No Such Thing As “Balance”

August 20, 2008

Both Postman’s theory and the “Interbeing” theory incorporate how communication develops as things play off of one another. The authors of “Inter-being” argue that connections exist everywhere – and one thing is constantly influencing another. This is directly related the notion I mentioned in my responses to the presentations – the notion of tensionality. There is no set balance or level of “standing up for self” and “letting others happen.” Rather, there is a constant interplay of the forces and influences that eventually “balance” or “resolve” to allow for successful interpersonal relationships to occur. (Perhaps “successful” isn’t the write word – I rather mean that the communication is positive – and more importantly – that the communication is honest). The latter point is where Postman’s theory comes into play. As stated by Grant2U, “Postman makes a reference to Freud about how ‘civilization is impossible without inhibition…and how silence…and dishonesty are frequently necessary for people to work together harmoniously.’” Furthermore, Bridge states, “Postman speaks of ‘honesty.’ ‘And since our motives and feelings are never all that clear….most of us are dishonest.’” Both statements summarize Postman’s emphasis on honesty in interpersonal communication. To elaborate, Postman argues that honesty (coupled with inhibition) is essential for positive communications – especially when working with others.

Related to my recent comments about responses to the Group Presentations, I feel that links are continually emerging between different theories and real life examples. For instance, after reading the responses, I was able to tie in Stewart’s theory related to influences and Scott’s fierce conversations – in that, “fierce” conversations need not be had by people with strong personalities, but perhaps require more “stand up for one’s self” on the spectrum of tensionality.

The remaining comments about the final presentation relate to expression of emotions. As Postman remarks, inhibition is necessary – this comes from (again) achieving that balance of tensionality and realizing that there is this constant influence on self and others from “self” and others. 


Who really defines who we are?: The manifestations of tensionality

August 17, 2008

*Note: All people will be referred to by their blog usernames to protect the innocent*


Example 1: JohnnieDrama (written by himself)


In the first assignment for the Interpersonal Communication course, Johnnie Drama decided to write about soccer and how much he loves it in The Beautiful Game. Now when one thinks of something that they love, they usually speak in a tone that conveys that love or emotion. Johnnie, however, wrote in a tone that almost sounded angry. Singer12 commented on this notion: “I could not help but sense a bit of anger in your tone. Were you intentionally expressing anger for those who did not appreciate futbol in the way that you did? Your writing was powerful. By the time I reached the last sentence, there was no doubt in my mind how well you knew, and how much you loved soccer.” The comments to the blog also reveal the readers sense of power in Johnnie’s writing. Singer12 also writes, “I have never before read such passionate writing about a sport. The way you described soccer, futbol was truly unbelievable.Commsyr09 adds “so soccer really is a passion of yours. The way you describe it makes me want to put my shin-guards and cleets on and hit the field!” Both of these comments reinforce, to Johnnie, that he is a powerful writer, and that his writing and passion can affect people. A good start for Johnnie, no?


For a person who appears to be a powerful writer and communicator with a very strong personality, it makes you wonder why the next that we hear from Johnnie is about two weeks later! There was no correspondence from July 16 to July 28. Maybe our preconceived notions of Johnnie were terribly off… Maybe this imposter is really just a slacker who shows signs of brilliance every now and again…


Now is not the time for explanations for his absence or excuses, but knowing Johnnie personally, I can confidently say that this disconnect killed Johnnie’s internal sense of worth within the scope of this class. He wrote such a powerful opening assignment to show to try to assert some power on the class, however, his poor showing for the next two weeks put his identity into obscurity.


Johnnie does, however, smarten up and return to the class for the beginning of the team selection process. Ironically, when selecting his team member preferences, he makes a large faux pa. He includes the same person on his list of students that he wants to work with, but then again on the list of students that he doesn’t want to work with… oops. Perhaps better communication in the previous two weeks would have allowed him to see the similarities between a person’s blog and his real identity in the class discussion.


In the next assignment, posted in the course discussion thread 5:2, we see Johnnie’s summary and analysis of Alberti and Emmons “What it Means to be Assertive.” It appears from the writing, that Johnnie has returned to original form from his original assignment post. In comparison to the others covering that article, he writes a novel, in terms of length. The same power is included in his writing – “As one can see from my three previous colleagues, the authors provide a thorough definition, and consequently an explanation of the definition, of the concept of assertiveness. So I will spare you the boredom of reading through yet another spewing out of that mundane topic. Rather, I am going to provide you with the journey that I went through as I read this article.” (“Assert, assess, proceed…” 5:2) In his assessment of the article, he uses his insight from personal experiences with his girlfriend to set the example for a real world situation of assertiveness and its consequences. Johnnie also creates an idea that was never covered in the textbook, but rather imagined by his own mind – the consequentiality equation/tree. The professor was truly impressed by Johnnie’s return to the class – “Beautiful, [Johnnie]… In particular I like this conclusion… Also, your notion of the consequentiality equation is also intriguing”


It appears that, based on the content and power of Johnnie’s discussion post, that he was trying to make up for that initial lack of contact for the previous two weeks. It is almost as if had two weeks of pent up writing to put onto paper (or word processor) and it all came out in one big post. The motives behind this powerful writing, besides getting a grade for it, are to 1.) make up for missing the previous assignment 2.) get back on the map, in terms of the push for leadership, and 3.) as a personal motivator to try to overcome his own personal embarrassment for missing those two weeks.


In the next installment from Johnnie Drama, we see him commenting on Steph’s post “nexting” and being nexted: what we exhale becomes us. Once again, Johnnie is using strong and assertive writing – “I feel that my colleagues are not seeing these articles the way that they were intended to be seen.” He tries to create the illusion that his level of perception is above that of his classmates – a clear power move. Moreover, he also comments about how the whole class was being conned by its own professor: “you will see the ulterior motives which Steph decided not to express to us. She needed to butter us up before she bamboozled us with group projects. Steph got out our thinking caps for us, and deviously led us by the hand.” These audacious things are being said so that conversation will be created by and about Johnnie Drama and his comment. He tried to create a whirlwind of conflict and intrigue, and it worked. In a following blog post’s comment, TheCakeIsALie says, “when I was reading all of the comments, one stood out for me above all of the others. Johnniedrama proposes a conspiracy theory…” So it turns out that Johnnie Drama’s unfortunate carelessness in skipping two weeks of class has turned around in his favor. His perceived humiliation has spawned an internal motivator to put him back in the good graces of the group.


