functional, structural and textual levels, reveals questioning to be a
complex and multifaceted phenomenon. (Hargie, 2011:117)

A question can be posed verbally or nonverbally (a head movement; raised eyebrows).


Studies in the field of questioning have shown that the interactions between teacher
and student, between doctor and patient, between shop-assistant and customer are mostly
based on the questioning process. One element that is common to these contexts is the
difference between the two people involved in the interaction created; this difference is given
by expertise, status or power. Generally, the individual having a higher expertise, status or
power will initiate the questioning process and lead it all along the interaction; the questioner
acquires some control over it “by requesting the addressee to engage with a specific topic and
/or perform a particular responsive action”. (Bolden, 2009:122).
Part of the question-answer process involves “understanding the questioner`s plans
and goals when formulating appropriate replies”. (Gibbs and Bryant, 2008:368)
There are various types of questions that can be asked.

I. The first distinction is made between closed and open questions.


Their typology is generated on the basis of the “degree of freedom, or scope, given to the
respondent in answering” (Hargie, 2011:124). Thus,

 Closed questions

…give the questioner a high degree of control over the interaction, since a series of
such questions can be prepared in advance in order to structure the encounter and the
answers that the respondent may give can usually be anticipated. (Hargie, 2011: 126)

They have the following characteristics:


1) the answers to such questions are very concise; they usually receive a single word
(“Yes” or “No”) or very few ones as an answer

A: Are you tired?


B: No.

A: Where do you go?


B: (To) Bucharest.

2) they can be opening questions in a conversation

Nice weather, isn`t it?


What`s the time?

3) they test the understanding of the message

A: Shall I understand that you haven`t finished the report yet?


B: Right.

4) they conclude a discussion (generally, to achieve closure of a persuasion process)

OK. Let`s forget about this argument. Still friends, right?

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[after getting the definition of a horse] That`s a horse. Now, let me ask you
girls and boys, Would you paper a room with representations of horses?”
(Ch Dickens- Hard Times)

“I`ll explain to you, then, said the gentleman, after another and a dismal pause,
“why you wouldn`t paper a room with representations of horses. Do you ever
see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in reality – in fact? Do
you?”
“Yes, sir!”from one half. “No, sir”, from the other.
“Of course no,” said the gentleman, with an indignant look at the wrong half.
(Ch Dickens- Hard Times)

5) a subcategory of this type includes alternative questions (the respondent has the
freedom to choose one alternative)

Would you like icecream or a cake?


Do you go with us or stay at home?”

6) they are characteristic for the interaction between teacher and student and between
doctor and patient, due to the high degree of control given to the questioner

 Open questions (Wh- questions) – have the following characteristics:

1) they ask the respondent to think; to reflect upon the topic


2) they usually begin with why; what; when; where; how
3) they expect and receive long answers (more than one or two words)
4) they are used to elicit more information/more details about the topic

“ And what”, asked Mr Gradgrind, in a still lower voice, “did you read to your
father, Jupe?”
“About the Fairies, sir, and the Dwarf, and the Hunchback, and the Genies”
she sobbed out; and about –“
“Hush! Said Mr Gradgrind, “that is enough…”
(Ch Dickens- Hard Times, p. 89)

5) they are used to find out the interlocutor`s opinion, feeling or attitude

What do you think about …?


What do you feel now, that you alerady know what is all about?
Why did you say something like that?
How was it like?

6) they encourage the partner of interaction to talk more and in detail; this means that

…the respondent has a greater degree of control over the interaction and can
determine to a greater extent what is to be discussed. (Hargie, 2011:126)

Would you lie to tell me more about this?


What else?

29
7) they have the advantage that the questioner can receive information he did not even
anticipate
8) they can reveal information that the interviewer had not anticipated
9) they promote self-disclosure
10) answers can contain, besides relevant information, more or less irrelevant information,
too.

Dickson et al. (1997) showed that open questions used in counselling have some
important functions:
 promote interviewee`s self-disclosure;
 produce more accurate responses;
 increase perceived counselor empathy.
During the doctor-patient interaction, for example, the open questions allow patients to give
longer answers through which they reveal significantly more symptoms (Heritage and
Robinnson, 2006 apud Hargie, 2011)

Can you explain what you feel?


What happened after you took the pills?
Two situations may be noticed; they have been identified in the following types of
sequences :
a) Funnel sequence
The funnel sequence represents the type of questioning that is generally used by
detectives (in investigative interviewing); the questioner starts with a very open question and
then the degree of openness is reduced gradually (Kahn and Cannell, apud Hargie, 2011:127)

A: What do you generally do when you finish the job programme? What did
you do when you finished the programme on Monday? Whom did you meet on
Monday?Was him the an you saw at the accident scene?

It can also be used by counsellors (in counseling interviewing)

What would you like to talk about?

b) Inverted funnel (pyramid) sequence- represents the opposite to a funnel question


sequence: the questioner starts with a very closed questionand goes on with one/more open
one(s) ; it is a type of sequence that is common to guidance interviews

Would you like to be a teacher? Why would you like to become a teacher?
c) the tunnel sequence – is based only on questions of the same type (usually closed
ones). It can be used in assessment interviews that expects factual responses or in courtroom
(when witnesses are directed along a predetermined set of answers). Such sequence can be
used in surface information interviews, not in in-depth ones.
d) the erratic sequence – is made up of closed an open questions and are meant to
confuse the respondent. They are present in interrogative interviews, or in courtrooms “to
catch the witness off-balance, with thoughts out of context” (Kestler,1982:156)

II. The second distinction is made between recall and process questions.
Hargie (2011: 131) considers that

This categorization refers to the cognitive level lat which questions are pitched.
Recall questions are also known as lower cognitive questions, and process
questions as higher order cognitive questions.

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 Recall questions
In most part open questions, they ask for recall of information, testing “the ability of
the respondent to recall facts” (Hargie, 2011:131)

When did that happen?


What followed after that?
What else can you remember?

These questions are much used in interviews, especially as “ice-breakers” meant to


stimulate the individual to talk. They have several functions:
1) they provide feedback;
2) they encourage active participation to the interaction;
3) they can help as starters in an interview;
4) are much used in the interaction between doctor and patient

When did you first feel this pain?


What happened after that?
What were the first symptoms?

5) they are used in classroom interaction at the beginning of a lesson, for example, helping
the teacher to learn about the student`s knowledge about the topic suggested, or, at the end of
the lesson when the student`s answer to such question give the measure of their accomplished
learning process.

What did we mention about this tense? When is it used?


Can you remember all the functionss of this grammar form?

A large group of questions includes what is called


 Process questions
The answers to such questions are based on the respondent`s opinions, evaluation,
interpretation of situation, analysis of causes/effects, or on his/her making predictions

What is your opinion about the last meeting we had?


How do you think we could solve this problem?
How would you describe your writing style?
In what ways are you going to cooperate with us?

Such questions encourage reflection, critical thinking, the power of analysis and
synthesis; this is why they can be used in the classroom interaction; through them, students
reflect on the material being presented. Hargie (2011:133) noticed that

Research tends to suggest that process questions are more effective in increasing both
participation and achievement of individuals of high intellectual ability, whereas
recall questions appear to be more appropriate for individuals of lower ability levels.

 Leading questions

By the way they are worded, they lead the respondent towards an expected
response. The anticipated answer is implied or assumed within the question, and
may or may not be immediately obvious to the respondent, depending upon the
phrasing. (Hargie, 2011:134)

31
These questions have certain haracteristics
1) as their name suggests, through this type of questions, the individual “leads “ the
respondent to “follow” a certain way of thinking;
2) they are also called suggestive questions (Gee et al, 1999, apud Hargie, 2011:134);
3) they are questions that tend to be closed;
4) they are of four types (Hargie, 2011:134):

a) conversational leads - used in everyday talk, they help the conversation flow, creating
the impression of a close relationship between the questioner and the respondent and
that of active listening from the part of the questioner

Isn`t it interesting?
Wasn`t it nice of her to call you?
Didn`t you feel all right after that?

b) simple leads – they differ from the conversational leads in that the simple lead is based
on the assumption that there exists a difference between the answer expected by the
questioner and the one that the respondent is going to offer

Surely you don`t like this kind of films. They are scary.
You do, of course, go to church, don`t you?” (Hargie, 2011:135)

Such questions can be used by lawyers in court, as they “permit control over the
subject matter and scope of the response.’ (Kestler, 1982:59)
Within this group, tag question are those that turn a statement into a leading question.
According to Lester (2008:306)

The question created by adding the question tag is not usually a genuine
request for information. It is typically a request for confirmation that the
information in the main body of the sentence is correct.

You can help her, can`t you?


They often visit you, don`t they?

c) implication leads

Implication leads exert a much greater degree of pressure on the respondent to


reply in the expected manner than sime leads, and for this reason they are also
known as complex leading questions. (Hargie, 2011:136)

Implication leads can be considered “trick questions.” The respondent needs to give a
certain answer, according to the suggested one; if he/she doesn`t offer such an answer, he/she
needs to accept to give justifications for his/her answer, to the questioner

Did you know that what you were doing was dishonest?
(Loftus, 1982 apud Hargie, 2011:137)

They are used by radio and television interviews when the interviewees are political
individuals

d) subtle leads (also called directional questions ) –

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“…they are worded in such a way as to elicit a certain type of response”
(Hargie, 2011:137)

Other types of questions include


 Rhetorical questions
They are questions that do not expect an answer and are used by public speakers; in
this case, the speaker intends to give an answer by himself to the question he addressed; the
question is meant just to stimulate the listener`s interest in the presentation and it functions as
a negative assertion

In fact, what have they ever done for us?


How many times do I have you to close the door?

 Affective questions - are related to the respondent`s past or present


feelings, emotions attitudes or preferences

How did you feel when you won the cup?


What are your feelings towards your new teacher?
Do you feel all right, now that I have told you the truth?

They can also sk for the respondent`s offering reasons for feelings

What caused you feel frightened in the new situation?

Such questions are very important in counseling interactions, especially because in


such contexts, the discussion of feelings is very important; they can also be used in health
care (where doctors ask questions that address the psychological aspects of the patients).
Hargie (2011:133) notices that

The utilization of recall or closed questions, however, places restrictions upon


respondents in terms of what they are expected to relate about feelings.

 Probing questions – ask the individual to elaborate on the response


given to a previous question

These are follow-up questions designed to encourage respondents to expand upon


initial responses. (Hargie, 2011:144)

They are of different types, depending on the questioner`s goals: to get clarification, to
receive justification, etc. Thus, the probes that need to be offered fall into the following
categories (Hargie, 2011)
a) clarification probes – used when the answer already offered creates confusion, doubt
or lacks details

What exactly do you want to say?


What, specifically, will you tell her?
Could you explain that to me again?”
Could you be a little bit more explicit?
Could you tell me more about that?

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b) justification/purpose probes – when the questioner wants to get a justification of why
what was said, was said

Why did you say that?


What made you say that?
How did you reach that conclusion?
What were you thinking about when you said…?

c) relevance probes – used to make the respondent be relevant on the topic under
discussion

Is this relevant to what we discussed earlier?


Does it make sense to you?

d) completeness – the questioner checks whether what the respondent said is complete
and accurate

Is that all you have seen?


Anything else to add?
How do you know that is true?

e) exemplification probes – the respondent is required to illustrate a general comment

Can you give me an example of that?


Could you exemplify, please?
Any example to prove that?

f) repetition probes – the questioner repeats the question by using the same words or by
rephrasing it, in order to make sure that the other individual understood what the
questioner wanted to know

Where is that? I repeat: where is that?

g) extension probes – they are used in order to encourage the respondent to expand upon
the initial answer (to tell more)

That`s interesting; tell me more about it.


What else?
What happened after that?

h) accuracy probes – the respondent is drawn the attention to a possible error

Are you sure about that?


Is that so?
Is that correct?

i) evaluation probes – the questioner wants to find out the way in which the respondent
evaluates what he has said

How do you evaluate that meeting? Was it seful?


Why do you think it was worthless?

34
 Prosodic questions - they are statements that are uttered in an
inquisitive manner

Tell me about it.


You do realize what will happen. (Hargie, 2011:118)

“You were in the tiptop fashion, and all the rest of it,” said Mr. Bounderby.
“Yes, sir,” returned Mrs Sparsit, with a kind of social widowhood upon her.
“It is unquestionably true.” (Ch Dickens- Hard Times)

“Jupe,, I have made up my mind to take you into my house….and you are to
expressly understand that the whole of that subject is past, and is not to be
referred to any moer. From this time you begin your history. You are, at
present, ignorant, I know.”
“Yes, sir, very,” she answered, curtseying. (Ch Dickens- Hard Times)

“Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?”


(Ch Dickens- Hard Times, p. 49)
“Bitzer”, said Thomas Gradgrind. “Your definition of a horse.” (Ch Dickens-
Hard Times)

 Embedded questions
Such question are made up of two questions put together

“Can you tell me who helped you?” (two questions: “Can you tell me?” –referring to
the individual`s ability to do something and “Who helped you?” referring to a piece of
information that is needed)

Dillon (1990) identifies possible answers to questions, no matter their type. Among them, he
mentions:
1. silence – the respondent chooses, for different reasons, to say nothing;
2. overt refusal to answer

I prefer not to answer…


I would rather keep silent about that
I won`t say anything about that…
3. unconnected response – the answer brings a change in the topic

How was your day?


The best thing I have done was to start repairing the motorbike…
4. humour

Do you think you look nice?


How else could I look?
5. lying – the answer offered is false
6. stalling – the answer is represented by another question

A: Have you seen my purse?


