The purpose of this essay is to discuss a frustrating communication issue which I have participated in with a roommate, and which is important to my personal life. I consider how different communication theories can help me to better understand and act in relation to this issue, cover various details which distinguish this event, and then conceptualize the event and discuss what is at stake in theorizing this type of event, and which of the three paradigms in communication theory ((post-) positivism, interpretivism, or critique), are the most appropriate for theorizing this kind of event, and why I think so. At the end of the paper I focus on five criteria for evaluating theory (accuracy, practicality, succinctness, consistency, and acuity), and consider how these criteria could be used in evaluating a theory of this event. I then choose one criterion which I believe is the most important consideration for that evaluation, and explain why I feel this way.
There were 3 people involved in this event: myself, and two roommates, Tom and Jessica. It took place on an evening out at a restaurant, and the sequence of behaviors in which the event happened started at the moment when Jessica began to behave erratically, and said that she desperately needed to smoke, that smoking should be allowed in the restaurant, and that the state’s ‘crazy’ non-smoking law should be reversed. As there were not any people sitting near us, she angrily light up then and there. A few minutes later however, the waiter came over to our table and said to her that she knew what she was doing was wrong, and that we would all have to leave if she did not respect the law. This made Jessica even more crazy, and refusing to put her cigarette out, she started blowing circles of cigarette smoke directly in front of the waiter. Tom and I shouted at her to put it out, but she just did not care. In the end, the restaurant manager came over and said that he would call the police if she did not stop. This made her scared, and she put it out. Tom and I decided to stay silent, and not tell her off for her behavior, and amazingly, we were allowed to stay in the restaurant, and we were then served our meal. We were all rather quite whilst eating, and after the meal we ordered a couple of bottles of wine. After having a couple of glasses or so, Jessica started complaining again about the anti-smoking law. I told her in a calm and reasonable voice that she was being unreasonable as there is irrefutable scientific evidence which shows that second hand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and around 70 of which are carcinogenic. She could not control her angry emotions, exploded again, and irrationally stated that people breathe in fumes from motor vehicles. I then told her that she is just damaging her health, and that that when she is older she will have problems if she does not quit. The word ‘quit’ seemed to be a trigger word for her, and she started to swear profanities at me, and people who now occupied the nearby tables started to look at us. Tom appeared to understand my concern for her, and I could see by his expressions that he too, was very concerned for her. He showed his emotions by saying that she smokes 2 packs a day, and that it was starting to show. He then said that she always skipped a proper breakfast and had a cigarette breakfast instead. Clearly, this was an argumentative the type of communication event, and all we did was argue. As Jessica is my roommate, I do not want these frustrating communication issues in which Jessica seems to think that I am being nasty to her instead of the truth, which is actually being really concerned for her well-being.
I believe that communication scholars would regard this as a valuable event to study, because there is a complete misunderstanding on the part of Jessica, who thinks I am being unkind to her; and also because she is denying the realism of what I have told her about the volumes of scientific research which show the clear and present dangers of second hand smoke. This can be aligned with Cognitive Dissonance Theory, which makes the point that incompatible beliefs are adverse, and that individuals are extremely driven to avoid it; furthermore, in in this theory, their attempts to stave off feelings of conflict, individuals will refrain from listening to others’ views which are in opposition to their own. Also, as Warren Weaver said: “effectiveness of human communication may be measured by the success with which the meaning conveyed to the receiver leads to the desired conduct on his part” (Weaver, 1949), and my communication with Jessica regarding the dangers of smoking did not lead to desired conduct on her part.
I think that there is some benefit to the participants that can be created by better understanding the event, as an in depth understanding can make all participants more mindful. What motivates us to successfully theorize this event is reflecting on our practices so that we can understand more about the way we communicate with others, and the way they communicate with us. The theorizing which comes from this reflecting could comprise different forms. For example, it could result in explanations regarding the theorization of the nature of things, or why things occur as they do.
From the three paradigms in communication theory ((post-) positivism, interpretivism, and critique), interpretivism seems to be most appropriate for theorizing this kind of event. This is because as interpretivism studies normally concentrate on meaning and can utilize various methods to reflect contrary aspects of the issue, I think it could be used to analyze this event. This is also because the general interpretivist approach is founded on the belief of relativist ontology which sees reality inter-subjectively, and is based on understandings and meanings at a social level. And because it is also founded on the belief of subjectivist or transactional epistemology, and because it is in accordance with this conceptualization, individuals cannot be set-apart from the knowledge they possess, and to that end, a distinct link between the research subject and the researcher is quite apparent. By utilizing interpretivism in communication theory, the research goal is to attain an understanding, and the nature of reality is multiple and socially constructed. And things that some individuals do and think, such as the behavior and views of my roommate, Jessica, and the type of problems that they are faced with, which in Jessica’s case is smoking and not caring about her health of those around her who are breathing in her second hand smoke; and the way they deal with these issues, are fully addressed. And when it comes to the researcher-subject relationship, it is participative, cooperative, and interactive; and in the case of the focus of interest, interpretivism looks at that which is deviant, unique and specific; and in the case of the knowledge that is generated, there are relative meanings incorporating value, context and time.
- Weaver (1949). Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic933672.files/Weaver