Communication Skills project
Most communication researchers have linked relationship problems to communication styles or skills. While some focus more on perceptions and intrapersonal elements, most agree that improving one’s own interpersonal communication skills will have a positive impact on everyday communication and relationships. However, most individuals rarely take the time to self-examine, and perhaps even more rarely make the effort to improve communication skills. This project focuses on both elements: self-reflection and skill development.
Students are required to read supplemental material in the form of a research-based book by popular linguist Deborah Tannen on how language affects relationships. Six options have been given below, but you may also choose one of her other titles. The book that you choose should be one that focuses on an area of communication that you wish to improve (e.g., a specific relationship or general communication skills) because you will be asked to implement strategies and techniques from Tannen’s work into your own personal communication behaviors. . The six titles from which students may choose are as follows:
• That’s Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships (1987)
• You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (2001
• Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work (1995)
• I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You’re All Adults (2001)
• You’re Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation (2006)
• You Were Always Mom’s Favorite: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives (2009)
There are other Tannen books, so if you have another that you would prefer, please let me know. These simply are the most popular and fit well with the course concepts. (The 1987 title is the most general to fit any relationship, and it includes a good number of strategies and skills to attempt. Most criticism comes from the two titles that focus specifically on women and men, with the criticisms leaning toward stereotyping. However, even those who criticize the titles in their projects see the benefit in many of her suggested strategies. The others are much more specific in the choice of relationships, and have been well-received). All books are available on Amazon.com and other online bookstores at a price that is better than our local campuses could offer given the uncertainty of the number of copies to be sold. Each book costs roughly $10 or less in paperback. They are also likely to be available through OhioLINK, and possibly local libraries. When you have decided upon the book, include that information in your “sign in” activity so that you can be added to a reading/discussion group to share ideas and insights.
The first part of the assignment is the “Book Review.” Basically, you will be giving an overview of the content, an application of how you have used Tannen’s concepts to improve your own communication skills, and a recommendation on whether your book would be of interest to someone in their continued personal investigation of interpersonal relationships.
The “Communication Experiment” piece used to be another required full-length paper for the class, but since many students used Tannen’s books as part of their research for the paper, I combined the two assignments. You are essentially reviewing Tannen’s book as well as doing a mini-experiment to improve your own personal communication skills in any aspect of behavioral interpersonal communication that you choose (e.g., self-esteem is intrapersonal and cognitive, and not appropriate for this assignment; whereas, assertiveness or conflict management or listening are behavioral and interpersonal). Consider your own strengths and weaknesses as you begin reading the Tannen book and let her concepts and examples help inspire you to improve. Keep a logsheet of the attempts as you are working on them for your appendix to the paper, and it will also help as you summarize and describe the attempts in the paper itself.
The final paper should include the following:
• Explanation for why book was chosen & the course concepts to which it relates
• A brief statement of your opinion of the book
• A brief statement of how you applied the concepts of the book to your own communication skills
• A preview of the sections included in the report
Description and analysis of the content of the book
• Book report: basic content of the book (roughly a short paragraph per chapter, or 10 concepts from the book as a whole)
• Book review: three key concepts, ideas, findings, etc. that summarize the book as a whole (summarized in your own words) & three quotes from the book (including page numbers) that you would use to highlight these concepts (These three concepts are in addition to the basic content concepts above – the 10 concepts tell that you have read and understood the book, and these 3 key concepts tell that you have determined what is of most importance in the book. It is the analysis piece that goes beyond basic description and is thus graded as a separate requirement.)
Communication Skills: application of the concepts of the book
• Provide three concepts/terms from the book that you found useful for improving your own communication skills
• Explain each attempt that you made to implement these ideas/skills into your everyday communication (be specific about Tannen’s advice & use of skills, provide detail for how you implemented these ideas in your own communication, and give insight as to the success or lack of success for each attempt). Ten attempts at improvement are required, so please choose a communication skill that you will have opportunity to practice. When you complete the progress report, I will provide feedback if I believe that it is too narrow of a focus.
• Lessons learned from this book for yourself and/or the general reader
Critique & summary
• One specific area in which you disagreed with the author & would have changed the content of the book (give what was in the book, why & how your opinion differed, and how you would have rewritten that part of the book)
• Your overall recommendation of the book (“I would/ would not recommend this book to others interested in interpersonal communication for the following reasons – should give at least 3 reasons, relating directly to communication issues & course content)
• A full bibliographic entry for the book
A log sheet of Communication Skills activities needs to be included in the appendix. It needs to include the following as a minimum: date, time of day, type of situation, a short narrative of what occurred/ what actions you took to improve your communication, and reactions or results. Possibly it might look like the following:
Date/time Type of situation Description of behaviors Skill attempted Reactions or results Level of effectiveness
NOTE: Please review the grading rubric as well to determine how many points are allotted to each requirement. Obviously the more points a section is worth, the more detail you should include for that section. The policy is that NO LATE PAPERS are accepted, but if the circumstances are great enough and able to be documented as “excused absences” according to the Student handbook exceptions can be made with a 20% reduction of the final grade and reduction in Leadership points.
Also note that while it might seem repetitive in some of these sections of the paper, each section is graded as a separate entity and attention should be paid to each element listed on the grading rubric.