B: Which one?
A: The blue one.

7. evading - the respondent evades the direct answer to the question;

35
How are you feeling now after the accident?
Let us not mention this thing any more…
8. selective ambiguity – the respondent distinguishes between the “real”; and the
“surface” question and chooses to answer to the first one
How old are you?
Don`t worry; I can manage with all that task…
9. withholding and concealing – respondents attempt to avoid disclosing
information that may make them “lose” their face

Have you seen who ate my meal?


I was out all day.
10. distortion – the respondent offers answers that are socially desirable
“..in survey interviews,respondentstend to overestimate voting, reading books and
giving to charity, and underestimate illness, financial status and illegal
behavior.”(Bradburn and Sudman, 1980, apud Hargie, 2011:118)

11. direct honest response.

Task 1: Identify the type of possible questions or any other possible technique that
is used to elicit information in a job interview12:

What five adjectives describe you best?


Why should I consider you for this position?
Why are you the best candidate for this position?
Tell me about the one thing in your life you're proudest of.
You've changed jobs frequently. What makes you think that this position will be
different?
What qualities do you think are necessary to make a success of this job?
Describe your ideal job.
How did you find out about this job?
What do you know about the job?
What do you know about this department?
Is there anything that will prevent you from getting to work on time?
What interests you most about this position?
How do you feel about your present workload?
What motivates you to do your best work?
How can we best help you get your job done?
Tell me about a time you went “out on a limb” to get the job done.
What are the disadvantages of this line of work?
What do you find most frustrating at work?
Tell me about a project that got you really excited.
How do you define doing a good job?
What makes a job enjoyable for you?
Under what conditions do you work best?
What is your greatest strength/weakness or deficiency?
Tell me about a work task you enjoy.
What are your 5-year goals?
Tell me what "success" means to you.
What does "failure" mean to you?

12
https://www.utsa.edu/hr/docs/InterviewQuestions.pdf

36
Do you consider yourself successful?
Do you set goals for yourself and how do you do that?
What were your most significant accomplishments at your last job?
What is the biggest failure you've had in your career? Why do you believe it was your
biggest failure?
What was the most important project you worked on in your last job and why did you
choose this example?
Describe how you have progressed through the ranks and landed in your current
position at ABC Company?
How have you had to reinvent or redefine your job to meet your companies changing
needs?
Tell me about a work situation you had that required excellent communication skills.
Do you prefer to speak directly with someone or send a memo?
How would you grade your ability to communicate with upper level management,
customers, and peers?
What was more important on your job, written or oral communication?
Describe the top of your desk.
Tell me about the last time you failed to complete a project on time.
What do you do when you're having trouble solving a problem?
What do you do when things are slow/hectic?
What do you do when you have multiple priorities?
Tell me about your typical day. How much time do you spend on the phone? In
meetings? Etc.
Your supervisor left you an assignment, then left for a week. You can't reach him/her
and you don't fully understand the assignment. What would you do?
How do you organize and plan for major projects?
Describe a project that required a high amount of energy over an extended period of
time.
How do you organize yourself for day-to-day activities?
Tell me about a task you started but just couldn't seem to get finished.

Task 2: Comment on the types of questions and answers in the following


conversations

“Have you gone to sleep, Loo?”


“No, Tom. I am looking at the fire.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“Then comes the question,” said the eminently practical father, with his eyes on the
fire, “in what has this vulgar curiosity its rise?”
“I`ll tell you in what. In idle imagination.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“Are you walking? Asked his friend. “I have the father`s address. Perhaps you would
not mind walking to town with me?”
“Not the least in the world,” said Mr. Bounderby, “as long as you do it at once!”
(Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“…I used to read to him to cheer his courage, and he was very fond of that. They were
wrong books – I am never to speak of these here – but we didn`t know there was any
harm in them.”
“And he like them?” said Louisa, with her searching gaze on Sissy all the time.
“O very much! They kept him, many times, from what did him real harm…”
(Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

37
“And your father was always very kind? To the last?” asked Louisa; contravening the
great principle, and wondering very much.
“Always, always!” returned Sissy, clasping her hands. “Kinder and kinder than I can
tell…” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“Father, she still pursued, “does Mr Bounderby ask me to love him?”


“Really, my dear, said Mr Gradgrind, “it is difficult to answer your question – “
“Difficult to answer it, Yes or No, father?” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“All is shut up, Bitzer?” said Mrs Sparsit.


“All is shut up, ma`am.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“Do you smoke?” asked Mr James Harthouse, when they came to the hotel.
“I believe you!” said Tom. (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

Task 3: Comment on the way in which negotiation of meaning is done in the


following conversation

“…However, when I go to live with old Bounderby, I`ll have my revenge.”


“Your revenge, Tom?”
“I mean, I`ll enjoy myself a little, and go about and see something, and hear something.
I`ll recompense myself for the way in which I have ben brought up.”
(Ch Dickens- Hard Times)

VI.1.2. Taking turns in interaction

The verbal interaction is based on the use of turns that participants take in order to
initiate, maintain and end it. The concepts of turn-taking and adjacency pairs are basic
notions in the Ethomethodologist analysis. According to Sacks (1978), the basic unit of
conversational exchange is the turn (the minimal unit for “shares” Levinson, 1983:297). This
means that there exists a system, called the turn-taking system that governs the casual
interaction, based on the idea that

 there is one individual speaking at a time;


 he/she talks, then stops;
 the other one “takes the floor”, talks and then stops;
 the first one takes the floor and the process goes on.
Ethnomethodologists consider that there are certain properties that characterize any
conversation (Sacks, H; Emanuel Schegloff, Gail Jefferson , 1978):
 there exists a change of interlocutors;
 generally, each speaker observes his/her turn; one party talks at a time;
 occurrences of more than one speaker at a time are common, but brief;
 transitions from one turn to the next one, with no gap and no overlap between
them, are common;
 turn size is not fixed, but varies;
 length of conversation is not fixed, specified in advance;
 what parties say is not fixed, specified in advance;
 relative distribution of turns is not fixed, specified in advance;
 number of parties can change;
 talk can be continuous or discontinuous;

38
 turn-allocation techniques are obviously used: a current speaker may select a next
speaker; parties may self-select in starting to talk;
 various ‘turn-constructional units” are employed;
 repair mechanisms for dealing with turn-taking errors and violations obviously are
available for use. For example, if two parties find themselves talking at the same
time, one of them will stop, thus repairing the trouble/inconvenience.
There exists a certain mechanism that governs the turn-taking system; it is called local
management system (Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson – 1974, 1978). One speaker can build up
his/her turn upon diverse syntactic units, each of them bearing a certain mark characteristic
for the point in which it can end, that is , of the point in which the other speaker can begin
his/her turn.

There are natural breaks in every conversation: a speaker has to pause


for breath, or runs out of things to say, or simply declares his or her
contribution to be finished: all those points in the conversation are
places where a natural “transition”, a relay of the right to spea to the
next speaker, may occur. Such points are technically called ‘transition
relevance places’, or TRPs… (Mey,2001:217).

Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson, 1978 have established some rules for turn-taking:
 Rule 1 – initially, at the first TRP of any turn:
o if C selects N in current turn, then C must stop speaking, and N must speak
next, transition occurring at the first TRP after N-selection
o if C does not select N, then any (other) party may self-select, first speaker
gaining rights to the next turn
o if C has not selected N, and no other party self-selects under option (b), then C
may (but need not) continue (i.e. claim the rights to a further turn-
constructional unit)
 Rule 2 – applies at all subsequent TRPs
 When Rule 1 c) has been applied by C, then at the nest TRP Rule 1 (a)-(c) apply, and
recursively at the next TRP, until speaker change is effected
Certain words or constructions, as well as paralinguistic markers can constitute transition
relevance places:
a) the current speaker pauses waiting for somebody else to talk

A: We have all decided upon this.


B: Who is “all”?

b) the current speaker uses


 vocatives or interjections

A: Hey, you!
B: Who? Me?

A: Wow! What a nice dress!


B: Thank you!

 a closed-question

A: Who was the winner?


B: Jay was.

39
A: Are you sure about it?
B: Yes.

c) by means of accent or tone, the current speaker indicates that he/she has finished
his/her turn

A: They are at home now, aren`t they?


B: For sure.
d) the current speaker selects the next speaker in different ways

a) the current speaker addresses a question:

 request for information

A: What time do you come back?


B: At about 3, I guess.

 request for action, under the disguise of a proposal:

A: Can I talk to you?


B: Sure, come in!

 a closed -question

A: Want an apple?
B: Ya, thanks.

 disjunctive question:

A: Is it true, or not?
B: Yes, it is.

b) the current speaker allocates the turn directly:

A: Now, we`d like to hear Jim`s view on this. (Mey, 2001:217)

A: Tom, you may take the floor and explain everything to us.

A: Tom, it`s your turn now, to tell us something about your plan.

A: Tom, can you mention something about this?

c) the current speaker does not select the next one directly, but indicates that a change
of turn is necessary:

A: Who would like to say something about this?


A: I`d like one of you to say something about this.

A: I expect somebody to take the floor and say something about this./I expect
somebody to say something.

d) The next speaker self-selects himself/herself

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“…the basic technique for self selection is “starting first” (Sacks, 1978: 32)
 announcing explicitly that he/she wants to say something:

B: I would like to say something about this.

B: I have something to say about this.

B: I think it is my turn to speak.

B: Can I say smoething about this?

 just “taking” the turn/intervening

“Taking” the turn can be done in different ways:

 in a natural way, when the current speaker has signalled the end of the turn;
 in an “aggressive” manner, producing an overlap (with or without any excuse);
overlapping may be “sanctioned” by the current speaker or not (“Its not your turn”;
“Wait for your turn”)

e) the current speaker ignores the TRP and continues “past it” (Mey, 2001:217)

All these mechanisms of “selection (self- or other-) are among the most
important moving parts of the “turn management system”, these
conversational machinery owned and operated by the actual and
potential floor-holders and –getters. (Mey, 2001:217)

In case of overlaps, there are two possible situations:


 one speaker drops out';
 if one speaker does not drop out there appears a real competition for the floor;
paraverbal signs play a great role in establishing the winner.

Adjacency pairs represent another local management organization in conversation.


They are of the type greeting – greeting; question- answer; offer- acceptance; apology-
minimization, etc. (Levinson, 1983:303) and are made of two parts. The first one requires the
second; the second part is expected and relevant. This made Levinson, 1983:306 talk about
conditional relevance.
The second part of the pair may be preferred (unmarked) or dispreferred (marked).
For example, an offer is supposed to receive acceptance for an answer. Acceptance represents
the preferred second; refusal is the dispreferred one.
Generally, the dispreferred seconds are delivered after some significant delay and are
introduced by such particles as well,… or Uh…. to express some degree of hesitation. They
can also involve apologies (when requests were not answered or invitations were declined, for
example) or thanks (after offers, invitations, advice), as well as accounts of why the preferred
seconds cannot be performed.

Task: Identify the way in which turns are taken in the following interview13

13Oprah talks to Michelle Obama – from http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Michelle-Obamas-Oprah-


Interview-O-Magazine-Cover-with-Obama

41
Oprah: I had heart palpitations coming through the White House gate,
recognizing that this really is now your home. It's the White House, and it's
your home.

Michelle Obama: And it's a beautiful home. When you go out and come back,
especially at night, with all the white lights on—it's just beautiful. We feel
privileged, and we feel a responsibility to make it feel like the people's house.
We have the good fortune of being able to sleep here, but this house belongs to
America.

Oprah: Your saying that makes me feel different than I've ever felt about the
White House. When you say that, I actually do now, for the first time, think,
"Yeah, it is the people's house." How did you come to understand that so
clearly?

Michelle Obama: Well, I had some time to think about it, because we ran for so
long...

Oprah: The longest run anybody's ever seen.

Michelle Obama: Right. And at some point, you start thinking about what
living here would really mean. I've taken Barack's mantra: This isn't about us.
There's so much history here that no one family can claim this space as their
own.

Oprah: So when did it hit you?

Michelle Obama: I don't think it has. Everything's been moving at the speed of
light. The whole process of transitioning here, the inauguration, all the protocol,
seeing to it that the girls are doing well…I've really just been trying to make
sure everything gets done.

Oprah: I can't imagine what the inauguration was like for you. For me, it felt
like a moment in time that had been coming since time began.

Michelle Obama: I definitely sensed that, standing on the Capitol steps. But I
would love to see a tape of what was going on down on the Mall. Because when
you hear from people who were there, they talk about the emotions and the
calm and the fact that you had more than a million people descending on this
very small city with no incident, all love—I long to know that feeling as well.

Oprah: What was your prayer the night before you moved into the White
House?

Michelle Obama: That we stay whole as a family through this process. And
when Barack and I talked, he said he wanted to get through the day with
everyone intact, everyone who attended—he said he would feel good when
every last visitor left safely. And fortunately that happened.

Oprah: Every last visitor. Every train. Every bus. There were so many people.
And all of them had their eyes on you. Were you in your body?

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Michelle Obama: Oh, I was in it. And it was pretty cold.
Oprah: One of my favorite, favorite moments was during the parade—the two
of you getting out of the car and walking, and your arms are linked and your
head is sort of on his shoulder. I loved that. But I wondered about the
conversation before you got out. Did you just suddenly say, "Look, we're going
to walk for a while now"?