Up until now, we have seen Johnnie only take bits and pieces of other classmates’ work and play off of them. Most of the time he would revolve some idea of his around a particular quotation by an author of an article or by a student. Up until now, he has been beating around the bush and avoided coming right out and saying what he wants. Up until now…


In response to assignment 6:3 (“Teaming”), Johnnie might have written his greatest piece of work within the realm of this course. The general idea for the assignment was to create a summary of your team member’s thoughts and approaches to communication and group work. Johnnie, though, being the brazen one that he is, decided to take this idea a bit further. “This is a roll call of who is currently on my team, and its a frank and honest synopsis of what I think of each. Granted, these determinations are being made on flash judgments” Johnnie, trying to prove that he is above the influence of consequences, shows his candor by giving his honest opinion about his own group – a group that he will have to do an entire project with; a project that hasn’t even begun yet. He goes through each of his group mates and picks each one apart, including himself, and doesn’t spare a thing. The reason why this might be his best work throughout the whole class is because it was this article that spawned the basis and the groundwork for the group presentation that you are currently reading. (We’ve come full circle, it seems…)


The shockwave ensues… Steph makes a direct comment on this post: “Nice flashes, they definitely establish expectation and set parameters of possibility!” In one of Johnnie’s group member’s blog, DeliverMeSummer writes Its Time, Ready, Set, Debate, which partly discusses Johnnie’s roll call of flash judgments. Here is what DeliverMeSummer has to say:

“As I mentioned in a previous entry, I absolutely loved Johnniedrama’s post… I cannot speak to the accuracy of his descriptions of other teammates, but he nailed my personality! After looking back over his entry, I’m curious to see if we are fulfilling the roles he described… Furthermore – (and I want to stress this!) – I wonder if we are fulfilling (or will fulfill) the roles he described because he described them as such (It’s the chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon).”

And that is how this whole idea of roles and tensionality was started – the chicken and the egg phenomenon. Now that the seed was planted in Johnnie’s mind, he needed to further this idea and keep the proverbial plant growing. In his next post he argues with himself over the chicken and egg claim the DeliverMeSummer brought up.

Well technically, according to what Steph has said about our interlocuters creating us and shaping who we are, then it’s really not a chicken and egg paradox. It is clear that the chicken (being me) came before the egg (the personalities that I have just created for my teammates)… Perhaps I just got lucky with dictating who DeliverMeSummer is, or perhaps I am the chicken… Perhaps I am not the chicken – I describe commsyr09 as my “argumentative counterpart”… DeliverMeSummer is subtly trying to prod commsyr09 into a debate-like situation with me, which is what I want [but not getting]… Yes I am the chicken for DeliverMeSummer, but commsyr09 does not see me as so.”


It is very clear that Johnnie Drama, who showed a single flash of brilliance, almost emulating a supernova, and then died out. He died out for about two weeks in fact, but just like the Phoenix, he rose from his ashes. Not only did he rise, he came back with a fire inside and something to prove. Now was he trying to prove his worth to himself, to the class, or to the professor? Does it matter? By missing that class time, he created a tension inside himself so great that he tried to take over the whole course. It appears that he was pretty successful, at least in his group project. His strong personality helped pick the topic, and helped shape how the topic was discussed. In this discussion threads, Johnnie posted twenty-seven of the seventy-eight total posts – that’s 34%, and there were 5+ people posting to those threads.


Example 2: Moses84 (written by Johnniedrama)


*All identity roles are opinions of my own, as if I were a member of this course. Actual outside opinions of Moses’ role will be cited*

**For all intents and purposes, I am going to consider Moses84 to be a male.**


In Moses’ first post, which was a comment on Time to DECIDE, what will YOU create? by Steph, he commences his perceived identity. To say the least, he appears to be a “go-getter” – a teacher’s pet, if you will. He is the very first person to post a comment to this blog, by almost a full hour. Now maybe he got lucky and his class schedule worked out so that he could do homework at this time, or maybe he is trying to show to everyone that he is leader? We only have one entry to build off of, so we need to move on. One thing to note, though, he is direct in his syntax and ideas: “In my opinion we should try to put something together that really reflects the direct impact that the topic has had on us, such as improving the world in whatever way that may mean, and the idea of freedom of expression.” He doesn’t beat around the bush, but rather just comes right out and states his wants and opinions. Furthermore, three people agreed with Moses’ ideas, increasingly shaping his role, right now, as a standout leader.


Yet again, in the comments section of Steph’s next blog, Getting to gist, we see Moses84 high atop the chronology of comments. He isn’t first, this time, third, in fact, but his presence is definitely felt. The initial hot topic of the comment thread was started by Samesies – “I thought the fishbowl was repetitive, and yet didn’t accomplish anything when it was brought to the rest of the class. Overall, no decisions were made, and ‘individuals are beginning to challenge differences in a bid to regain their individuality, power, and influence.’” – but Moses stir up even more heat in his bid to regain power and influence. Moses brings up Jazz, who apparently attempted to facilitate the discussion process in the fishbowl by becoming the class’ moderator – which, according to Moses and others, failed miserably. Moses just nexted Samesies in order to 1.) show the need for a strong leader, and 2.) prove that Jazz is not that leader that is needed. Moses identified with the statement that Samesies was making, embraced it, and then turned it around to be used as a position of power (much the popular kids that Daniel Goleman speaks of in his article “The Rudiments of Social Intelligence).


