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Article

Elizabeth K. Eger, Morgan L. Litrenta, Sierra R. Kane, and Lace D. Senegal

LGBTQ+ people face unique organizational communication dilemmas at work. In the United States, LGBTQ+ workers communicate their gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities and experiences through complex interactions with coworkers, supervisors, customers, publics, organizations, and institutions. They also utilize specific communication strategies to navigate exclusionary policies and practices and organize for intersectional justice. Five central research themes for LGBTQ+ workers in the current literature include (a) workplace discrimination, (b) disclosure at work, (c) navigating interpersonal relationships at work, (d) inclusive and exclusive policies, and (e) intersectional work experiences and organizing. First, the lived experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and violence in organizations, including from coworkers, managers, and customers, present a plethora of challenges from organizational entry to exit. LGBTQ+ workers face high levels of unemployment and underemployment and experience frequent microaggressions. Queer, trans, and intersex workers also experience prevalent workplace discrimination, uncertainty, and systemic barriers when attempting to use fluctuating national and state laws for workplace protections. Second, such discrimination creates unique risks that LGBTQ+ workers must navigate when it comes to disclosing their identities at work. The complexities of workplace disclosure of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences become apparent through closeting, passing, and outing communication. These three communication strategies for queer, trans, and intersex survival are often read as secretive or deceptive by heterosexual or cisgender coworkers and managers. Closeting communication may also involve concealing information about personal and family relationships at work and other identity intersections. Third, LGBTQ+ people must navigate workplace relationships, particularly with heterosexual and/or cisgender coworkers and managers and in organizations that assume cisheteronormativity. Fourth, policies structure LGBTQ+ workers’ lives, including both the positive impacts of inclusive policies and discrimination and violence via exclusionary policies. Fifth and finally, intersectionality is crucial to theorize when examining LGBTQ+ workers’ communication. It is not enough to just investigate sexuality or gender identity, as they are interwoven with race, class, disability, religion, nationality, age, and more. Important exemplars also showcase how intersectional organizing can create transformative and empowering experiences for LGBTQ+ people. By centering LGBTQ+ workers, this article examines their unique and complex organizational communication needs and proposes future research.

Article

The messages spoken in everyday conversation are influenced by participants’ goals. Interpersonal scholars have distinguished two types of goals thought to influence the wording of a message: instrumental goals (primary goals) and secondary goals. An instrumental goal is related to a speaker’s primary reason for designing the message. Instrumental goals would include goals such as to ask for a favor, seek information, apologize, give advice, or change the other person’s opinion. Secondary goals pertain to more general concerns. They include goals such as to manage one’s impression, avoid offending the hearer, and act consistently with one’s values. The ability to design a message that pursues an instrumental goal effectively while also addressing (or at least not conflicting with) relevant secondary goals is associated with greater communication competence. Considerable research has sought to explain differences in the ability to design messages that effectively address multiple goals. One such factor appears to be the extent to which a speaker can adapt the language of a message to the communication-relevant features of a specific situation or hearer. If a speaker’s primary goal is to seek a favor, relevant situation features may include the speaker’s right to ask, expected resistance, and qualities of the speaker–hearer relationship. A second behavior associated with the ability to produce multiple-goal messages is suggested by research on cognitive editing. The latter research indicates that the likelihood of producing a message that addresses relevant secondary goals will sometimes depend upon whether a speaker becomes aware, prior to speaking, that a planned message could have an unwanted outcome (e.g., the message may offend the hearer). When such outcomes are anticipated in advance, the message may be left unspoken or edited prior to speaking. The ability to produce a message that achieves a speaker’s goals may also depend on the type of planning that precedes the design of a message. The plan-based theory of strategic communication views plans as hierarchical structures that specify goals and actions at different levels of specificity. The theory holds that a person pursuing a goal first tries to retrieve from memory a preexisting plan that could be modified for the current situation. When that is not possible, speakers must formulate a novel plan. Research employing indicants of fluency suggests that formulating a novel plan (which requires changes at a higher, more abstract level of a plan) makes heavier demands on limited capacity than does modifying an existing plan at a lower level of the hierarchy (e.g., speaking more slowly). Insight into how persons plan what to say has also come from research on imagined interactions, conflict management, anticipating obstacles to compliance, and verbal disagreement tasks. In an effort to better understand the design of messages in interpersonal settings, a number of scholars have proposed models of the cognitive processes and structures thought to be involved in designing, editing, and producing such messages. Action models of this sort, which generate testable hypotheses, draw from work in artificial intelligence, cognitive models of language production, and research on social cognition. Three such models are action assembly theory, the cognitive rules model, and the implicit rules model.