Michelle Obama: We were trying to see if the girls wanted to get out. They
were like, "No"—they wanted to stay in the car. And while we were out, they
were partying in there—when we got back in, they had the music blaring. But
Barack and I felt that walking outside was a natural extension of the campaign:
"Okay, we can't come over to you, we can't hug you—can't do that—but we can
be out here waving." Of course, then there was a point where we felt like,
"Whoa, three blocks is long." My feet started hurting.

Oprah: How did your feet feel at the seventh ball that night?

Michelle Obama: What a good workout, right? I just remembered that even
though it was the seventh ball for me, it was the first ball for everyone there. I
thought about that during the parade, too. I thought, "I'm going to stand here
and cheer for every last person, because this is why they came—to walk in front
of the president of the United States."

Oprah: Weren`t you freezing?

Michelle Obama: I was a little cube of ice. My coat had layers, but from the
legs down, I was cold. I would have loved to be wearing a pair of warm, toasty
boots.

VI.2. The skill of interacting nonverbally and paraverbally

…distinguishing between verbal and nonverbal communication is not as


conceptually straightforward as it might at first seem. (Hargie, 2011:43)

Face-to-face interaction does not always rely upon the content of what we say. Gestures,
glances, facial expressions, posture can be “…more telling than the accompanying words.”
(Hargie, 2011:43). This is why “communication without words” (DeVito, 2005:105) has
become an important element in meaning–making during the interaction between people.
Analysing the literature in the field of nonverbal comunication, Hargie (2011:50)
summarizes the purposes of this communication; combined with the corresponding nonverbal
cues14, we have them as it follows:
 to replace verbal communication (whenever it is impossible or inappropriate to
talk) – by pointing with hands, head, feet; gestures with finger, hands, arms;

14 Uses of nonverbal communication - http://changingminds.org/explanations/ behaviors


/body_language/using_non-verbal.htm

43
 to complement verbal communication (enhancing the message transmitted) –
by gestures with hand, arms; movement of the head; eye-contact; direction of
the gaze;
 to modify the spoken word – position of the body relative to other people or
things; movement of head; voice pitch; speed of speaking;
 to contradict what is said (this is done intentionally or unintentionally);
 to regulate conversation (by helping to mark speech turns) – by eye-contact;
movement of the head; pointing to the other person;
 to express emotions and interpersonal attitudes;
 to negotiate relationships;
 to convey personal and social identity (for example, through hair-style, clothes
or jewellery);
 to contextualize interaction (by creating a particular social setting).

Kinetics. The activity of the body (“body language”) was studied for the first time by
Birdwhistell R. (Kinesics in Context, 1970); he considers that gestures
 have a social value (they are markers of the social status and the role the individual
plays);
 express feelings;
 show belonging to a group;
 give force to the act of interacting with the others;
 help development of relationships;
 express psychological values (joy, pain) or moral values (“it is good/bad”)
One of the most well-known typologies is that offered by Ekman and Friesen (apud Rovenţa-
Frumuşani, 1999:188-189). They analyse:
 emblems – movements that have a precise meaning and are functionally equivalent to
words; generally, they are learned through imitation and used throughout one`s life:
(the index finger to the lips, for “silence” or the same finger to the temple, for
“suicide”);
 illustrators – movements that depict verbal messages; they are used together with
words and allow the receiver to understand the verbal message in a better and easier
way, as they add emphasis, depict spatial relationships, or point to objects (the gesture
of pointing to somebody while shouting his name; the gesture made to show the size
or shape of an object, while talking about it);
 adaptors – movements that originally were used to express physical needs and have
been “adapted” to serve other needs, too (facilitate release of bodily tension);
 regulators – movements used to ensure control/coordinate interaction between people
(represented by nods - for consent, raised eyebrows- for expressing doubt/uncertainty);
 affect displays – movements that express emotions; they are a sort of presentation of
feelings and emotions, having transcultural identic meaning; they involve facial
expressions, trembling hands or angry stares.
Using Goffman`s terminology (1973:132-135), we identify (Bonta, 2004b:84-86):

a) bodily expressions meant to initiate contact/interaction


 expressions of orientation – show individual`s positioning towards the one he is
interacting with (through the position of the head, the direction of the look and
through minimizing distance);
 expressions of recognition (the waving hand; the smile; the hug; handshaking).
b) bodily expressions meant to illustrate the contact/interaction
Among the most important in the group are discursive bodily expressions (underline the
verbal context); they
 act independently from the verbal context (the “V” sign indicating victory)

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 amplify/accentuate the spoken words (gestures such as shrugs, nods or blinks):

I don`t know”, he said, shrugging his shoulders.

 illustrate, clarify or repeat the significance of the verbal expression (the smile, the
volume of voice, as well as the accent):

I said: COME HERE!

 contradict the verbal expression (the intonation that enhances an ironical answer;
avoidance of the eye contact or nervous movement of arms and legs, although desire
for cooperation was verbally made clear a little bit before);
 modify the verbal expression (smiling while turning down somebody`s invitation);
 substitute the verbal expression (the situation in which the locutor does not find his
words or delays answering a question; it is also the case of gestures that substitute
words in conditions of noise or when speaking or hearing is impossible or rather
difficult).

c) strategic bodily expressions (represent the individual`s adaptation of his entire


nonverbal behaviour to that of the interlocutor`s):
 maximizing distance (half-closed eyes; steps forewards; shaking of the head that
shows disagreement);
 avoidance (turned head; sideways look; avoidance of eye contact);
 desire of breaking off the dialogue (rare signals of confirmation; look expressing
boredom, sighing etc).

Eye contact has a very important role in initiating/establishing interaction and in maintaining
its flow. Nowadays research in the field of communication mention it as a communication
skill that needs to be learned and practiced. One`s glance can
 represent a request for information;
 be a signal for the other interlocutor to take his/her turn;
 be a marker of the relationship with the interlocutor.
Eye contact is increased when interlocutors know each other very well, when the relationship
between them is a symmetrical one, or when the topic is of common interest. It also indicates
active listening, which, in its turn, is a sign of politeness from the part of the interlocutor. Eye
contact has also the role of building trust among interlocutors.
On the contrary, avoidance of eye contact can be a sign of formality, nervousness, lack
of respect and also, a sign of shyness.

Haptics. Touching indicates positive feelings (people greet, by shaking hands or cheek-
kissing; they express affection, comforting, close relationship/friendship by hugging, holding
hands or kissing ) or negative feelings (anger, nervousness, envy or irritation – through a slap
or a punch). Generally, individuals touch more easily and more often those people they like,
appreciate or feel close to; by touching, feelings are amplified and communication becomes
more effective. As touching allows the others to enter the intimate spae, it is closely
connected to proxemics.

Proxemics represents the study of how individuals organize and manage the distance existing
between/among them in the everyday social interactions. Individuals can resort (Hall, 1971)
to

45
a) intimate distance (between two intimate friends, close pairs, parents and children;).
This is the distance of lovemaking, caressing, hugging, kissing, protecting, but also of
fighting);
b) personal distance (the distance that is preferred by people in everyday social
interactions: dialogues, conversations);
c) social distance (the distance of formal relationships, of the people occupying a high or
a low position, given by the social roles played);
d) public distance (the distance of the concert, the conference, or public speeches; an
important role is given to gestures and voice -its pitch, rate, rhythm)

Voice belongs to the category of paraverbal cues. The parameters that are taken into account
when analyzing it are
a) rate (how fast or slow one speaks);
b) pitch (how high or low one speaks on a musical scale);
c) rhythm (the use of pauses that create rhythm in speech);
d) tone (how sad/happy/amused/excited/angry the voice sounds);
e) volume (how loud or soft one speaks);
f) quality (the texture of the voice: husky, melodious, creaky).
The way in which all these are manipulated by the individual makes communication
effective, as they express feelings, help attitude change and facilitate communication

Silence. An important tool in communication, silence may serve different functions. Its role
can be really proved by the very well known proverbs “Silence is gold” or “You have two
ears and only one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you speak” (in English) or
“Tăcerea e de aur”şi “Dacă tăceai filozof rămâneai” (in Romanian). As a communication tool,
says Proulx 15, silence provides many benefits:
 it allows you to actually listen to other people’s perspective;
 it lets your colleagues complete their thoughts without rushing;
 it provides space for people to express their opinions or feelings;
 it makes people feel their perspective is valued;
 it allows you to organize your thoughts and emphasize one point or another;
 it builds anticipation in your audience and allows them to follow your message;
 it leaves room in the conversation to allow people to share something they might want
to tell you but weren’t quite ready to do so;
 during negotiation, it adds a little pressure on the other person to possibly offer a better
deal.
Myers & Myers (1990) identify certain categories of silence:
 the silence of the person who is angry, frustrated and nervous;
 the silence of the person who is fascinated by the things around him;
 the silence brought about by boredom (it is a negative re-evaluation of the situation/of
what is happening; can imply an attitude of superiority that will offence the others);
 the silence brought about by the fact that the person does not know what else to say;
 the silence that appears whenever one thinks about what he/she is going to say;
 the silence that signals the fact that the person did not understand what he/she was told
(the silence induced by confusion);
 the silence signifying moments of reflection, respect, contemplation;
 the silence called “dogmatic” – signifies that the speaker has nothing else to add to
what has already been said;
 the silence of those in love, who do not need words to make themselves understood;

15
Proulx, M. “Using Silence as a Communication Tool” http://analytical-mind.com/2009/11/23/using-
silence-as-a-communication-tool/

46
 the silence induced by pain;
 the silence of stubbornness; of the person who resorts to a very-well thought strategy.

VI.3. The skill of self-disclosing in interaction

Objectives
After reading this sub-chapter, the students will be able to
1. Show understanding of the concept of SELF
2. Identify the ways in which the process of self-disclosure takes place
3. Identify the reasons and benefits of self-disclosure

People use ‘self-disclosure’ (including what, when and how thoughts


and feelings are disclosed or not disclosed.) (Derlega et al: 153)

Self-disclosure is at the heart of the communication process and, at the same time, it
represents a process of communication in itself. Through it, the individual reveals
himself/herself to the others (he/she discloses thoughts, feelings, goals, likes, dislikes, etc.).
The quantity and type of information revealed depends on the individual himself/herself
(his/her willingness to disclose), as well as on the different elements of the interaction in
which he/she is involved (the interlocutor; the place and time elements; the relationship
between the two, the topic under discussion, etc.). The information can be descriptive or
evaluative.

Self-disclosure has positive effect on interpersonal relationships created during the verbal
inetraction. According to Greene (2006, apud Gibbs et al. 2006:156),

… it is acknowledged that partners may cycle back and forth between being
open and closed in their disclosure, and too much self-disclosure (especially of
negative information) early in relationships may have a negative effect.

Researchers in the field have observed that background factors (e.g. culture, personality
and gender) and communication medium (e.g. face-to-face versus Internet communication)
influence self-disclosure at the start of a relationship. Self-disclosure is made up of verbal and
nonverbal activities.
Traditional interpersonal theories have offered information on the process of self-
disclosure:
a) Social Penetration Theory (Taylor and Altman, 1987) – mentions the fact that self-
disclosure (as an intentional process of sharing personal information about oneself) allows
individuals to learn about each other. The most important thing is reciprocation: the individual

47
expects reciprocation from the part of the interaction partner and this leads to intimacy and
relational development. The process needs to be done selectively, as information that the
individual discloses can be included in two categories: low-risk and high-risk information.
Altman and Taylor treat the process of self-disclosure as social penetration: through self-
disclosure and learning about the others, individuals “penetrate” deeper and deeper into the
selves of the others. They used the metaphor of the onion (that has layers upon layers of rings)
and analyse the process of self-disclosure reaching the conclusion that it begins at the surface
layer and in time, it reaches the core of the onion.
b) Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger and Calabrese, 1975) – the theory considers that
as the relationship between strangers is characterized by uncertainty, individuals start offering
information about themselves, in order to reduce it. According to them, self-disclosure and
nonverbal warmth play an important role in reducing uncertainty and establishing good
relationships.
c) Incremental exchange Theory (Levinger and Snoek, 1972) – according to this theory,
self-disclosure progresses across time.

The concept of SELF has been treated under several perspectives (see Bonta, 2004b:63-
65).
In the American psychologist William James1s conception, the SELF displays two main
aspects:
 the SELF as a knower, (called the “I” or the “pure ego”) – the subjective part of the
self and the active source of behavior. It includes the individual`s mental states and
personal identity.
 the SELF as known (called the “me”, or the “empirical ego”) – the objective part of
the self and the passive object of behaviour. It becomes active because we can notice
what the individual may say about himself, as well as the way he says it. In its turn, it
includes
a) the material me (the individual`sbody, clothes or other possessions);
b) the social me (reflects the way in which the others see us);
c) the spiritual me (our reflections on our own psychological processes).

Charles Cooley (apud Schellenberg, 1993:20-21) offers another perspective. He


introduced the metaphor of the “looking –glass SELF”. In Cooley`s opinion, the individual`s
SELF grows up during the social interactions with the people around; it represents a creative
reconstruction of the meanings of our own actions, using the perspectives offered by the
others (the people around act as “mirrors” that reflect images of ourselves).

As we see our face, figure and dress in the glass and are interested in them
because they are ours, and pleased or otherwise with them according as they
do or do not answer to what we should like them to be; so in imagination we
perceive in somebody else`s mind some thought of our appearance, manners,
aims, deeds, character, friends and so on and are variously affected by it.

The concept of SELF is the key concept of symbolic interactionism whose main
representative, Mead, considers that the “I” and the “me” are alternating phases of every
action that involves the SELF. The “I” is identifiable whenever the individual acts
spontaneously (as it is the individual`s identity), while the “me” is the society within
ourselves (the socialized aspect of the individual; it includes learned behaviours, attitudes and
expectations of the society in which the individual lives and acts, as well as those of the
people around him).