Right now, we can fairly make some assumptions of Moses – he is not afraid to be considered out-spoken (calling out Jazz’s failure), he wants to be recognized as an asset to this class (initiative in the timeliness of posts), and probably wants to be a leader of this course (or at least has leadership-type qualities about him). All that being said, his next post allows us to delve more deeply into Moses’ psyche. Akademakid makes the first comment on Steph’s blog, What are you/we going to produce?!, and he says that he has the need to say, “lets do the freaking UMass thing already. Knowone [sic] else has any ideas.” This is a bold statement for this class, which appears to be in some sort of a debate over the content on the future wiki page. Moses recognizes this stance that Akademakid is taking and wants to ride the shirt-tails – “I am also in the communication group, and find myself feeling very similar to akademakid.” Moses wants to associate himself with the “popular kid” in the current situation. Wanting a feeling of recognition, he also identifies himself as a member of the Communication Group. Moses then goes on to make a statement that will further establish his role as an out-spoken leader- “I also find myself holding back what I think in order to make sure that I am heard clearly, and what I’m saying is not taken in as noise.” He knows what he wants to say (probably brash and crude comments), but he knows that as a diplomat (aka class leader), he needs to gain the respect of his peers.


In his next post, a comment to Steph’s Consistency and consensus: mutually exclusive?, Moses “takes a stab” at being honorable and honest. He openly admits that he did not come to class on that Monday, and yet he still has the gall to question the teaching style of the course that he has seen thus far. Based on what he says – “This class is pretty much the polar opposite of every sense of structure that we have come to learn over our past 16 years of schooling.” – it is clear that he has strong opinions and has the interpersonal openness and assertiveness to state said opinions. Looking deeper into this, this comfort with true expression of feelings can stem from two sources. The first being an accepted covenant of mutual respect between teacher and student. This course, being 300 level, grants the students a bit more of an understood freedom. It says that you are more adult and learned, and thus we are closer to equals than in an introductory course. The second source of this inner confidence could be entirely internal. Moses could just have a strong sense of self, and believes that his opinion should be heard and he has the strong sense of self-disclosure to state it without remorse. Besides Moses’ direct commentary on the class structure, he does try to establish a diplomatic role, as well. I think it is important that as a group, we remember that we have a task at hand to accomplish, and whether we like it or not, our grades depend on it… We need to take the majority and roll with it.He is, once again, trying establish a leadership type role in this course. After all is said and done with his personal feelings, he decides that he needs to reel back in the group and take the initiative.


One thing to remember about a person that wants the limelight of a leadership role is that he will do anything to attain your attention to a matter. The realm of possibilities are really unlimited, but some of the more realistic tactics include, but are not limited to: severe hyperbole, repeating themselves or calling attention to something that he said earlier, and relating current issue to more mundane situations that everyone (the peons) can relate. Well, if we skip ahead a couple of posts to March 31’s post, Building on success: a 3D puzzle, let us analyze some of what Moses says: “Splitting up in to groups sounds like the best idea we’ve had so far… Like I stated before we need to get the ides flowing… It is kinda like when you write a paper, you usually write the intro and the title AFTER you’ve written the body and conclusion. The BEST IDEA? Hyperbole. Like you stated before? Calling attention to a previous dialogue. Like writing a paper? A mundane situation that everyone can understand.


Up until this point in the class, almost a full three months in, we have just been inferring about Moses’ role and identity. We have talked about how he wants to be seen, and the steps that he is taking to accomplish this. Well now we get the opportunity to see if what he has done has worked in his favor or not.


In Steph’s post entitled reminder: After Dachau, the students post comments about how the wiki presentations were perceived, and more importantly, how their own perceptions of other classmates. The first person to comment on Moses84 is ap1115 (now referred to as “AP”). AP’s perception of Moses is that he is the “evaluator critic” of the class. What this is referring to is that Moses “ ‘may evaluate the practicality…of some unit of group discussion.’ (p.55) [AP] thinks that here Moses is “questioning” the practicality of not knowing what is going on in class.” AP also says that this defined role for Moses is one where the member will “attack the designated leadership, the general leadership here being the professors teaching format.” To give my opinion on what AP has just said, I believe that Moses is not just attacking the leadership, but also making an attempt to gain leadership. In order to become king, you must kill the king, right? The other person to comment about Moses’ functional role is Getoutakingshous (now referred to as “GOAKH”). GOAKH has decided to depict Moses as the “group observer and commentator.” Apparently GOAKH thinks that Moses “keeps records of various aspects of group process and feeds such data with proposed interpretations into the group’s evaluation of its own procedures.” This idea can definitely fit into Moses’ self-defined role of leader – as we know a leader has many different purposes, one of which may be interpretation. Moses’ out-spoken nature has given others the idea that he is interpreting the data that he has “inhaled” throughout the course.


Moses has now read his colleagues’ comments about who they think he is. Here is the thing about Moses’ situation. He has been the out-spoken leader, in his own right, throughout the entirety of this class. When it comes to leadership, there are two ways to obtain it – by want or by chance. If you want to be a leader, you will for it and make your case. If a group needs a leader and no one will step up, usually the worst candidates are eliminated and whoever stands at the end is picked. In Moses’ case, the former is the reasoning for his leadership duties. Moses has wanted to be a leader since the beginning of this class. This being the state of affairs, Moses has become self-actualized by his acceptance as a leader by his classmates and their evaluations. Thus, there is no tension created for this role in terms of having to fight to be a leader. However, the tension that IS created is the perpetuation of said role. It is one thing to fight for a role, but if once you achieve said role, do you falter? Does John McCain run for President, but then once he is in office does he just sit on his butt and not do anything? (Please spare your political comments…)


In Moses’ final post that will contribute to the course content and structure in Steph’s blog, When confusion is the condition, Moses stands firm his ground in his role of questioning authority as an attempt to gain a bigger piece of the power pie (please excuse the alliteration). “Here is my main concern. I feel like there is a master plan for this wiki that we are not aware of. I say this because, for our page, we are being asked to address specific points… If our class’s Wiki was to be self-reflexive and analyze the process, why wasn’t this outlined from the beginning? What else is in store?” Bear in mind that this question is asked with about half a month to go in the course. He asks this question as if in the last 15 days of the semester that a bomb will be dropped on the class. It is clear, based on this time frame, that Moses is trying to get a rise out of someone –either the class or the professor. He is trying to stir up conversation to continue his dominance as a leader.


As I stated earlier, Moses faced no external tension in his role definition. All of the tension put on Moses was self-inflicted. By his want and need to be a leader in this class, he forced himself to struggle to become a leader. Looking back on all his posts, his arguments were only agreed upon 5 times. He made 12 posts throughout the course of this class, and he was only directed referenced, in a positive light, five times (three occurrences happened on the first post of the year). For someone like him, who is recognition hungry, it must have made him feel inadequate and increase his drive for positive feedback as leader. Once ap1115 and getoutakingshous gave credit to Moses for his leadership activities, the self-tension was broken, and all that was left to focus on was his ability to retain his role.