Article

Pamela J. Lannutti and Hilary Wermers

Researchers have examined the relational, social, and communicative aspects of legally recognized marriage for LGBTQ+ people. Legally recognized marriage has been found to affect the experiences of and communication within the relational lives of LGBTQ+ people in a variety of ways. First, LGBTQ+ marriage has been found to have psychological effects for LGBTQ+ individuals and has been found to impact aspects of LGBTQ+ identity. Legal marriage has also been found to impact LGBTQ+ romantic relationships by influencing relationship-related perceptions, marriage-related deliberations for couples, and changes to couples as a result of marrying. LGBTQ+ people also report changes in their family relationships related to legal marriage that marriage has influenced relationships with family-of-origin members and family building for LGBTQ+ people. The current research is limited because of a reliance on samples that are predominantly cisgender and White and identify as gay or lesbian, therefore underrepresenting the experiences of marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Article

Same-sex couple relationship maintenance involves the exchange of communication and relational behaviors to sustain these romantic relationships. In communication studies, same-sex couple relationship maintenance began in the late 1990s, and while it remains understudied, research in this area continues to grow and illuminate understanding of how communication plays a central role in the maintenance of same-sex couple relationships. Social exchange, along with minority stress, have been the predominant theoretical frameworks in studies of same-sex couple relationship maintenance. Overall, evidence suggests that relational maintenance behaviors (assurances, shared tasks, openness, positivity, conflict management, advice, and shared networks) are associated with positive relational functioning and quality in same-sex couple relationships. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+)-specific relational behaviors, such as being “out” as a couple and seeking out LGBTQ+-supportive environments, also have been highlighted. Research also points to the positive impact of partner social support and same-sex marriage on same-sex couple commitment and satisfaction, and a negative relational impact from concealing LGBTQ+ identity and same-sex relationship status. Future research is needed to continue to illuminate the evolving impact of increasing social legitimacy (e.g., same-sex marriage) on same-sex couple relationship maintenance.

Article

Brandon T. Parrillo and Randal D. Brown

Effective communication is vital to any relationship, and sexual communication is no different. Given its importance, sexual communication and its relation to a variety of topics has been studied in recent years. Included among these are its relation to safer sex behaviors, sexual and relationship satisfaction, and fertility and family planning among heterosexual partners. Yet, for queer partners, the data reflect interest in sexual communication as it relates to safe sex behaviors such as condom use and HIV status. Further, the current base of published literature on sexual communication among queer partners focuses almost exclusively on men who have sex with men and leaves out other types of queer partnerships. To be truly inclusive, it is imperative that sexual communication research broaden its focus to include topics that do not medicalize queer couples, such as sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and relationship well-being.

Article

For individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, disclosing sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be a complex and risky conversation. However, in the medical context this conversation frequently becomes a central part of communication between patient and provider. Unfortunately, this conversation can also become a barrier that prevents patients from receiving or even accessing necessary medical care. LGBTQ+ individuals have reported experiencing significant discrimination in day-to-day life, and more specifically in patient–provider interactions. This discrimination leads LGBTQ+ individuals to avoid seeking necessary medical care and also frequently results in unsatisfactory care and poor health outcomes. This is of concern as LGBTQ+ individuals present with significantly higher rates of health issues and overall higher risks of cancer, chronic illnesses, and mental health concerns. Unfortunately, many medical providers are unequipped to properly care for LGBTQ+ patients and lack opportunities for education and training. This lack of experience leads many providers to operate medical offices that are unwelcoming or even inhospitable to LGBTQ+ patients, making it difficult for those patients to access inclusive care. This can be of particular concern when the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity becomes relevant to their medical care, as they may feel uncomfortable sharing that information with a provider. Patient self-disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity to a medical provider not only can contribute to a more positive relationship and improved quality of care but also can improve the psychological outlook of an LGBTQ+ individual. However, potential stigmatization can lead to the concealment of sexual orientation or gender identity information. These acts of concealment serve as intentional mechanisms of impression management within the patient–provider interaction. When LGBTQ+ patients do discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity with a provider, it is most often because the information is directly relevant to their health and disclosure, and therefore becomes essential and often forced. There are instances where LGBTQ+ patients are motivated to disclose to a provider who they believe will respond positively to information about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity may be direct in that it is clear and concrete. It may also be indirect in that individuals may use particular topics, such as talking about their partner, to broach the subject. Participants may also use specific entry points in the conversation, such as during taking a medical history about medications, to disclose. Some individuals plan and rehearse their disclosure conversations, whereas others disclose when they feel they have no other choice in the interaction. Increasing inclusivity on the part of providers and medical facilities is one way to promote comfortable disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, updating the office environment and policies, as well as paperwork and confidentiality procedures, can also promote safe disclosure. Finally, improvements to training and education for healthcare professionals and office staff can dramatically improve interactions with LGBTQ+ patients. All of these efforts need to make integration of knowledge about how LGTBQ+ individuals can disclose comfortably and safely a central part of program design.