48
Goffman (La mise en scène de la vie quotidienne (1973) ; Les rites d`interaction (1974),
operates with two concepts:
a) Face – the range of positive images, which the individual tends to build up about
himself/herself towards the others or towards himself/herself. It represents our
positively-valued social identities. One’s ‘face’ is the

…positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others
assume he has taken during a particular contact. (1982:5).

In any social interaction the individuals risk to “lose” their face(s) as these are targets of
several “attacks” (mockery, irony, orders, complaints, pieces of advice, even justifications,
apologies, invitations or complements, etc ) from the part of the others.
Each individual tries to protect his face (out of a strong desire, called “face-want”), as he
does not want to “lose” it (Goffman, 1982:6). That is why he sets into motion different
techniques and strategies that may help him preserve both his face and the face of his
interaction partner(s). These strategies help him to convince, persuade or change the other`s
behaviour, without hurting the latter`s feelings. Goffman calls this complex strategic
activity“face–work”.

b) Territory – makes reference to the individual`s desire to be independent, to act freely.


According to Goffman, there are different “territories”:
1. Personal space–

The space surrounding an individual, anywhere within which an entering other


causes the individual to feel encroached upon, leading him to show displeasure
and sometimes to withdraw. (Goffman, 2010:29-30)

It is the space in which he individual moves and acts. Among the variables that
“dictate” the space required by the individual, there are cultural norms and the degree of
intimacy with the co-participant to interaction.
2. The stall

The well-bounded space to which individual can lay temporary claim,


possession being on an all-or-none basis. (Goffman, 2010:32).

Stalls are fixed (a comfortable chair, a telephone both) or portable (towels or mats at
the beach, for example); “…they provide external, easily visible, defendable boundaries for a
spatial claim” (idem:33)
3. Use space

The territory immediately around or in front of an individual, his claim to


which is respected because of apparent instrumental needs.
(Goffman, 2010:34)

The others need to stay out of his way (when taking a photo for example – people need to stay
away, so that you can take it properly; when individuals have a conversation, the others need
to stay away, not to disturb them).
4. The Turn - “The order in which a claimant receives a good of some kind
relative to other claimants in the situation”
5. The Sheath – “The skin that covers the body and, at a little remove, the clothes
that cover the skin.” (idem:38)

49
6. Possessional Territory - ány set of objects that can be identified with the self
and arrayed around the body wherever it is.” (idem:38)
7. Information Preserve

The set of facts about himself to which an individual expects to control access
while in the presence of others. (Goffman:38-39).

This includes the content of mind, of pockets, letters, purses, containers, biographical facts
about the individual, etc. It also makes reference to the individual`s right of not being stared
at.
8. Conversational Preserve

The right of the individual to exert some control over who can summon him
into talk and when he can be summoned; and the right of a set of individuals
once engaged in talk to have their circle protected from entrance and
overhearing by others. (Goffman:40)

During the social interaction, individuals disclose their SELF, or part of it, in various
degrees, more or less, willingly or unwillingly.
In his book, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Goffman deals with how an “actor”
(the individual on the social stage) creates the impression he wants to give to others.
The main concept Goffman uses is that of “front”. This represents the manner in which
the individual conveys the information to the others (the audience). The individual`s
“personal front”is made up of two elements: “appearance” (physical signs that provides
information about the individual`s social status and occupation) and “manner” (a sign about
the individual`s behaviour in interaction: his being active or passive).
Goffman distinguishes between front-stage and backstage; the first term makes reference
to the individual`s performance in front of the others; the latter, sends to where the setting,
appearance or manner of the individual is constructed.
The individual discloses:
 the material SELF - the individual`s physical traits, physical and possessions;
 the personal SELF - the image of self (the way in which individuals see themselves)
and self-esteem (the value attached to all the constituent elements of the self-image).
It includes the individual`s feelings, emotions, desires, tastes, interests, aptitudes,
qualities, drawbacks, moral and ethical values, ideology, beliefs, as well as the
relationships with the others.
 family and social SELF- the self in interaction with the members of the family and
with other people in general;
 the impersonal SELF - the range of characteristics that are similar to those of other
individuals (being a member of a community; having a social status and playing a
certain role, etc) .

There are many reasons for which individuals resort to self-disclosure:


 helping individuals to initiate or maintain interaction;
 searching for commonalities (Hargie, 2011: 258) – self-disclosure is given in the hope
that the other person may be able to identify with the speaker;
 building/developing and maintaining relationships – self-disclosure facilitates
relationships ;
 improving communication – self-disclosure helps individuals to clarify ideas sharing
experience;
 changing images – through self disclosure, the individual can change the image others
have about him/her;

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 developing reciprocity – According to Harper and Harper (2006:251), reciprocity
means that a person`s disclosure increases the likelihood that the other party disclose
himself (the idea is that disclosure requires and triggers reciprocity).
 making the individual feel better – through self-disclosure, the individual can feel
better by bringing feelings into the open, where, generally speaking, they are handled
more successfully; sel-disclosure helps individuals develop knowledge about
themselves.
Presentation/disclosure varies according to certain variables:
 the context in which the interaction takes place;
 the participants to interaction (their age gender, personality, status, ethnic and
religious orientation; their number; their degree of empathy with the others);
 the type of relationships (symmetrical or asymmetrical) established between
interlocutors;
 the objectives that individuals have in mind when they interact with the others;
 the degree of trust individuals manifest in each other;
 the easiness with which individuals communicate with the others in a variety
of contexts;
 the importance given to the feedback received as a result of disclosure;
 the appropriate time (physical, psychological) for disclosure;
 the degree of awareness of how sharing works in different situations and in
front of different persons;
 the topic of discussion (very intimate problems are difficult to disclose);
 physical proximity;
 the channel of communication (individuals seem to disclose easier when they
communicate in e-mails, chat groups – that is, in online communication, than
in face-to-face interactions)
 cultural belonging (some cultures are more likely to disclose than others, in
which self-disclosure is interpreted as a sign of weakness)
Citing Stewart and Logan (1998), Hargie (2011:274) considers that there are three important
factors that influence the process of giving and receiving information:
a) emotional timing (the individual must be “in the right frame of mind” to give or
receive disclosure);
b) relevance timing (the disclosure fits the purpose and the sequence of the respective
interaction);
c) situational timing (the environment is/is not suitable for disclosure).
Steve Duck (2000:175) considers that the best way to reach a disclosure of private
feelings and thoughts (topics) is by first “feeling” the situation, by mentioning the topic
jokingly, in order to capture the listener`s general reaction. If it is a favourable one, then
disclosure may go on; if not, risks should not be taken.
Self-disclosure is accompanied by risks. The literature in the field has identified:
 the fact that the individual can never “take back” what he/she has said;
 the risk of changing the personal image to the worst;
 the possibility of spoiling relationships with the others;
 the risk of becoming more vulnerable (things/aspects disclosed may be used by the
others against the discloser).
Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham (1955) designed a “tool” that is able to improve
awareness of SELF and the degree of disclosure; this tool is known under the name of the
Johari Window Model. The two ideas behind it refer to
a) trust – through disclosure, individuals can build trust with others;
b) the role of feedback - the feedback individuals receive from the people around
can help them learn things about themselves and find solutions for their personal issues.

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The four window panes (quadrants) of the Johari Window are:

Known to Unknown to
Self Self

Known to
Others
OPEN BLIND
Unknown to
Others
HIDDEN UNKNOWN

The OPEN window-pane includes the aspects that both we and the others know about our
SELF: behavior, skills, attitudes, knowledge. The more we “open/enlarge”this window pane,
the more effective the communication becomes.

The BLIND window-pane includes the aspects the other people know about us but we don`t
know/ignore/are not aware of.

The HIDDEN window-pane includes the aspects we know about ourselves (secrets, feelings,
hopes, attitudes) but we do not want the others know about them. This pane of the window
enlarges only if we are willing to share some of these aspects under conditions of close
relationships with the others or under certain particular circumstances.

The UNKNOWN window-pane includes the aspects/information that is not known to


ourselves or to others; it can become known only under particular conditions.
According to Hargie (2011:245-252), the elements that characterize self-disclosure are:
a) valence – the degree of openness (either positive or negative). It has generally been
agreed that positive disclosure is a characteristic of the early stages of a relationship, while the
negative one occurs especially in a well-established relationship. Studies have revealed that
negative disclosure is quite rare; it has more informative power than the positive one
(Lazowski and Andersen, 1991 – apud Hargie, 2011:245) and can be disadvantageous, as it
can lead to a negative evaluation of the discloser.
b) informativeness – revealed by the breadth (the total number of disclosures used),
depth (the level of the intimacy of the the disclosure) and the duration (the total
amount of time the person spends disclosing or the number of words used in
disclosing statements);
c) appropriateness – hints at the fact that each disclosure needs to be evaluated in the
context in which it is made. Studies have revealed the fact that self-disclosure is more
appropriate when it is compatible with the roles of the interactants and their status (e.g.
information disclosed to our spouces and not to children; information disclosed by
low-status to high-status, but not the other way round);
d) flexibility – “the ability of an individual to vary the breadth and depth of disclosure
across situations” (Hargie, 2011:248);
e) accessibility – measures the ease with which self-disclosure can be offered by an
individual;
f) honesty – relates to the veracity of disclosure;

52
g) disclosure avoidance – the choice the individual makes when he/she is taking into
consideration the potential harm the disclosure might bring to him/her and the personal
image.

Task 1: Analyse the process of self-disclosure in the following samples of


conversation

“I am sick of my life, Loo. I hate it altogether, and I hate everybody except


you,” said the unnatural young Thomas Gradgrind in the hair-cutting chamber
at twilight.
“You don`t hate Sissy, Tom?”
“I hate to be obliged to call her Jupe. And she hates me,” said Tom moodily.
“No, she doesn`t, Tom, I am sure.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“Oh! You…” said Tom; you are a girl, Loo, and a girl comes out of it better
than a boy does. I don`t miss anything in you. You are the only pleasure I have
– you can brighten even this place – and you can always lead me as you like.”
“You are a dear brother, Tom; and while you think I can do such things, orner
again.I don`t so much mind knowing better. Though I do know better, Tom,
and I am very sorry for it.” She came and kissed him, and went back into her.
(Ch Dickens - Hard Times)

Task 2: Analyse the process of self-disclosure in the following excerpt from an


interview taken to Alicia Keys on the topic of songwriting:

[intro music]

ALICIA KEYS: I mean there's tons of ways to write a song, but for me, that is the
way to do it, you know — for it to be a natural experience, an honest experience, a
true expression, even if it's something that was inspired by someone that I know or an
experience that I've seen through another person's eyes. Any of that works to make it
real for me, and that's, to me, the best way to write a great song.
[background music]

There are so many different parts to creating a record and things like that, but one of
the greatest parts is after you've created it and you're able to share it. I was really
excited about just putting it out there and letting everybody hear it, and so, for "Girl on
Fire" to be received in such a way, it makes me feel really, incredibly good, 'cause
that's how I feel in regards to just finding my passion and being — standing on my
own two feet, standing my ground and really feeling what that feels like for the first
time, and that's what made me feel like a girl on fire.
[background music]

When I write a song, it means something to me, and then to hear how it means
something to somebody else — we might have two different lives, you know what i
mean? But we can still relate to each other, and that's like the magic of music.

VI.4. The skill of cooperating and finding consensus

53
Participants to verbal interactions must speak cooperatively and mutually accept each
other/one another. Their cooperation is based on their desire of reciprocal accomplishment of
short/long-term objectives they have in mind.
Cooperative verbal interaction relies on messages that have three characteristics
(McCornack, 2010:199)
a) messages are understandable - this means that the individual speaks “in ways that
others easily can understand, using language that is informative, honest, relevant,
and clear.”
This means, in fact, taking into consideration Grice`s Co-operative Principle, which
represents the general principle of coordinated organization of any verbal interaction.
According to Grice, participants to interaction have an immediate common goal and
their contributions must be adjusted to each other and depend on each other, as there exists a
sort of (explicit or implicit) agreement for the development of interaction and its ending.
In order to have an efficient communication, they should also observe the four
conversational maxims:
1) the Quantity Maxim – according to it, the intervention should not be more
informative than required; the individual should offer the information that is relevant
and appropriate to share in a given situation, but he should not disclose the
information that is not appropriate or not important;

2) the Quality Maxim - asks that one should not say something that is not true or
something he cannot prove; at the same time, this means that the individual should be
honest;

3) The Maxim of Relevance - asks that one should speak strictly to the point and be
relevant; that is, the contribution of the speaker should “be responsive to what others
have said” (McCornack, 2010:200) ;

4) The Maxim of Manner – asks that one should speak clearly, unambiguously and
concisely; but, “…using clear language doesn’t mean being brutally frank or dumping
offensive and hurtful information on others”, mentions McCornack (2010:201)

b) using “I” language


This type of language
…emphasizes ownership of your feelings, opinions, and beliefs…it creates a
clearer impression on listeners’ part that you’re responsible for what you’re
saying and that you’re expressing your own perceptions rather than stating
unquestionable truths. (McCornack, 2010:201)

This technique is particularly important in the situations in which the individual


expresses negative feelings or criticism. It opposes to “you” language that places the
responsibility on the other partner to interaction. McCornack (2010:201) presents the
difference between “you” language (that makes the interlocutor responsible) and “I” language
(the speaker takes responsibility for feelings and emotions):

“You” Language “I” Language

You make me so angry! I’m feeling so angry!