Example 3: Professor “Steph” (written by DeliverMeSummer)


A principle example of tensionality and role development can be illustrated through Steph’s position as interlocuter and teacher. This is an interesting example to study because there are many variables that contribute to the development and expectation of this particular role. For example, Steph is the course’s instructor – and with that comes a specific set of expectations (both goals that Steph has for the direction of the class, and her students’ expectations of her role as teacher). For instance, Steph’s role as “teacher” may appear to set the expectation that she be addressed as “Ms. Kent” or “Professor Kent” (simply because that is the social expectation of student-teacher communication – as evidenced by the way myself, Memphisburns, and others initially addressed Steph). However, Steph continued to refer to herself as such and students followed the examples of other students (addressing Steph as “Steph”) therefore breaking through this expectation. This illustrates how the “tension” that may be created in interpersonal relationships can be overcome – Steph “stood up to” her expectations (or the role that she had defined for herself), and as a result, a new role definition of “teacher” prevailed in the group. At the same time, Steph didn’t correct the students when they addressed her as “Ms. Kent,” suggesting that she was willing to “let others happen to” her, to a certain extent. This, again, supports the argument that “tensionality” can be visualized as a sliding scale – some give-and-take may be required from both sides to reach a happy medium (and, perhaps, resolve conflicted role definitions).


In her “Group Dynamics” class, one of Steph’s first blog posts actively “nexts” and lays the groundwork for the discussion that follows. She prompts, “There are so many ideas for what you, COM352, can do with the Course Wiki. I have posted several that I hope nudge your inspiration…” Right off the bat, Steph creates tension in her defined role as teacher – she places some of responsibility for the direction of the class into the hands of her students. I say “tension” because she is breaking out of the traditional role of teacher (or, that the students may hold the expectation that the teacher will dictate to them what they need to do or will discuss for the class). Also in the process, she may have experienced some resistance from her students (creating additional tension). Indeed, Aligirl22 expresses this discomfort in her comment, stating, “…am used to the teacher making the decisions not the students.” In order to resolve this apparent conflict in role definition and expectation, Aligirl22 had to accept the responsibility that was being placed upon her, and Steph (“holding her own”) had to be patient and understand that it may take some time to fulfill the tasks of this new role.


Furthermore, Steph’s ability to “next” the class from one discussion to another places her in an interesting position of power. Yes, she may be trying to get away from the traditional role of teacher and open the direction of class dialogue to the students. Ultimately, however, she is the facilitator of the class and has the “power” (and background knowledge) to influence the direction of class discussion. She realizes this “power” when she states,  “What I mean is, I want to share my perceptions in terms of how particular witnessed behaviors/patterns ‘fit’ particular types of theoretical categories, but I don’t want to skew their visioning in the direction of satisfying me just ’cause I’m the teacher” (What are you/we going to produce?). This point comes across in one of the activities that the “Group Dynamics” class performed. Steph had the students take a survey about her personality – and she posted her analysis of the results under Johari Window Results (as mentioned in the Functional Roles blog entry). Steph commented, “…for instance, take the label I gave myself and nearly half of you confirmed…” suggesting that her students successfully picked up on a handful of attributes that encompass her “role” that she, herself, created. While this may not solve the-chicken-or-the-egg conundrum, it highlights an important point. Moreover, Steph remarks, “Interesting, I think I’m powerful (!) and none you rated that for me at all.” This is where the argument for tensionality in role development falls into place. Steph’s belief that she is “powerful” (as mentioned above) coupled with the realization that others may think that she is not may force her to rethink how she conveys this power to others (or reaffirm that she has been successful in maintaining an open and uninfluenced class discussion). At the same time, her students, knowing that she beliefs herself to be powerful, may interpret interactions and communications different. Thus, this example serves to illustrate this push and pull (and everchanging) dynamic of tensionality.


Example 4: DeliverMeSummer (written by herself)

As with many concepts studied in this course, we create our “selves” – develop our roles and experience tensionality – constantly, whether aware of it or not. My “wake-up” call to this constant activity occurred while reading his “Great Debates” blog post, when Johnniedrama described the fellow members of his team. I was surprised, initially, because I found it quite remarkable that Johnniedrama could successfully describe my personality (with having only very limited conversations with me – in cyberspace nonetheless). I also added in my response to his comment that his description lined up very close to my Myers-Briggs personality type (INTJ – introversion, intuition, thinking, judging). This “self” that I had subconsciously “created” – through choice interactions with others, messages and responses posted to class discussions, etc – appeared to align with my personality.

What I find to be interesting (and that follows up on what Steph had her Comm352 class complete) is this idea of asking others about their perceptions of you and comparing their perceptions to 1) your own perception of your “self” and personality, and 2) an outside (survey, or the like) unbiased third party review. I believe this to be relevant to the idea of role definition, creation of self, and tensionality because it provides a foundation for the existence of said tensionality in role and development of the self (and how we convey that “self” to others). For instance, my very first blog entry as DeliverMeSummer helped to define my role in this class (which makes a fair amount of sense, as we argue that in every instance of communication we are creating and defining our “selves”). In this entry, I describe my role as a nurse – a role that I believe to be fluid within itself. To clarify, it is my belief that I have the ability to become a good nurse because I can perceive how a patient needs me to function in order to feel most at ease or comfortable in their situation. For example, I took care of a woman in labor who was extremely nervous and very hesitant about the labor process. When she began to push, I adjusted my approach (or my “role” towards her in this situation) away from the “cheerleaders-let’s-have-a-baby” coaching method to a very subdued, relaxed, and focused attitude.

