Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Biology and Personality Influence Communication Styles

The authors Waldherr and Muck (2011) discuss how biology and personality contribute to communication behavior. They advocate embedding language into the Five-Factor Theory to better assess language as a characteristic adaptation to personality. The arguments put forward in their literary research lean more heavily on personality as a key factor that has two major running themes. 

Communication is a circular process as each of the actors is both the communicator and the recipient at various times during a discussion (Schramm, 1954).  Each person encodes, interprets and decodes messages differently making the communication process unique. Most of this process is internal to the individual and cannot be easily evaluated. Focusing on verbal, non-verbal and para-verbal language cues can help in evaluating communication patterns. 

Communication is seen as a reoccurring behavioral pattern that is personality based. It is expressed in varying ways in different situations to achieve directed goals. How one communicates in one situation or in a next will have similar deeply embedded goals and expressive styles even though the terms, words, and mannerisms may be situational. 

Communication behavior can be seen as “the way one verbally or para-verbally interacts to signal how literal meaning should be taken, interpreted, filtered, or understood” (Norton, 1978, p. 99). It is viewed as a stable pattern of behavior that stays relatively consistent across varying situations.  It is commonly believed that the two major themes of assertiveness and responsiveness exist across all communicative behavior (Burgoon and Hale, 1987)

Personality and communication can also be integrally tied together. Communication is personality driven and is based within a person’s biology (Beatty and McCroskey, 1998).  Individuals are predetermined to communicate in certain manners based upon their genetic makeup expressed within the environment. How a person communicates and whether or not a person communicates is rooted in their personality development.

Behavior and personality often mesh within the Five-Factor Theory of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness (McCrae and Costa, 1996). The biology of a person predisposes them to certain types of traits that mix with their personality which are expressed in certain ways that are influenced by situational factors. These situational factors are dependent on culture, education, experience, and other life influences.

A person’s can also influence communication through a self-construct. This construct is dependent on how a person views themselves in terms of being independent or interrelated to others (Markus and Kitayama, 1991). Self-construct is how a person views themselves in relation to others based upon values, beliefs, manners, skills, and a whole host of other issues. When self-construct changes it creates natural changes in communicative patterns.

The authors believe that it is important to define communication as personality rooted in the Five-Factor Theory. They also believe that communication follows two general patters of assertiveness or responsiveness. Assertiveness is the desire to dominate others while responsiveness is more closely akin to love and interrelatedness. These two themes make their way throughout the varying learned communication skills people develop over time.

The implications of the study suggest that learned skills and experiences enhance an employee’s communication skills. The patterns of communication will remain relatively the same but the complexity by which they express themselves will grow and develop over time. Business students should learn proper communication skills in order to fully express themselves in appropriate ways to others within the workplace. The learned skills can influence everything from workplace conflict to customer service and could have an impact on the bottom line. This is why it is important to hire for personality and train for skills.

Beatty, M. J. & McCroskey, J. C. (1998). Interpersonal communication as temperamental expression: A communibiological paradigm. In J. C. McCroskey, J. A. Daly, M. A. Martin, & M. J. Beatty (Eds.), Communication and personality: Trait perspectives (pp. 41_67). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.

Burgoon, J. K. & Hale, J. L. (1987). Validation and measurement of the fundamental themes of relational communication. Communication Monographs, 54, 19_41.

Markus, H. R. & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224_253.

McCrae, R. R. & Costa, P. T. (1996). Toward a new generation of personality theories: Theoretical contexts for the Five-Factor Model. In J. S. Wiggins (Ed.), The Five Factor Model of Personality: Theoretical perspectives (pp. 51_87). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Norton, R. (1978). Foundation of a communicator style construct. Human Communication Research, 4, 99_112.

Schramm, W. (Ed.). (1954). The process and effects of mass communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Waldherr, A. & Muck, P. (2011). Towards an integrative approach to communication styles: the interpersonal circumplex and the five-factor theory of personality as frames of reference. Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, 36 (1).

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