You totally messed things up. I feel like things are totally messed up.
You need to do a better job. I think this job needs to be done better.
You really hurt my feelings. I’m feeling really hurt.
You never pay any attention to me. I feel like I never get any attention.

54
c) using “we” language
Cooperative verbal interaction needs the “we” language, too, which stresses the feeling
of connection and similarity with the interaction partner.
The process of cooperation involves a permanent adjustment and negotiation between the
interactional partners.
Negotiation represents the best means of avoiding conflicts, or, if they have already
manifested, negotiation becomes the creative modality for solving them. It can solve
disagreements based on different causes, such as the interlocutors` personality, style of work,
knowledge, competence, systems of values and beliefs. Any negotiation presupposes the joint
efforts of the parties involved; therefore, the individuals become partners and not enemies.
The parties involved should know that the negotiation is based on offers and counter-
offers, as well as on possible compromises; the final agreement must equally satisfy both
parties;
The interactional negotiation, partially structured on the personal reactions of the one
who talks next, is characterised by the possibility of individuals` permanent negotiation of
different things:
 negotiation of the self-images:

Is that what you believe about me?


Do you think I am such a fool?
Shall I take you for a philanthropist ?

 negotiation of the positions they have in the social interpersonal contact:

Don`t you think I am the boss here?


Who do you think you are? I don`t take orders from you.

 negotiation of the relationship created:

Let`s forget about that; are we still friends?


You can call me Tom/by my first name.

 negotiation of meanings:

What do you mean?


Shall I understand that….?
Do you mean I was wrong when doing that?
What was that gesture supposed to mean?

Cooperation is closely linked with the skill of active listening. It represents that type of
listening based on perception, understanding, reverberation, support, positive evaluation, and
co-operative interpretation of all that the interlocutor says. It has a double function:
 it is a form of politeness (it proves that any individual shows respect/consideration
for the dialogue partner, considering him/her as a unique person, deserving
attention, as an active participant to the communication process, whose ideas and
feelings count a lot);
 it is a means of transforming communication into a dynamic effective process.

Active listening is not an inborn ability; it should be learned. Living and working in a
group, meeting the others and their different and diverse problems, help individuals acquire

55
such skill, if – and only if- they are willing to develop relationships and communication. In
active listening, the listener manifests increased personal involvement.
Effective active listening (from the part of the interlocutor) is influenced by the speaker`s
personality (how much he is respected or admired), his abilities (his fluency, good
organization of the ideas and the linguistic choices he makes), his traits (assertiveness,
honesty, credibility), as well as the problem he brings into discussion.
In the case of the listener, we should take into consideration his physical condition (how
well he hears/perceives sounds), his psychological attributes, his attitudes (towards the
speaker, the problem to be discussed), his needs (advantages or disadvantages that the act of
listening can bring to him), as well as the listening habits he has (created in and influenced by
different experiences/situations he has passed through; we are talking about the habit of
listening attentively to people or, on the contrary, the habit of faking attention).
Hargie (2011) mentions six types of listening:
 discriminative - this is meant “…to focus upon or discriminate incoming stimuli
for feedback purposes” (Hargie, 2011:185); the goal is “simply to scan and
monitor auditory and/or visual stimuli”(Wolvin, 2009);
 comprehension – listening implies understanding of the main ideas and a full
comprehension of the message;
 evaluative – can be noticed in the case of a discourse with a persuasive character,
when the speaker`s intention is to influence/change the listener`s attitudes,
behaviour or actions; through it, the listener tries evaluate the arguments, in
order to take a correct decision;
 appreciative – the type of listening through which the listener tries to gain
pleasure, or appreciate the reception (Hargie: 2011:186);
 emphatic – enhances the emphatic function of any interaction: listening to
someone who really feels the need to be listened to and understood by the other
person(s);
 dialogic –“involves the constitution of a relational basis that allows for
intersubjective meaning generation” (Jacobs and Coghlan, 2005:115); both
interclocutors pay much attention to this process as they feel it as having benefit
for both sides (mutual agreement; cooperation).
Active listening manifests in several ways, all of them supporting at least two activities
(based on specific skills): focusing and encouraging. Thus, we could mention as main
techniques (Bonta, 2004b:151-152)
 using encouraging utterances

Say more!
Go on…!
Keep talking!
Don`t stop! That sounds interesting.
Really? Is that true? Tell me more about it!
 asking clarifying questions:

For example?
Do you mean….?
When you say….do you mean…?
 trying to detect implicit meanings:

Shall I understand that….?


You say/mean that…?
What shall I understand by this?
Let me see…does it mean that…?

56
 asking for repetitions, re-formulations or corrections:

Sorry, what did you say?


Will you repeat, please?
Come again!
Can you reformulate this/put it into other words?
 using adverbs, as responses:

Sure…
Yes,…
Well…
All right…
Really?
 using interjections to show16
1. agreement or interest: “uh huh”
2. involvement into the problem, surprise or admiration: “gee!”;
3. surprise or annoyance: “Gosh!”; “eep!”; “Oh no!”;
4. pleasure for discovering something or disagreement “Ha!”;
5. lack of understanding of what is said or to ask for agreement “eh!”;
6. understanding : “aha!”; “ahh!”;
7. annoyance, danger, frustration: “argh!”; “Damn!”;”duh!”; “That`s dumb”;
8. sentimental approval:”aww!”; “How sweet!”;
9. feeling sorry or pity:”aww!”; “That`s too bad!”;
10. mild disappointment: “aw!”; “Come on!”;
11. disappointment: “boo!”; “that`s bad”;
12. misunderstanding: “eh?”; “What?”;
13. disgust, dislike:”eww!”; “ugh!”; “Disgusting”; “yuck!”
14. exasperation: “gah!”
15. anger: “grr!”
16. pleasure: “mm!”
17. realization: “oh!”; “I see”;
18. relief: “phew!”
 role-switching:

If I were you…
If I were in your shoes…
 signalling contradictions within the transmitte dmessage:

Don`t you think you contradict yourself a little bit?


 completing the message that was voluntarily or involutntarily left unfinished by
the speaker;
 expressing own feelings and attitudes:

I like/dislike what I hear…


It hurts me to hear that…
I cannot agree with this, as it sounds unpleasant to me …
 using anticipatory constructions:

I guess you`ll say that…

16
Dictionary of interjections – from http://www.vidarholen.net/contents/interjections/

57
I`m pretty sure you`ll say that…
I know what follows…
Let me tell you what you are going to say now…
 summing-up the conveyed message or paraphrasing it

So, the idea is that…


So, the conclusion is…
In other words,…
 asking for paraphrases, for a better understanding of the message

In other words, this means that…How else can you put it into words?
Can you say it in plain English?
 asking for examples

For example?
Can you give me some examples?
How can you prove it?
 repeating a key word/phrase, with a question on the face and voice

“Terrible”, you say?... that me be right.


 asking open questions that allow for display of attitudes and feelings:

What do you say/feel about…?


 using nonverbal cues that show interest, curiosity, understanding, encouragement
(raised eyebrows, bending head, encouraging smile, shrugging shoulders, frowning,
nodding );
 making natural and appropriate eye contact;
 pointing out inconsistencies between verbal and nonverbal cues.

Lambertz considers that “Back-channelling skills are important for people wishing to
be able to function as supportive and engaged listeners in a conversation.” According to him,
back-channels are able “to portray engaged listenership.”, as the listener is both a recipient
and a co-constructer of interactive talk (Gardner, 2001).
According to White (1989) the term ‘back-channel’ refers to the ‘main’ channel (the
person who is holding the floor - the speaker -) and the ‘back’ channel (the addressed
recipient of the talk - the listener- who gives information without claiming the floor). Verbal
or non-verbal expressions - such as the nodding of the head (White 1989) or gazing (Young
2004) can play this role. Back-channels include mono- or bi-syllabic responses such as “uh-
huh”, “mm, mhm” and “yeah”. In the literature in the field, back-channels have received
various names, such as response tokens (Gardner 2001), minimal responses (Fellegy 1995),
reactive tokens (Young 2004) and continuers (Zimmerman, 1993).
In Lambertz ` opinion, after having made research upon the topic, “eah”and “mm”can
function as
a) continuers (Lambertz, p. 15)

1. A: but just you know you feel like you can open up to ‘em and (.)
2. B: yeah
3. A: they understa:nd what (0.5) you’re trying to sa:y like (0.4)
4. [there’s no- ]
5. B: [yeah and ] they don’t judge you for it=

58
The example reveals that the utterance yeah is often used after the speaker has not
completed an utterance followed by pause. Speaker B recognises that the story-telling is still
in progress and uses yeah as a continuer; B signals the speaker to continue with the telling in
progress.

b) alignment tokens

1. A: they understa:nd what (0.5) you’re trying to sa:y like (0.4) [there’s no-]
2. B: [yeah and ]
3. they don’t judge you for it=

Speaker B uses yeah to signal that she shares the same thought but also continues with
more talk in the same turn, to show that the listener is actively listening and contributing to
the conversation. (Lambertz, p. 15)

1. A: = courses with um (.) like women who have been in (1.1) domes in
violent
2. relationships or .hh families that have been violent and stuff and she
does
3. like positiv:::e assertion and like [non ] violent communication and
4. stuff=
5. B: [°>mm<° ]

In this example, mm is overlapping the storytelling of the speaker. The listener shows
alignment with the speaker; he does not make any judgments; mm could easily be replaced by
yeah without having any change of meaning. (Lambertz, p. 165)

c) agreement tokens

Yeah, as atoken of agreement is easy ton otice, says Lambertz, in the following example:

1. A: =>but this probably got to do a lot with< the superficiality of the


2. relationship? .hhh
3. B: yeah
4. A: because it‐ because it’s superficial you can have those little superficial
5. meanings like (.)when you get together every now and ↑the::n =

Finding consensus also means reducing disagreements of any sorts; avoiding and
eliminating conflict. (see the subchapter on solving conflicts)

Task:
1. Comment on the way individuals observe the conversational maxims in the
following dialogue
2. Comment on different types of observable negotiations, as well as on the
strategies employed by the interlocutors
3. Identify markers of active, effective listening

“…Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?”


“He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.”
“We don`t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn`t tell us about that, here.
Your father breaks horses, don`t he?”

59
“If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring,
sir.”
“You mustn`t tell us about the ring, here. Very well then. Describe your father as a
horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?”

“ Pray, sir,” said the old woman, “didn`t I see you come out of that gentleman`s
house?” pointing back to Mr Bounderby`s. “I believe it was you, unless I have had the
bad luck to mistake the person in following?”
“Yes, missus,” returned Stephen, “it were me.”
“Have you – you`ll excuse and old woman`s curiosity – have you seen the
gentleman?”
“Yes, missus.”
“And how did he look, sir? Was he portly, bold, outspoken, and hearty?” As she
straightened her own figure, and held up her head in adapting her action to her words,
the idea crossed Stephen that he had seen this old woman before, and had not quite
liked her.
“O yes,” he returned, observing her more attentively, he were all that.”
(Ch. Dickens - Hard Times, p.115)

VI.5. The skill of persuading the interlocutor

Persuasion is the process through which an individual tries to influence the other(s)
intentions, attitudes, behaviours or motivations (to persuade = to make the other(s) do want
you want). Generally, in persuading a person, the stress is on the emotional premises (on the
feelings and the emotions of the interlocutor). A persuasive message is based on one or
several of the following techniques (Bonta 2004b:114-115):
a) nonverbal ones:
 use of smile, touch, hugging;
 use of direct, intense eye-contact;
 use of a tone that conveys trust, competence, experience and order.
b) verbal ones:
 use of arguments and a good organization of them within the discourse structure;
 use of evidence (seem to be more necessary if the person trying to persuade is not
a very credible source or if he has not authority or power);
 use of questions with a persuasive value - such as guiding questions (that force the
intelocutor “go” in the direction we want him to: Isn`t that nice/interesting?
 use of verbal clichés:

O.K
That`s right.
Of course.
… really…
… practically…
 use of persuading constructions (they have suggestive force and are based on the
use of modals:

It would be better for you (It might be a good idea) to call him later = a polite way
of persuading someone

Why don`t you consider working with us? = a polite and indirect way of persuading
somebody

60
We`d really like you join us for dinner. = a strong, but polite way

Other techniques of persuasion can include17


 using framing (the “way to alter how we will sort, categorize, associate, and ultimately
give meaning to events, objects or behaviors”; it “subtly uses emotionally charged
words to shift people towards your point of view”): the objective fact is “framed”; the
individual uses “pro” choices instead of “anti” ones (the accent is on the positive
aspects); this technique is especially used by politicians in their campaigns;
 using mirroring technique - the individual adopts a way of talking or a body language
that is similar with that of the person he/she wants to persuade;
 promoting the scarcity of something (scarcity makes “opportunity seem more
appealing because of…limited availability”); this is a technique used by advertisers:

Buy it now because it sells fast!


It is the last chance for you to have it!No more, since December 21.
 using reciprocation, to create an obligation – the individual does something nice for
the other person, in order to get reciprocation;
 using fluid speech – avoidance of ambiguous, hesitant phrases; being confident in
one`s own speech;
 asking tag-questions

Good thing/work, isn`t it?


It`s worth buying it, isn`t it?
In the process of persuasion, disagreement can be turned into consensus. This process is
based on the individual`s use of arguments. As for the order of arguments, Rovenţa-
Frumuşani (2000:112) considers that this can be of two types:
a) the A-a order (A = a strong argument; a = a weak argument)
b) the a-A order (the strongest argument is the last, so that the impression it makes on the
interlocutor is more powerful than in the first case).