An interesting point to note, however, involves the idea of consequentiality (and subsequently, tensionality). First, I have to ask myself, “Is this “self” that I’ve created a result of knowing the results to my personality test?” And then, at the time of taking the personality test for the first time, “Did my answers to the questions and results reflect my true personality?” Both are important questions to consider in discussing the role that tensionality plays in role development. This is discussed in greater detail in DeliverMeSummer’s post It’s Time, Ready, Set, Debate. Yet another interesting observation to note about this entry is how it fulfills the perceived role of DeliverMeSummer in Johnniedrama’s description of the various personalities in the group. I believe (and I can say this because I am DeliverMeSummer) that I would have posted an entry very similar to this one regardless of whether I had read Johnniedrama’s post about my role. In that sense, I would certainly be “standing my own” rather than “letting other happen to” me. At the same time, I remarked in one of my comments, “So, now I’m taking Johnnie’s, Topofthemorning’s, and my own suggestions into consideration – and disclosing this experience (that otherwise, would remain unknown to the rest of my group!).” This statement would indicate that I’m “letting others happen to” me. Because it is in conflict with the previous statement (and by that, I mean the two infringe upon each other), it can be described as tensionality. It is this push and pull between two competing forces that facilitate tensionality in role development.

Example 5: Ehanft (written by Beaver32)


I will be doing my observation on ehanft I choose to do this person because they were one of the first people to reply to steph blog and they quoted on of their classmates right away so it showed this person was able to connect with other people pretty good. In ehanft post he quotes veterbalsilence .“I like what vertebralsilence says about focusing our efforts locally as opposed to globally.”


This show that this person already some good IPC skills where they can relate off of other people wrtitg with out even knowing them. Step blog was called time decided what you will create which you can find at.

Each member of the class had to pick something they would like to create ehanft idea what he wanted to create was.

“I think that by creating something appealing to the UMass general student body, we will create something that might make an impact.”


Ehanft shows great leader skills he has thought of a way to bring people together as a whole. He talks about how “where people com together from different disciplines, it may be possible given makeup for our class to create a collaboration of experiences here art umass that form a cohesive gudie.”


Ehanft is trying to fix a global problem already by trying to connect people from different backgrounds. That one of the biggest issues here in the world people from different countries have such a hard time communicating with each other because no one wants to be wrong or give up their beliefs on issues that why there is war now.


In bridges not walls Daniel Goleman would catoragized Ehanft as a leader. Goleman says the “essential skills of the leader , this involves initiating and coordinating the efforts of a network of people. This is the talent seen in theater directors or producers, in military officers, and effective heads of organizations and units of all kinds. On the playground, this is the child who takes the lead in deciding what everyone will play, or becomes team captain. “(p75) Ehanft presented these skills right away in his first post to step blog he wanted everyone know he’s a very out going person and aware of some of the big problems of dialogue.


Example 6: Vert (written by CommSyr)

The Group Dynamics class member I chose to observe is vertebralsilence, whom I will refer to as “Vert.”


As the class began Vert was the fourth class member to post. She immediately eradicated the idea of the class doing something “epic,” and without almost any consideration labeled it as impractical and useless. Thus, she became the pioneer of the “Guide to Surviving UMASS” wiki page, something local that would spark interest in all class members, something that is small enough to tackle, but big enough to make some impact.


Almost every poster to follow agreed with Vert’s idea. Freshkick’s says, “I also very much agree with vertebralsilence , in their comment. While it is important for all of us to be aware of what is happening in the world, it seems more effective, rewarding and possible to make a difference locally. I am however still interested in having a global section on the page, maybe a smaller section just updating on important international events/situations.” Ontherecliner approves, “I also think the Surviving Umass idea was a good idea because it is practical and I feel very doable. Like Vertebra said, I don’t think it would be a good idea to take on too large a challenge considering our experience and time frame. I think doing something around here would be the most beneficial and practical.” Ch0c0latemilk who agrees with addressing “hot topics,” also agrees with Vert’s idea of prioritizing their goals to be centered around their school. And while Thumpasorus differs on the survival guide idea, he also believes staying local will yield the most success.


Even with so much acclaim, Vert doesn’t respond to her responders but instead decides to attack Steph on her “poor choice of putting a ‘seemingly important concept and link at the very bottom of a post that has several comments.’” Vert’s tone is angry (not always necessary) and assertive which makes me believe that she is one to not only stand up for herself but also engage in a lot of IPC. She asks questions, calls people out, states her ideas, and is unafraid to speak her mind. Or so we think.


Just through the first set of posts, Vert established herself as an innovator and a leader. What surprised me however, was Vert’s lack of a response to all of her acclaim. Thump just crushed your idea of the Umass survival guide and you have nothing to say. Thump mentions Umass as being too diverse for something like this, what is your “rebuttal?” This is an example of where Thump “listened” to Vert’s idea and “nexted” her with a new one. Can they “inhale” both of their various opinions and collaborate together on their ideas? Well, we need some IPC for that.


In Steph’s post “What are you/we going to produce,” class members were asked to read an article and define what stage they were currently in. The majority of the class agreed that in terms of progress the class was “stuck” in “stage II Storming/Adolescence.”  Vert mentions that the amount of commotion – specifically yelling in the class made her uncomfortable and nervous which is “not her style.” My problem with this post is, she does not “next,” anyone. A lot of people ruminate as to WHY the class is stuck in this phase. Summer22 blames Steph teaching style (I don’t mean that in a negative way.” Sunshine775 thinks it has to do with the amount of strong personalities fighting to be the leader. Vert unfortunately doesn’t hypothesize about why the class is in stage II, doesn’t give insight as to how to move on to stage III, doesn’t reference any particular class members, just simply says “I agree with the assessments of other students…” Did the last class’s conflicts make her so nervous she has stepped down from her leadership throne?


Vert missed the next class but still responds to Consistency and Consensus to discuss that in the previous “emotionally charged class” she felt “personally attacked by Steph.” Throughout the majority of the post Vert is essentially yelling at our dear Steph over what to me seems like a simple miscommunication. Where are the interpersonal communication skills?! This is perfect example of where sizing up the situation, the person and listening (not hearing) to what they have to say while considering all other factors would have been helpful. Towards the end of her post, Vert beings to do just this – “At the time I felt that steph’s frustration was with her inability to ‘manipulate the outcome in the direction that [she] want[ed]’ I was very concerned that, as a proponent of an idea she wasn’t fond of, she would take a personal dislike to me.”  Now that the metaphorical dust has settled I see that this was probably an irrational fear, I don’t think steph would dislike me just for my role in her frustration.” She continues on to say that situation erupted and prompted irrational actions and thus irrational fears because class order and structure was lost. She concludes by saying the group seems less tense and she is happy on the class’s progress.