The order of arguments is very important


 weak arguments have a stronger effect if placed at the beginning or end of a speech;
otherwise they can be overshadowed by the surrounding material;
 the supporting arguments should be placed before the opposing ones, as this will make
argumentation more effective;
 arguments can follow a logical plan, or can respond to emotional requirements (we
talk about the use of arguments in messages with a powerful emotional content);
 the coherence of the argumentative discourse is determined at the microlinguistic level
by the use of argumentative connectors (“so”,”so that”, “therefore”, “because,”),
meant to express cause, conclusion, concession, opposition etc.
Argumentation is based on a set of procedures of different types (Charaudeau, 1992:814):
a) semantic procedures, in terms of
- true/false

It`s true cause it is authentic/genuine/natural.


It`s false/incorrect/wrong, as evidence says something else.

- beautiful/ugly

17
http://www.wikihow.com/Persuade-People-with-Subconscious-Techniques

61
This thing is valuable because it is beautiful.
She is really beautiful; her face is angelic.
It`s perfect for our house-building project, as it has a symmetrical shape.
I don`t like it; it`s the ugliest building in town.
How can you like it? It`s grotesque.

- good/bad

I do this because it`s a good thing.


You may go there; it`ll do you good.
Don`t do that; it denotes bad behavior.
- agreeable/disagreeable

I drink beer when it is hot because it is refreshing.


I remember that conversation very well; it was disagreeable to me.
Do it; it`s enjoyable.
Try this cake; it is delicious!
I`ll never do that again; it`s totally unpleasant.
- useful/useless

We have to hurry so that we can take the enemy by surprise.


Don`t buy it; it`s absolutely useless.
You know why we are proud of? It`s been a fruitful year for us.

c) discursive procedures (the use of citations in order to be more convincing and


persuade the interlocutor):

They have always tried to make me join their parties by saying “Nobody is an
island”.

d) composition procedures (arguments are arranged in a logical order; the use of different
morphemes to stress the chronological order of argumentation: first, then, afterwards,
in the end):

In my opinion, it`s absolutely necessary to go there. First, you will meet all
your friends; then, you`ll have the chance to tell them everything about your
project.

VI.6. The skill of solving conflicts

The term conflict designates a transactional process between people who perceive
incompatible goals, scarce resources, or interference in achieving their objectives. In daily life,
individuals try to manage different types of conflict (Stewart, 1988:257-263)

a) negotiation-of-selves conflict
This type of conflict is generated by disagreements about self-images (the one
perceived by the individual vs. the self-image perceived by the others around him);
Individuals try to solve their disagreements regarding the one invested with/having the
power/authority/duty /knowledge/personality traits. Over or underestimation, fear, envy,
rivalry can be at the bases of such conflict.

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I don`t think you have the right to do that!
Is it your duty to type the report?
Who do you think you are? Do you know more than anybody else?
Come on, I don`t think you are a beauty!
Who`s in charge of this? You, or me?

b) content conflict (disagreements over existence or over the meaning/interpretations


of a statement or concept)

I don`t really understand what they are hinting at; is that a fundamental matter?

b) conflict over basic problems (disagreements over fundamental values and beliefs).

Why do you think abortion is something natural? Don`t you think that we are
talking about somebody`life, in fact?

Similar classifications include (Jehn and Mannix, 2001): relationship conflicts (whose
source is the interpersonal incompatibilities); task conflict (based on disagreements in
viewpoints and opinions over a task) and process conflicts (disagreement over the group`s
approach to a task: the ways of solving it; the strategies to be used)
In order to solve the conflicts, individuals have to resort to two different strategies,
such as
a) the win- win strategies - based on the following ideas:
 each individual engaged in interaction is a unique person with his own personality;
this means that his opinion and goals matter as much as those of his interlocutors`;
 interlocutors need to be tolerant with each other’s opinions;
 the most important thing is to find solutions for the problem and not to defeat the
opponent;
 both parties involved in conflict/disagreement should agree with the resolution.

b) the win-lose/lose-win strategies - based on the ideas that


 only one party`s opinions, interests and feelings are important and matter;
 one party must win, no matter the consequences upon the relationship with the other
one;
 different opinions must be rejected, even banished.

There have been identified several different styles that individuals adopt whenever
they are in such situations of conflict. They trigger different techniques of dealing with it.

a) individuals deny the existence of any conflict


 generally, the verbal expression is one of the kind

There is no problem between us, I guess.


I don`t see any problem with that; why should we worry?
We are very good friends and nothing can change this.
It can never be a problem between us.
I do not know what you are talking about.
 nonverbal markers include smiling to the other one, getting closer to him and ignoring
any sign of tension;

b) individuals distract attention from the conflict


 individuals try to focus on something else, except the problem created;

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 such strategy grows out of a fear of disagreement and of having the
relationships ruined;
 the obvious verbal marker is the abrupt topic change;
 nonverb markers are giggling and laughing, little direct eye contact and
gestures belonging to the category of body manipulators;

c) individuals resort to self-blaming


 the individual is aware of the disagreement(s), but he considers it better to keep peace
and stay calm than to fight;
 such style can be adopted when the individual fears to be involved in a conflict, when
he feels that the relationship with the other one can be ruined; thus, the individual
takes upon himself the whole responsibility for the problem created;
The verbal markers of such attitude can be:
 self-blaming assertives

It is (all) my fault.
I am guilty for that.
I am to blame for this.
I am the only person responsible for this.
 appraisals for the other

You know better than I do.


You are the smart guy; you know better what is right or wrong.
 minimization of own position

I am not the one to say that/to decide upon that.


It`s not me who has to decide.
 minimization of the problem/offense

That`s all right; It doesn`t matter to me.


No problem; that`s OK with me.
 agreement with the other

Sure.
Fine.
O.K. Why not?
You`re right.
 nonverbal markers include: the individual`s looking down, “closing” arms,
bending the head, that is, showing through gestures and facial expressions that he
is subordinate to the other one and ready to do anything in order to maintain
relationship;

d) individual resorts to a detached attitude (such an attitude is based on the idea that the
conflict can be dealt with maturely, in a cool, detached manner, because displaying feelings
is not correct, not good or advisable). Individuals consider that feelings must not be involved
when analysing and judging facts. Verbally, this attitude is easily recognizable
 in requests

Let`s stay calm and try to solve it.


Let`s deal with this like mature people.
Don`t get nervous, let`s discuss it over!
 the use of impersonal constructions

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Most people do it this way. Let`s try it!
Why not behave like adults?
Nonverbally, detachment can be detected in a stiff back and tense face expression, as
well as in an impersonal, monotonous voice, which denotes a controlled, restrained attitude.

e) blaming the other(s)


Another style that can be adopted in case of disagreements/conflict is that of blaming
the interlocutor. In this case, conflict can be maximized. The individual who resorts to this
style uses his power and influence, as the main objective for him, is to win, sometimes, no
matter the consequences. The verbal markers include
 maximized self-image

I am always right, as I am older than you are.


My opinion is that which counts, in fact.
 use of accusations

It`s all your fault.


You did that!
 feelings of disagreement

I dislike the way you do that.


I do not agree with you.

The key to managing conflict effectively is learning and making use of all the skills necessary
to become a good conflict manager.
Among the most effective skills, we could mention:
 being honest and sincere while discussing;
 communicating clearly (as clear expression of thoughts eliminates the risks of
being considered as manipulatory or strategically communicating);
 handling the question-asking technique (permits a correct identification of the
other person`s thoughts and feelings;
 focusing on the problem and not on the person;
 taking responsibility for thoughts and actions and stating own positions

I feel upset that this has happened between us.


I think that I was wrong saying that…
 avoiding to blame the other one;
 saying positive things about the other one;
 identifying ways to prevent conflict from happening

Task: Identify the techniques of solving disagreements in the following


conversations:

“Do you have any idea what you`re doing…?” Claudia finally said in a high-pitched,
tearful burst of anger, shaking her head and staring at the other woman.
“I beg your pardon” Christa said, stalling. She had no wish to enter this confrontation.
“Do you have any idea what you`re causing? We`re talking about family here.”
“I don`t know what you`re accusing me of. Anyway, if I did something wrong, I`m
sorry. Let`s stay cool and give the issue a second thought.”
(Hugo Hamilton – The Love Test)

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“You are punishing me, Matt”, she said in a voice that bore great dignity.
“I`m punishing you?” he retorted, but there was a sort of fatigue in his attitude towards
her, as though he didn`t have the time to go through this. He sounded so distant…
(Hugo Hamilton – The Love Test)

VI. 7. The skill of establishing relationships and being polite

According to the Palo Alto School, besides the informational level, communication
develops on a relational level, too. Literature in the field has offered several classifications of
the relationships that individuals establish between/among them during the interactions.
Classifications have been made from different points of view. Some researchers take into
consideration the relationships beween individuals, as they develop in time, passing through
various stages (Mark Knapp`s Relational Stages Model, 1984), while others take into
consideration the relationships seen from the perspective of the positions individuals occupy.
The latter perspective was developed by Kerbrat-Orecchioni (1990-1994; 1996) who
considers that relationships can be of two types: symmetrical (horizontal) and asymmetrical
(vertical). She analyses their characteristics and the verbal, nonverbal and paraverbal markers
of identification.
Thus,
a) The symmetrical relationship has the following characteristics:
 it occurs between the members of the family, friends or colleagues;
 the individuals see and treat each other as equals (having equal chances to open or end
interactions, to interrupt turns or act in different situations);
 individuals enhance the affective function of the interpersonal communication
between/among them;
 the individuals manifest understanding, respect, support, encouragement, appreciation
and affection.

This type of relationship displays specific markers:

1) nonverbal and paraverbal markers:


 distance
– individuals minimize physical and/or the relational distance between them (by getting
close(r) to each other, thus creating an intimate atmosphere that is proper for sharing ideas
and feelings);
 gestures
- individuals` gestures prove attachment, respect, love, understanding;
- touching is allowed and proves caring and intimacy;
 positioning
- the individual faces the other one, showing interest, active listening and empathy;
 eye-contact (the eye-contact is intense);
 facial expression (shows affection, attachment, empathy);
 the pitch of the voice (low voice is a sign of intimacy);
 the rate of speech (generally, in this type of relationship, individuals talk faster);

2) verbal markers:
 the address terms
– the common term of address is the pronoun “you” with the value of second person
singular;

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- individuals also use their first names and endearments: dear, honey, pumpkin,
sweetheart, darling, Tom, Mary;
 the topic of conversation
- individuals choose a topic of common interest and they pass easily and freely from
one topic to another;
 the level of the language
- the language used includes common, casual, easily understood terms that raise no
problems in being decoded and understood;
- individuals use a casual style, sometimes with elliptical utterances/sentences that raise
no problems to interlocutors due to their conversational history, previous actions and
experiences;
 the turn-taking system
– generally, individuals observe their turns and they avoid interrupting each other;
- overlaps are not considered as an offence.

b) The asymmetrical relationship displays the following characteristics:


 it occurs between individuals that have different social status and play different roles
(one is on a higher position, having power/authority given by age, gender, personal
qualities, prestige, or physical strength; the other one is on a lower position);
 it is the relation between parent-child, teacher - student, doctor – patient;
 the individual on a higher position tries to control the interaction in terms of quantity
and quality; he/she minimizes, criticizes, uses irony, mockery and sarcasm.

The specific markers of such relationsh are:


1) nonverbal and paraverbal markers:
 the physical aspect of the individual (a tall, stout person is placed on a higher position
in front of a short, thin one);
 clothing (some items of clothing are markers of higher position: the uniform of the
policeman, the robe of the judge);
 distance
- individuals tend to keep a distance between them; this is called “the social distance”;
 the eye-contact (generally, it is more reduced than in the case of the symmetrical
relationship)
- while the individual on the higher position resorts - sometimes – to intimidating,
ironic or “superior” look, the individual on the lower position usually avoids the eye-
contact out of humbleness, shyness or acknowledgement of his lower position;
 intensity of voice (low voice, or the so-called “friendly whispering” is not used).

2) verbal markers:
 respectful greetings;
 address terms
- the use of the second person singular pronoun, vs the second person plural pronoun, for
example (the Romanian “tu” vs. “dumneavoastră”);
- the use of addressing terms and honorific titles (illustrative for the social status of the
person and the social role played): “Mr...”, “Mrs….”; “Doctor….”; “Professor….”;
“Sir,”
 turn-taking system (not always obeserved; the individual on the higher position tends
to speak more and for a longer time; he may interrupt the other person, considering it
normal);
 organization of interaction
- the one on the higher position usually initiates/has the priviledge to initiate the
interaction and generally has/wants to have the last word;

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 the speech acts used
- the one on the higher position uses orders, interdictions, threats, gives advice, makes
reproaches or insults, resorts to mockery;
- the one on a lower position uses excuses, justifications, makes confessions or resorts
to self-criticism.
 this type of relationship can also be negotiated, and sometimes, it may turn into a
symmetrical relationship (if the one on the higher position allows this).