My suggestion to Vert would be not to jump to conclusions. She is (what seems to me) trying to “next” with Steph but has not listened, considered the consequentiality of the communication that transpired in the previous class, and did not next effectively. Although she ended on a positive note she spent way too much time negatively expressing her opinions on Steph’s actions without considering the meanings behind them. She was holding her own ground without allowing the other to happen to her. Also, she has still neglected to correspond with classmates.


The next task Steph assigned to the class was in a response to “Why are you Writing Sideways,” where students were asked to “combine the key elements of this post with the important terms of your own and your peer’s individual proposals for the coursewiki.” When arriving upon Vert’s weblog, I was anxious – is Vert going to attack her course mates? Is she going to focus on her own personal proposals without referencing her classmates much? Is she going to unleash on Steph again?!


Anyway, she did none of the above. Vert finally began to communicate through a somewhat dialogue. She starts by nexting Abccccc asking if he/she would like to conduct an “about us” section of the coursewiki. She continues on to ask Freshkicks if this would fulfill her original idea. She relates to Aligirl since both are transfers and questions why Summer22 is the most referenced as well as addressing her wonder of the mysterious number “22” in the classmates blogname. Throughout the post she points out what she finds interesting in that particular person’s proposal while asking some pertinent questions and mentioning in what way she relates. However, through an IPC point-of-view it might have been more beneficial, for instance, to say/next “Bradytomoss is interested in sports and I am curious to find out why or what sort of information he/she has can contribute to the coursewiki,” instead of just saying “Bradytomoss is interested in sports.” This process would allow Vert to understand what the author was conveying as opposed to what she interpreted from what they said. Still, progress is evidently being made. These are the building blocks of the consequentiality of communication that Sigman discusses. Now that both parties have established their ideas, beliefs, interests, similarities, etc, they can go on to have a deeper, more meaningful dialogue.


In a response to “Can we articulate the frame(s) emergent in our interaction?” Aligirl22 notes her interests in combining Vert’s idea of making a street video with Summer22’s idea of dedicating a portion of the wiki to campus activities. Aligirl feels as though this would combine both art and knowledge. Her “next” encouraged Vert to respond, saying that she is also into art and knowledge. Vert acknowledges the themes that stood out most her, furthering the “next” to her classmates. She clarifies the question at hand with a suggestion – “maybe we should split up into groups based on content themes and then in those groups talk about process.” She ends her post by recognizing others may not agree but offers that this could be a potential method to use. This leaves the conversation open – allowing classmates to respond freely with more suggestions, questions, agreements, or disagreements. Definitely a step towards more positive IPC for Vert!



Vert continues to contribute more beneficial ideas in “Building on success: a 3d puzzle.” Instead of starting off with her idea however she acknowledges the constructive suggestions her classmates have made. It would have been more useful (from IPC perspective) to point out which suggestions she found most appealing and referencing her classmates – opening up a dialogue between them in which idea can be further clarified, discussed, or created. Regardless, Vert does ask a number of helpful questions throughout the post and at the end recommends putting “ideas into a preexisting resources that already has some sort of audience and frame.” Aligirl22 agrees, “Vertabralsilence, makes a good point that the Wiki already has a section on Restaurants, clubs etc…Maybe we could expand on these if some of the areas resources are not already covered on the Wiki?” Unfortunately, Vert does not respond to Aligirl’s display of interest. Maybe they reviewed this idea in class? I would hope so since Aligirl and Vert seemed to be on the same page and have been participating in a sort of dialogue.


The most progress is seen in Vert’s post to “reminder: After Dachau,” where she reviews a number of classmates and comments on the roles they have played in the wiki project. She starts by disagreeing with the role Buckets34 was given as the “individual-centered” and instead, based on supporting evidence believes he/she is the encourager. She praises him/her on also being an energizer and opinion giver. She moves onto Thump, also commending him/her on taking on many roles such as the follower, information-seeker, harmonizer and opinion giver. Lastly Very chooses Summer22 (with whom she had correspondence with earlier in the class) “Summer22’s who I felt played multiple roles including Orienter, Encourager, Standard setter/ego ideal, Information giver, and Group-observer and commentator.”


The big difference that has emerged in Vert’s IPC style and dynamic is her ability to “step down” so to speak. In the beginning Vert maintained an authoritarian, leader-like stance in the class. As mentioned before, she was the originator of the “Umass Survival Guide” concept. From her postings and blog entries, one can tell Very was sort of self-centered and not so open to hearing various suggestions but instead adamant on giving her own. When class members agreed or disagreed there was no evidence of a response. As class progressed we see Vert stepping down and attempting to understand her peers. Instead of being the “know-it-all” who lashed out (at Steph!) when her ideas were somewhat discredited (in class) she slowly became the active listener, avid contributor, friendly collaborator, and overall improved communicator. Nicely done Vert! 

Let’s Work Together

August 13, 2008

The readers of Bohm’s article mention the occurrence of miscommunication between young adults and elders. The first thought that I had when reading the responses was John Robinson’s comment (both in his book and in our weblog) about his ability to communicate with others. As a child with Asperger’s (a form of autism), he described having difficulty communicating with peers his own age, and rather that he often felt more comfortable relating to those who were not his age. In other words, is there a theoretical basis behind John’s experiences? In an attempt to offer an explanation for this difference in experience (either related to the bio-physio-psychological processes of Asperger’s or to interpersonal communication theory), I read further into the critiques and analyses.


For instance, JaggerBunny agrees with Singer, who writes, “When people talk to and over each other rather than listen and engage with each other, there is no true communication of thoughts.” This statement holds true regardless of peer group interactions, or cross-aged interactions. Singer comments that this age-related barrier may be do to lack of communication between the two separate groups. What could account for this lack of communication? Could it perhaps be related to assumed disinterest of lack of similarity to one another?