Politeness includes all the aspects of discourse whose main function is to preserve the
harmonious character of the relationship.
An important contribution to the study of politeness was brought by Brown and Levinson
(1987). For the two researchers, politeness represents the means of solving the double-bind
principle (Bateson): the problem the individuals are confronted with: showing respect for the
other`s territory and, at the same time, showing interest towards the other as a person.
Each communicative act (asking questions, giving orders, promising, inviting, refusing,
agreeing, disagreeing, etc) can become potentially threatening, that is, it can become a Face
Threatening Act (FTA) that can affect communication and ruin the relationship between
individuals, because they make individuals “lose their face(s)” - the positive face
(corresponding to Goffman`s concept of “face”) or the negative face (corresponding to
Goffman`s concept of “territory”).
Thus, there are several types of threatening acts:
a) threatening acts for the negative face of the one performing them:
 the case of a person who offers something to somebody. The act of offering implies
waste of time, energy and money (that is, a FTA towards the negative face/territory of
the person performing it);
 the case of a promise made to someone; it might make the person waste time and
energy;
 the case of a commitment to do something that the individual does not want to do.

b) threatening acts for the positive face of the one performing them
It is the case of a person who is in a sense wrong and unable to control himself; a person
 who cries in front of the others (an act that discloses someone`s weakness);
 who makes confessions (confession can also change the already established self-
image);
 who finds excuses; who apologizes (through excuses we admit that we have
already “attacked” the partner`s “face”/image);
 who resorts to self-criticism (through self-criticism one admits that he/she has
done something wrong);
 who is unable to control his physical or emotional self.

c) threatening acts for the negative face of the other (who suffers them)
It is the case of a person
 who makes any request or asks for favours that will make the other one waste his time,
spend some money or give one thing (an “attack” of the territory of one`s possessions);
 who gives orders, commands, pieces of advice or recommendations (thus placing
oneself on a higher position);
 who interrupts the other one while he is speaking (thus “attacking” his temporal
territory);
 who expresses anger, envy, hatred towards the interlocutor;
 who threatens the other one through visual, tactile, olfactory or sonorous aggressions
(“attacking” the other person`s bodily territory);

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 who minimizes the distance between him and the other person (thus “attacking” his
spatial territory);
 who maximizes the distance between him and the other person (thus proving lack of
concern, lack of desire for communication or an asymmetrical relationship);

d) threatening acts for the positive face of the other (who suffers them)
It is the case of the person
 who resorts to reproaches, refusals, insults, injuries or mockery, thus endangering the
vanity, narcissism or self-esteem of the other person;
 who disapproves the other one;
 who contradicts the interlocutor;
 who makes the other person feel ashamed/embarrassed;
 who approaches topics that are inappropriate or sensititve for the interaction partner.

Brown and Levinson established the following types of politeness strategies:


a) bald-on-record strategies
Generally used when individuals are engaged in close relationships, as they are meant
to minimize the face-threatening acts implicitly; in less close relationships they can cause
embarrassment or shock to the addressee:
 offers: Eat!/Drink!/Help yourself!
 welcomes: Come in!
Sometimes, such strategies do not minimize the threat at all:
 in case of urgency or desperation: Watch out! Mind the step!
 task-oriented structures: Pass me the salt!
 doing the threat in the hearer`s interest: You got a stain on your coat!
 speaking as great efficiency is necessary: Listen to me carefully!

c) Negative politeness
It is the form of politeness oriented towards the negative face of the other participant to
interaction and it can manifest itself into two ways:
 avoiding to perform any act that can be threatening for one (or both) of the faces;
 if the act is already performed, a set of strategies must be put into motion, in order to
“sweeten” it; to minimize its effects.These strategies can be of two types:

1) substitutive procedures
 the use of some specialized politeness forms (based on modal verbs):

Will you/Could you shut the door? (instead of “Shut the door”)

 the use of politeness past

I wondered if you are ready; it`s already late.

 the use of litote

He`s not a bad guy, is he?


The soup is a little bit too salty for my taste.

 the use of euphemism

Where is she now? // She`s at the lady`s room.

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 the use of hedges

b) complementary procedures
 the use of “if clauses” or modals after imperatives, in order to “lessen” the
imposition

Shut the door, if you can


Shut the door, will you?
 the use of “preliminaries” (elements that “prepare” what is to come):
 for questions

Can I ask you something?


Do you mind if I ask you something? (followed by the proper question);
 for requests

Can you do me a favour?


Have you got a minute?
 for objections

Can I contradict you?


Can I have an objection?
 for invitations

Are you free tonight?


What are youdoing tonight?
 the use of minimizing elements

I just/simply want to know/ask you.


I`ll ask you for one small favour.
 the use of endearings

Pumpkin, come here!


Sweetheart, close the door!
 the use of disarmers (elements meant to anticipate a negative reaction from the
part of the other person)

I know I bother you, but could you…


I am sure you are busy right now, but will you tell me…
I am pretty sure what you are going to say, but…
I feel really bad to bother you, but…
 the use of the third person instead of the second one

What happened to my little baby? (Mother asks her child)


 the use of justifications
I am late because the tram was late this morning, you know…this always happens when
you are in a hurry…
 the use of adverbs (hedges), that make utterances more polite

Maybe/perhaps/probably you are too tired to help me now.


 the use of apologies

Excuse me, can you tell me…

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Sorry for being late.
 the use of plural pronoun
We regret to inform you…

c) Positive politeness
 a tendency to use hyperboles (for exaggeration)in polite utterances, especially
when praising something or somebody

The cake is DELICIOUS!!!


You`ve been wonderful!
 show help/assistance to the interlocutor

You look ill. Do you need any help?


 the use of solidarity in-group markers

I say, mate, can you help me?


 offering or promising something

If you help me, I`ll help you, too.


 showing optimism

I`ll be there, with you, if you don`t mind.


 avoiding disagreement

Yes, sure, you are right.


 the use of compliments

You look really nice today!


 being indirect

Would you know where my glasses are?


 the use of a joke
 manifesting active listening
 thanking
 complimenting
Thanking means expressing gratefulness towards a person who did something for us or who
offered something to us.
Thanks can be expressed
 explicitly

Thank you for your help.


Thanks a lot.
Thank you very much for everything.
Many thanks for everything you have done.
Thousands of thanks!

 implicitly
- expressing appreciation for the gift received: Wow! It`s wonderful!!;
- praising the person who made the offer: It`s very kind of you…; You`ve been very nice
to….).
Paying compliments represents the most evident verbal manifestation of positive
politeness. According to Holmes (1995:117)

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A compliment is a speech act which explicitly or implicitly attributes credit to
someone other than the speaker, usually the person addressed, for some
“good” (possession, characteristic, skill, etc.) which is positively valued by the
speaker and the hearer.

Compliments have various functions; they express solidarity between the speaker and
the addressee, praise and encourage, express positive evaluation (admiration, appreciation),
etc. They can also express envy, harassment and desire for hearer`s possessions, and may be
felt as patronizing or offensively flattering (Holmes, 1995:121)
There exist differences in
a) paying and receiving compliments
 literature in the fiels shows that women receive more compliments than men;
 men tend to compliment women more often than they compliment other men;
 compliments are more frequently paid by women.
b) in the “thing” complimented
Thus,
 compliments can refer to intrinsic qualities - physical appearance, intelligence, skills,
physical or intellectual abilities or to someone`s possessions – clothes, cars, houses;
 men tend to compliment women on their physical appearance, skills and abilities

Your new blouse is wonderful!


Your new attitude is exactly what I have expected in the last two years…

c) in the way they are perceived and the reaction to compliments


It is generally accepted that compliments have both an affective and a referential function;
they offer appreciation, positive evaluation, but, at the same time, they offer information
about the addressee`s appearance and behavior. Differences make reference to the fact that
 women perceive compliments as being positive, affective speech acts;
 men take into consideration their referential evaluative aspect;
 women accept compliments easily;
 men generally avoid them, or even feel embarrassed when receiving them.
Compliments can be accepted (this is considered to be the most usual reaction), but
they can also be rejected (this is usually done through minimization of the qualities of the
person/thing complimented)

d) Off-record (indirect) strategies – are based on the use of an indirect speech act,
instead of the direct one, which is threatening (this means that the direct speech
utterance is avoided and replaced by a strategy of polite obliquity (Leech, 1983:82)
Thus, an order can be replaced by

 an assertion

There is quite dark in here; I cannot read a thing. (instead of : Switch on the light!);
 a promise

If you tell the truth, I won`t punish you. (instead of : Tell the truth!);
 a request

Will you fetch me a glass of water? (instead of : Fetch me a glass of water!);

A rejection can be replaced by a question

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Could that be real? (instead of: It isn`t real! or I don`t believe you.)

A reproach can be replaced by an assertion

I can bet you have forgotten to buy bread. (instead of: You might have bought some
bread!)

Some of the strategies mentioned above deserve some more comments; among them,
apologies, thanks and compliments.

Offenses (face-threatening acts) are of different types and they are connected
a) with the way in which the message is transmitted: mumbles, slips of the pen or
of the tongue, faulty grammar constructions, and wrong choice of words,
overlaps or turn-taking violationsion;
b) with the content expressed: very personal questions, orders, contradictions,
reproaches;
c) with the interaction partners` behavior, attitude or expressed feelings
Equilibrium is re-established through apologies. Among the usual ways of apologizing are
(Bonta, 2004:144)
 I`m sorry/ Sorry - the usual way of apologizing between people who know each other
very well;
 I do apologize for… – an elaborate construction, a more polite and formal way of
apologizing used by somebody who feels responsible for something that someone else
has done;
 Excuse me.- an apology used by someone for something he has done accidentally;
 I owe you an apology.- used whenever the individual realizes that he has treated
somebody badly, especially for something that the other person did not do;
 Please accept my apologies. - used in written or formal apologies;
 I/We regret…. - used when making an apology in an official announcement.

Apologies can be followed by explanations, justifications, individuals` invoking various


reasons to support their acts.
Generally, the apology is accepted in an explicit or implicit way, through minimizing the
offense (sometimes even denying it).
Sometimes, the apology is rejected in a more or less brutal way. The relationship and of
course, the entire communication process is affected.

Task 1: Analyse the type of relationship(s) established between the individuals


engaged in the following conversation. Mention the linguistic and nonlinguistic
markers that help you define it/them

“ Pray, sir,” said the old woman, “didn`t I see you come out of that gentleman`s
house?” pointing back to Mr Bounderby`s. “I believe it was you, unless I have had the
bad luck to mistake the person in following?”
“Yes, missus,” returned Stephen, “it were me.”
“Have you – you`ll excuse and old woman`s curiosity – have you seen the
gentleman?”
“Yes, missus.”
“And how did he look, sir? Was he portly, bold, outspoken, and hearty?” As she
straightened her own figure, and held up her head in adapting her action to her words,

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the idea crossed Stephen that he had seen this old woman before, and had not quite
liked her. “O yes”, he returned, observing her more attentively.
(Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

Task 2: Identify the FTAs produced by the speakers and the ways of
“sweetening” them

“I am asking Sissy a few questions, Tom, “ observed his sister. “You have no occasion
to go away; but don`t interrupt us for a moment, Tom dear.”
“Oh! Very well!!!” returned Tom. “Only father has brought old Bounderby home, and
I want you to come into the drawing-room. Because if you come, there`s a good
chance of old Bounderby`s asking me to dinner; and if you don`t, there is none.”
“I`ll come directly.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“I am glad you have come at last, Stephen. You are very late.”
“I ha` been walking up an down.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

“Louisa my dear, you are the subject of a proposal of marriage that has been made to
me.”
Again he waited, and again she answered not one word. This so far surprised him, as
to induce him gently to repeat, “ a proposal of marriage, my dear”. “I hear you, father.
I am attending, I assure you.” (Ch. Dickens - Hard Times)

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VII. THE STRUCTURE OF VERBAL INTERACTION

Verbal interactions are organized structures that include opening, main and closing
sequences (Levinson, 1983:315)

a) The opening sequence


Theoretically, any of the participants to interaction may initiate it. The rule does not apply
when partners are of different social status, age or sex, or when certain social or moral
constraints are at work.
Face-to- face interactions can be initiated when one of the participants feels the need of
interacting/socilizing; he/she is obliged to do it or he/she is in a situation in which he/she can
avoid the verbal or non-verbal exchange with those around.
Opening exchanges are done in different ways:
 affectionately (in symmetrical types of interactions)
 politely (in formal interactions)
 neutrally (in formal interactions)
 aggressively (when the relationship between participants has had to suffer).
The opening sequence may include:
 greetings followed by direct/abrupt topic introduction

A: Good morning.
B: Good morning.
A: Is this the local police station?
B: Yes. That`s it.

 greetings/exchange of greetings followed by stereotype questions and answers


with a phatic function

A: Hi, how are you?


B: Fine. As usual…

 reference made by the speaker on the present situation

A: I think I`ll stay at home today…I`m not feeling well today.


B: You decide…

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 reference made by the speaker to himself:

A: Hi, I`ve called to tell you what happened to me last night.


B: What?

 a question of different types, unpreceded by ritualized structures:

(At a bus-stop)
A: What`s the time, please ?
B: It`s nine.

 assessment/appreciation/warning upon a thing/situation/person:

(In the hall of the institution)


A: Hurry up! The boss is waiting for you...
B: …heading to him...

 scenario-type openings (in institutionalized situations)

A: Can I help you?/What can I do for you?


B: I`d like to send a telegramme.
A: You`ll have to fill in this form, please.

 opening exchange made by the one having the power/authority to do it (by means
of a request for action or information)

(President to secretary)
A: Are reports ready?
B: Sure… almost ready.

 using a pre-sequence

 for invitations:

A: Are you free tomorrow?


B: Yeah… Why?
A: I`d like to invite you to visit my new office.

 “for requests for actions

A: Are you going to town?


B: Yeah, why?
A: Can you take that parcel from the post office?

 for objections

A: Can I have a little objection?


B: Sure.
A: I think the plan is not complete.
The opening exchange does not guarantee for the main exchange.
Hargie (2011:286) notices the fact that

76
Before proceeding with the main business of the interaction, it is desirable to
employ a number of social techniques. These serve to “humanise the encounter,
and often facilitate the achievement of the core task objectives.

These techniques are stricly linked with what Koermer and McCrosky (2006) called
sociality communication” and its dimensions:
a) courtesies (friendly greetings and a polite approach);
b) pleasantries (for example, the topics connected with weather and sport events that are
developed during the small talk with the interaction partner);
c) sociabilities (jokes, gossip);
d) privacies (deeper disclosure about oneself).

b) The main sequence

The main sequence can be more or less ellaborated, depending on certain factors:
 the identity of participants to interaction;
 the participants` (short or long-term) objectives;
 the psychic, physical and affective dispositions of participants;
 the participants` communicative competence (the ability to maintain and develop
the communicative flux);
 the time participants have at their disposal;
 the interactional management;
 the situation in which the interaction takes place;
 the existence of “noise”.

As for the topic, certain things should be mentioned:


 sometimes, the topic does not presuppose ample development (the case of a
request for information followed by the answer);
 the topic needs ample development, during which 1. the topic is the same from the
beginning up to the end; 2. the topic is temporarily abandoned; 3. there might exist
a “coming-back” to the topic; 4. topic is completely changed ;

Fluency, coherence and cohesion are the main elements that can be observed at the level
of discourse. Fluency (Bonta, 2004a) can be ensured by different types of techniques:
 exploration questions

What do you know about?


Do you know anything about…?
What about…?
Is there anything new about…?
 analysis questions

Which are the reasons?


What do you say about…?
Which is the best…?
 synthesis questions

What are you going to do first?


How do you prove that?

77
What else could you say about…?
 evaluation questions

Why did you do that?


Why didn`t you like…?
Do you know why you are wrong?
 the use of unrequested information offered by the interlocutor ; transforming them into
starters for a new exchange
 short version questions (Pease & Garner, 1977: 74-80)
Do you mean…?
So what…?
Such as…?
For example…?
 encouraging structures that are markers of active listening

I see…
Really…?
Go on…go on!
Is that so…?
A- ha…!
Mhm…
 short stereotype structures

By the way…
That`s reminds me about…
 phatic structures

Isn`t it?
Understand…?
You know…
You see…
 encouraging structures (signals/markers for active listening)

I see…
Really?
What?
A- ha!
Yes…
Mhm…
 elements that may stir curiosity (in narrative constructions)

Have I told you about…?


I have to tell you about…
Let me tell you what happened..
 using humour;
 self-disclosing.

Any time the topic is abandoned, the “coming –back” can be made by means of:
 questions

[Do you] remember what we talked about…?


What were we talking about?

78
 assertives

You certainly remember what we discussed about…


I`m sure you haven`t forgotten what we talked about…
 imperative

Remember what we discussed about…


 suggestion

Let`s come back to our topic…


Will you remember what we talked about?…

Sometimes, the topic can be abandoned for good. This can be done
 in an explicit way

Let`s change the subject


Don`t you want to talk about something else?
That`s enough; let`s not talk about it any more…
I don`t even want to hear about it any longer.
I`m no longer interested in this…
 implicit way: the subject is abandoned without any warning or request for deliberate
action.

c) The closig sequence

Exactly like the opening sequence, the closing sequence can be introduced in differet
ways:
 affectionately
 politely
 neutrally
 aggressively (in the case the verbal exchange was characterized by asymmetrical type
of relationships that led to tense moments/conflict).
As a rule, the closing sequence has two components:
 a pre-closing exchange (Bange, 1992; Kerbrat-Orrechioni, 1966)
 a final exchange
Thus, the structure of the final sequence may include:
a) short conclusions on what has been discussed, followed by greetings and the parties`
direct expression of future meetings intentions; there may be identified
 explicit invitations

Come and visit me!


Call on me some time.
Give me a call

 thanks for different rendered services

Thanks for telling me/helping me


 excuses

Sorry for disturbing you…


I apologize for that.
 promises for future actions

79
I`ll call you.
I`ll be in touch with you…
I`ll send you the book.
 justifications felt as necessary

Excuse me, I`m in a hurry.


I have to leave now…
b) elaborated structures including reference to already discussed problems, followed by
ritualistic structures
c) short phatic clichés
See you…
See you later
Take care…

VIII. COMPUTER-MEDIATED INTERACTION

At the crossroads of centuries there appeared a new area of interest for language researchers
(brought about by the development of computer technology and the Internet), namely the
computer-mediated communication, able to offer examples of “verbal interaction in a
naturalistic setting.”(Bordia, 1996:149). Tis type of communication is differrent from the
face-to-face one, especially in that it is “less socially oriented…leading to attenuated social
pressures and increased uninhibited behavor.”(Kiesler, Siegel&McGuire, 1984, apud Bordia,
1996:150); it is asynchronous (the interchange between individuals is spread over several
days) and “the group discussion forum makes the context more like a pub or a living room, so
that it should be distinguished from FTF communication in dyads”.(Bordia, 1996:150)
Galita (2013:63) notices that
Computer-mediated communication challenges and, at the same time, changes the
concept of interaction, which presupposes, in face-to-face interaction, the physical
co-presence of participants. Compared to face-to-face interaction, computer-
mediated communication may be considered a relatively indirect way of interaction.
In computer-mediated communication, the participants can either be
simultaneously and virtually co-present or present at different intervals of time.

The computer-mediated communication includes the study of (Galiţa, 2013:62)


 structural and textual features of discussion boards;
 e-mails;
 chats;
 detailed issues such as gender differences, language variations or strategies of repair in
computer-mediated interaction.

Dix et al., 1993 considered that a distinction needs to be made between synchronous and
asynchronous computer-mediated communication, essentially differentiated by the temporal
factor:
Thus,
a) the synchronous computer-mediated communication implies simultaneous
communication between two or more participants/users (their computers being linked in
real time).Their (written) manner of communicating resembles spoken interaction as far as
register and tone are concerned.
b) the asynchronous computer-mediated communication implies a temporal distance
between two or more participants/users, who are not in front of their computers at the

80
same time. As a result, participants have more time to think and prepare their messages.
Theoretically, this fact should make asynchronous communication closer to the written
discourse than to the spoken interaction. However, the tendency is to make the written
style of messages more conversational.

Due to the linguistic characteristics of these two types, there has been much debate
whether computer-mediated communication is similar either to the oral discourse or to the
written one, or it just represents a different form of communication (Kaye 1991). The
following analysis demonstrates that this type of communication, at least on forums, is similar
to that encountered in face-to-face interactions, at least at the level of opening sequences.
Thus, in a quite singular (in Romanian) study dedicated to the opening sequence on
the Romanian forums, Galita (2013:65-75) has established the following:
 the opening sequences follow, more or less, the tripartite structural framework (Clark
1985: 179-229): contact initiation; greetings; topic initiation;
 greetings` level of formality is quite similar to that in face-to-face interactions ; they
guide the type of reply they will receive ; they include
a) informal greeting formula:
- ordinary Romanian ones: Buna! (Hi!); Salut! (Hello!);
- with a regional character: Servus!; in English: Hi!; Hello!; Hello everybody!;
- half foreign–half Romanian: Ciao mamici! (Ciao, mothers!); Bonjour tuturor!
(Bonjour, everyone!); Hola, prieteni! (Hola, friends!);
- followed by direct address to the interaction partner: Buna Nick (Hello, Nick); Salut
Nick (Hi, Nick);
- followed by limiting/gender restrictive direct address: Buna mamici si viitoare mamici!
(Hi, mummies and mummies-to-be!); Salut dragele mele (Hello, my dear ones);
- followed by address to everybody: Salut la toti! (Hi, everybody!); Salutare dragilor!
(Greetings/Hello, my deer ones!);
- individualized informal greeting formula Salutari tuturor burticilor, mamicilor si
taticilor (Greetings to all bellies, mummies and daddies!); Salutare pici, mamici si
tatici (Greetings/Hello, kiddies, mummies and daddies!)
b) formal greeting formula
- ordinary ones: Buna ziua! (Good afternoon!); Buna seara! (Good evening!);
- archaic formal greeting formula: Ziua buna va doreste … (… wishes you a good day);
- followed by very polite direct address: Buna ziua stimate mamici si stimati tatici !
(Good afternoon dear mums and dear dads);

 self-presentation – includes either the participants` full name (ma numesc [Prenume]
+ [Nume], am…ani /My name is [Surname] + [Name] and I am…years old) or it is
incomplete, offering the participants` give surname and (sometimes) their age:
sunt [Prenume]/I am [Surname]

 the presentation of the situation


On forums, this includes the following structural elements
1. simple presentation of the situation

cu mult timp in urma am cazut si mi-am rupt piciorul. De atunci am o durere constanta (a
long time ago I fell and broke my leg. Ever since then I have had a constant pain) –
medical forum

baietelul meu isi suge degetul cand doarme (my little boy sucks his finger when he sleeps)
– forum about children

81
2. presentation of the situation followed by the mentioning of the specific
elements of the factual context (time reference)

eu m-am lovit la cap pe 7 ianuarie 2010 si inca nu pot scapa de dureri (I heart my head on
January 7 2010 and I still have pains) – medical forum

in ajunul Craciunului fetita mea s-a lovit la cap si de atunci ameteste (on Christmas eve
my daughter heart her head and has been feeling dizzy ever since)–forum about children
3. detailed presentation of the situation (meant to establish a common ground with
the addressee)

In ultimele 4-5 luni am inceput sa am pierderi de memorie si dureri de cap puternice.


Aceste dureri sunt uneori de scurta durata,iar alte ori pot spune ca au persistat o zi
intreaga,insa simt durerea doar pe partea stanga a capului,si mai rar in cea dreapta.
Vreau sa mentionez ca am o perioada de stres pentru ca sunt clasa a 12-a, iar luna
aceasta ma pregatesc si pentru examenul auto. Pierderile de memorie se manifesta uneori
ingrijorator, pentru ca mi se intampla ca un profesor sa-mi adreseze o intrebare,incep sa
raspund si la cateva secunde uit despre ce vorbeam anterior. (In the last 4-5 months I
started having memory loss and strong headaches. They are sometimes short and other
times I can say they persist all day, but I only feel pain on the left side of the head, and
rarely on the right. I want to mention that I am in a period of stress because I am a 12th
grader and this month I’m also preparing for the driving licence exam. My memory loss is
sometimes disturbing, for example if a teacher asks me a question, I start to answer but I
immediately forget what I was talking about earlier.) – medical forum
The question/request stage - usually follows the presentation of the situation on the
medical forums and the forums about children, where the participants need some
answers/require some help. Sometimes this stage constitutes an opening sequence in itself on
medical forums or on those dedicated to music or sports where participants need to find some
answers regarding their common interests.

puteti, va rog, sa ma ajutati cu un sfat in privinta … (could you please help me with some
piece of advice regarding …) – medical forum

as dori foarte mult sa stiu daca voi putea duce sarcina pana la capat in aceste conditii (I
would like to know if I can carry the pregnancy under these circumstances) – forum on
children issues

ce parere aveti despre noul canal de sport? (what do you think about the new sports
channel?) – sport forum

cine ma poate ajuta sa inregistrez o piesa? (who can help me record a single?) – forum
on music

stie cineva daca noul model Harley se vinde in Romania? (does anyone know if the new
Harley is sold in Romania?)- forum on sports

Task: Identify the types of opening sequences on this forum about mother`s issues

1. So! I guess I should introduce myself since I've been lurking around for a few
weeks now with sporadic posts.I am a 27 year old, work-a-holic lady! I have two
jobs, one that is a 9 - 5 and one that is just 15 hours on the weekend.

82
2. Hi mamas - My husband and I are planning a Spring Break trip from Chicago to
New York with our 15 year old son and 11 year old daughter. We plan to drive
from Chicago, stay in a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) apartment in Brooklyn,
park our car and take public transit for day trips into Manhattan.
I'm looking for advice!
3. I'm new to yoga (took a few classes at the Y a few years ago and that's it) but I
would like to do some prenatal yoga during my pregnancy. I looked at local
classes but they don't fit into my schedule and are way too expensive for us right
now anyway. Can anyone recommend a good DVD (or a few of them) that would
work well for a beginner (i.e. doesn't assume you already know what you're doing)
but will still give a good workout?
4. potty training nightmare. I have a 3 year old step-son. He lives with us full-time.
Potty training has been an absolute nightmare. I'm ashamed of myself because I
feel like I should already have him potty trained. I've read blogs, found tips and
tricks everywhere. Nothing has worked. He refuses to use the toilet. I don't know
what else to try.
5. DS OBSESSED with girl toys....Anyone else? My 6 yr. old DS Only wants girl
stuff for gifts. I'm talking American girl doll, any princess stuff. We have tried to
suggest boy stuff but he has no interest. DH and I are fine with it.
Anyone else out here who's boys love girl stuff?
6. Hello, this is my very first post ever one any message board ever, but I really
wanted advice from other mothers out there. I have a very sticky situation…
7. I know I have seen it mentioned on the boards before, but for some reason the
search tool isn't working. So, I was wonderring if anyone could tell me why I
shouldn't donate my hair to locks of love? Also, is there any other charity that
makes wigs that might want my hair? I was going to cut my hair sometime last
month, but it is almost long enough to donate so I was gonna wait and do that, but
if they are not a good charity, and I can't find anywhere else to donate my hair to,
I'm gonna go ahead and cut it. Thanks!

83
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