In his analysis, Gym points out that he contacted fellow classmates that shared similar experiences to him. His example, however, shows that even apparent similarities can expose differences in point of view. He and Beaver32 concluded (agreeing with Bohm) that “… in order for a successful communication to take place, two people must be able to listen to each other without trying to change each other’s perceptions” (Bohm). So, in order to have positive and successful conversation – whether it be between people of different ages, backgrounds, experiences, etc. – it is imperative that the conversers actively listen to one another and converse without trying to influence, criticize, or impinge upon the viewpoint of the other.


So, how does this relate to the creation of “self” in conversation? How can we convey our own experiences without influencing (or threatening) the perceptions of others? Stewart, Zediker, and Witteborn may argue that this “influencing” of others is unavoidable, and, perhaps, essential to the development of self. The authors use the terms “ascribe” and “avow” to describe the process of acquisition of identity – whether assigned by others (the former) or assigned by one’s self (the latter). CommSyr and Cake, who both critiqued the article, may agree with me in arguing that this concept is governed by the “tensionality” principle. In other words, our “selves” are both ascribed and avowed – these two opposing ends compete with one another, creating tension. President, incorporating Barrett’s theory on self-validation, stresses the importance of open communication in order to work successfully with others. So, in other words, the tension that is created by the ascribed-avowed determination of self can be resolved through open communication – by communicating openly with others it becomes possible to align ascribed and avowed expectations so that individuals can work and collaborate together to achieve a common goal. 

It’s Time. Ready, Set, Debate!

August 10, 2008

Well (big sigh), I think that at one point or another, we’ve all become frustrated by this online communication format! It’s clearly very different from being able to interact in class – even if it’s a brief, let’s-meet-for-five-minutes-to-discuss-the-assignment type of communication. I’m impressed with my fellow teammates because our weblog entries don’t at all reflect these frustrations. Instead, undertones of these frustrations can be “heard” in behind the scenes communication – take, for instance, when we were unable to get together in the chat function. However, it’s important to note that we must cooperate and work together (and not give up hope!) to complete this portion of the assigned work. With these seemingly negative “tensions” now in our recent past (and by “tension,” I refer to the anxious, physical definition), it seems timely to discuss Zediker and Stewart’s positive “tensions” and its role in current team dialogue.

First, I liked the terminology that Zediker and Stewart referred to – “dialogue” versus “monologue.” I feel that this concept and distinction relates to the notion of active versus passive listening, as well as connecting to the other person in conversation – you must be actively participating in communication to have a “dialogue.” Indeed, the authors continue to elaborate on the two concepts, referencing “letting the other happen” and “holding my own.” It is the tension of these opposing ends (as I see it, similar to that passive-aggressive didactic) that create the “tensionality” in conversation. It is in the hypothetical middle of this spectrum that successful dialogue can be achieved.

Below are some examples from team interactions thus far, with accompanying explanations (in layman’s termsJ).

In My Group At A Glance,” Topofthemorning brings up a very interesting point when he states, “It is very important to be honest but that doesn’t really mean people are going to become defensive and resent you for your comments.” What he is referring to is a direct example of the balance between passive and aggressive, letting the other happen and holding his/her own. In other words, Topofthemorning suggests that honesty allows for open dialogue and communication. The other half of the spectrum (that Topofthemorning hints at) is that it is necessary to, as a listening or bystander, to respect this honesty. This “other half” relates directly to the commitment of active listening and the ability to drop any negative pre-conceived notions of the speaker or where the conversation may be going. Similarly, in commsyr09’s entry “Taking the Next Step” she states, “In my opinion cross the bridge is the most difficult part of communicating.” She elaborates, describing the “bridge” (what I believe) to be conflict between “letting the other happen” and “holding [her] own.” Indeed, finding this balance of positive communication could arguably be “the most difficult part of communicating.”

I’d also like to reference another point made in the article by Zediker and Stewart – the authors mention the term “monologue” and describe an example of it as thinking of how you are planning to respond to the other person’s comments while they are speaking (because, again, if you are thinking of how you are going to respond, you’re not likely to be actively listening).

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I absolutely loved Johnniedrama’s post, “Great Debates lead to the Greatest Ideas.” In this entry, he described each of our team members in great detail based on what he had observed in the dialogue thus far. Obviously, I cannot speak to the accuracy of his descriptions of other teammates, but he nailed my personality! After looking back over his entry, I’m curious to see if we are fulfilling the roles he described (I say “curious” because I feel we haven’t had extensive amounts of team communication – unfortunate, but a reality nonetheless). Furthermore – (and I want to stress this!) – I wonder if we are fulfilling (or will fulfill) the roles he described because he described them as such (Does this make sense? It’s the chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon).

So, next, next, next – is it the chicken or is it the egg? No, I’m just kidding! But, an interesting question that can be expanded upon – if we are “assigned” roles/characteristics/etc., do we follow these designated descriptions because they’ve been “assigned” to us or is it fair to say these traits accurately depict the people that we are?

If the latter is the case, I’d like to hear more of your thoughts, Topofthemorning. How do you think this group work is going thus far? Johnniedrama, I can ask you – do you think we’re fulfilling the flashes you described (regardless of the chicken or the egg)? But, perhaps we can use this chicken versus the egg thing as a launching point for some great debates and great ideas. And commsyr09, Johnniedrama described you as his “argumentative counterpart.” I think it’s time to get some debate going (maybe this can be our “data collection?”). Lastly, as Johnnie mentions and you’ve demonstrated in your previous blog entries, you’re very good at assigning the theoretical backing to the actual experiences, Beaver32. Is there anything you’d like to add to improve the group’s understanding of these concepts? Really, guys… what are your thoughts?

Getting To Know You

August 9, 2008

After looking back over the work that we’ve done – readings, analyses, dialogues, etc. – I wanted to evaluate more cohesively (or rather, broadly over the scope of interpersonal communication) this notion of the underlying defense of the “self” in communication and the “person” we portray to others as ourselves. This idea intrigues me, perhaps, because I feel that in his “Great Debates” blog post, Johnniedrama was able to successfully describe my personality (with having only very limited conversations with me – in cyberspace). What I found more interesting (and this, I feel, is a key distinction!), however, is that his description of my “cyber-space personality” more closely aligns with my Myers-Briggs personality type than people who I meet and work with (in group settings) would be likely to describe.

And now, with that topic in mind, I set out to explore the Group Dynamics weblog. The first post I clicked on was entitled, “Time To Decide, What Will You Create?”. Steph writes, “The challenge is to craft agreement and participation.” True, and while this may not have to do with my interest of investigating the topic of creating our “selves,” it certainly is an important point to consider when working with each other. After reading through the entry and posts – and finding mention of the idea of conveying one’s “self” in akademakid’s comment – I returned to the main page.

In a comment made in response to “What are you/we going to produce?!”, moses84 agrees with akademakid’s belief that he/she is “censoring” what he or she is putting into writing or in the blog. Moses84 states, “I also find myself holding back what I think in order to make sure that I am heard clearly, and what I’m saying is not taken in as noise,” demonstrating an understanding of effective group communication but also an awareness of the vulnerability (or portrayal) of “self.”

After scanning quite a few subsequent posts (after the initial getting-to-know-you), I came across some interesting comments in response to “reminder: After Dachau” (more along the lines of, now-that-we-know-each-other-these-perceptions-have-changed). Right off the bat, ehanft refers to a change in comfort level amongst the class. Watching the subsequent conversation progress, it is fairly clear to note that the “optimistic” or “positive” posts focus on the common goal of the class – to create a wiki site. I liked abccccc‘s comment, “This is the only class that I can remember all the names of my classmates.” But I loved the posts that appeared after Steph’s comment and analyzed the former posts. Churchofgoogle, aligirl22, ap1115, and others identified and evaluated behaviors and traits of their fellow classmates (?). Granted, it is my understanding that these bloggers know each other in person (as classmates) in addition to cyber communications – but they more than able to pick up on seemingly subtle characteristics demonstrated in online dialogue.

So, I must ask the question I so eagerly ask of other studies: Why is this so important?! Perhaps my other group members (or others!) will be able to answer with a different viewpoint, but it seems pretty clear to me that we are constantly creating (and defending) our “selves” (whether we intend to or not). Further (and this is an important consideration with group work), others take in and interpret the “selves” that we present – and react (arguably, defending their “selves”) accordingly. So… again, this is important because we should be conscious of the “selves” that we are presenting – if we are aware that we may be “on the defense” we can make a conscious effort to soften those defenses, and at the same time be aware that other group members (fellow communicators, etc.) may feel similarly.

No Pre-Conceived Notions In CyberSpace?

August 5, 2008

Topofthemorning really hits upon the larger picture of the preliminary readings when stating in his comment, “Group work has everything to do with good communication.” This statement is very true. In order to work well with others, one must be able to effectively communicate with others. This comes from being able to formulate and express common goals and steps to achieve these goals. If conflict arises, open and honest communication is crucial to successful resolution of such disagreements. Topofthemorning days in his response, “Working online takes away subconscious biases and allows us to communicate freely without being worried about what people think of us.” While I agree with this statement, I think it’s important to note that even online group work can have some apparent biases and pre-conceived ideas about groups and group members. So, here’s a glimpse into early (or should I say, potential) area for disagreement.

Random assignments may very well be the easiest way to be introduced to group conversation because the participants can enter with no preconceived notions of how group dynamics will work or how members will interact. However, even seemingly random group placement (as it appears these groups have been made) has some interesting implications. For instance, for a previous assignment, before I knew who was in my group, I read Johnniedrama’s response to “’Nexting’ and Being Nexted.” For the 6.1/6.2 assignment, I took notes on classmates’ responses and drafted up a comment directed towards Johnnie’s comment. I disagreed with his comment saying that he did not “feel that [his] colleagues [were] not seeing these articles the way that they were intended to be seen” and wrote a response addressing this disagreement (I feel that we did see the different articles as each posing a suggestion for how to work well in groups). However, in my final stages of editing, the comment was cut from my final post – and Johnniedrama and I ended up on the same team!

In his response, Johnnie continues, “I like to be a leader in groups, thus I am very assertive and domineering…” (Uh oh, I’m thinking to myself). But, he follows, “However, I do not express my true feelings about others and their ideas because I do not want to offend.” (Hmm, well this shows consideration and respect for others, but I want to know his ideas too). And finally, “Assertion is balance. Stand up for what you believe in by expressing what you don’t like, why you don’t like it, and then ‘next’ with an alternative.” Yup, I think that’s a great goal for the team, Johnnie.

So, now I’m taking Johnnie’s, Topofthemorning’s, and my own suggestions into consideration – and disclosing this experience (that otherwise, would remain unknown to the rest of my group!). By throwing this out into the group discussion, I’m allowing for an open dialogue to occur. It also gives me the opportunity to reflect upon my own thoughts – and to do my best to assure my group members that I don’t (and tend not to) hold onto any hard feelings. So guys, let’s get some common goals developed, and set out to complete this project together.

How To Become Instant Best Friends

July 15, 2008

Nursing is an interesting profession. It is a job that demands not only technical savvy but empathetic awareness of patients’ feelings and the expertise to form instant and trusting relationships. As a nursing student going through orientation for my summer intern job that started last week, the hospital communication liaison specifically discussed some pointers on how to build instant patient rapport. Things like washing your hands in front of the patient, or introducing yourself using your full name and position, are said to help boost a patient’s confidence in you and your ability to deliver excellent care. During my first shift on the labor and delivery floor, however, my patient taught me her own unique relationship builder.

My relationship started with the patient when she came into the hospital around noon time with her husband to deliver their first child. I was in and out of her room as her labor progressed, and around five o’clock that evening, the time came for her to start pushing. As I helped to put her legs up into stirrups, she remarked, “Just so you know, I’m not going to have a bowel movement when I push. My friend said it could happen, but there’s no way I’m going to. It’s disgusting.” Despite the patient’s fears, she had a bowel movement with the first push (a fairly normal and welcome occurrence – nurses actually look for this as a sign of effective pushing). If the look on her husband’s face didn’t give it away, the patient picked up on the situation quickly. “Eww! That smell – did I poop?! Oh my god, I’m so embarrassed.” Remaining calm and composed, I explained that the event is perfectly normal. After about another half hour of pushing, catching her breath in between contractions, the patient remarked, “You know, I’m really glad we got that pooping thing over with early. It’s made this much more enjoyable. I mean, we’re like best friends now.”