Article

René M. Dailey

Romantic relationships often develop with excitement and positive anticipation. Yet many dissolve. Research has examined several facets to unpack the dissolution process, from what leads to termination to redefining relationships with former partners. For example, relationship dynamics (e.g., commitment, love) typically play the largest roles in dissolution, but individual and demographic factors also contribute to whether relationships stay intact or terminate. Research has also delineated specific strategies people use to disengage, which vary in directness and whether they are one-sided or mutual. Models of dissolution also describe typical paths or precipitating communication patterns that reflect dissolution. Following a breakup, most people experience post-dissolution distress, which can entail emotional, cognitive, and physiological effects. People vary in the intensity of distress experienced; those who fare badly tend to have more relational anxiety or use coping strategies to distract themselves from or deny the effects of the breakup. The fact that many ex-partners maintain contact or relationships following dissolution complicates the recovery process. Former partners maintain contact because they have the same social network, because they want to renew the relationship or consider the ex-partner as a back-up plan, or because they have children or shared resources. Hence, many former partners redefine their relationship rather than completely terminating all contact. Some are able to successfully transform their relationship into a friendship, and some eventually also reconcile the romantic nature of their relationship. The dissolution of a romantic relationship can be one of the most significant stressors that individuals experience. Most people, even those who initiate the breakup, endure distress and negative effects. Yet dissolution can provide relief from a detrimental relationship for some. And many people experience positive effects or post-dissolution growth, such as gaining a new appreciation for other relationships, rediscovering the self, or pursuing new opportunities. The extant research provides an understanding of the various factors and steps in the dissolution process. Future research can synthesize these areas of research into more comprehensive frameworks to derive more tailored recommendations on navigating breakups, thereby minimizing the distress and maximizing the benefits.

Article

Kory Floyd and Benjamin E. Custer

Affectionate communication constitutes verbal behaviors (e.g., saying “I love you”), nonverbal gestures (e.g., hugging, handholding), and socially supportive behaviors (e.g., helping with a project) that humans employ to develop and maintain close relationships with others. In addition to its relational benefits, affectionate communication contributes to health and wellness for both senders and receivers. Affection exchange theory (AET) addresses the questions of why humans engage in affectionate communication and why diverse benefits are associated with such behaviors. A robust empirical literature supports AET’s contention that both expressing and receiving affectionate behavior are associated with physical and mental health benefits. Despite these contributions, however, some compelling questions about affectionate communication remain to be addressed, and AET can provide a useful framework for doing so.

Article

Bella figura—beautiful figure—is an idiomatic expression used to reflect every part of Italian life. The phrase appears in travel books and in transnational business guides to describe Italian customs, in sociological research to describe the national characteristics of Italians, and in popular culture to depict thematic constructs and stereotypes, such as the Mafia, romance, and la dolce vita. Scholarly research on bella figura indicates its significance in Italian civilization, yet it remains one of the most elusive concepts to translate. Among the various interpretations and references from foreigners and Italians there is not a single definition that captures the complexity of bella figura as a cultural phenomenon. There is also little explanation of the term, its usage, or its effects on Italians who have migrated to other countries. Gadamerian hermeneutics offers an explanation for how bella figura functions as a frame of reference for understanding Italian culture and identity, which does not disappear or fuse when Italians interact with people from different countries but instead takes on an interpretive dimension that is continually integrating new information into the subconscious structures of the mind. In sum, bella figura is a sense-making process, and requires a pragmatic know-how of Italian communication (verbal and nonverbal). From this perspective, bella figura is prestructure by which Italians and some Italian migrants understand and interpret their linguistically mediated and historical world. This distinction changes the concept bella figura from a simple facade to a dynamic interplay among ever-changing interpretations and symbolic interactions. The exploration of bella figura is relevant to understanding Italian communication on both local and transnational levels.

Article

Maarit Valo

Multicommunication means interacting with several people separately but at the same time. Usually multicommunication refers to parallel conversations enabled by communication technologies. The essential element is interactivity: in multicommunication, several mutual, two-way interactions are managed between people. A few adjacent concepts related to multicommunication have also been used in the literature, including multitasking, media or electronic multitasking, polychronicity, and polychronic communication. Research interest in multicommunication is growing. Whereas the nascent phases of multicommunication research were largely concerned with observing the manifestation and characteristics of the multicommunication phenomenon, defining the concept of multicommunication, and differentiating multicommunication from similar concepts, contemporary research has spread out in many directions. Three main topics can be distinguished in multicommunication research: motivators of multicommunication, management of multicommunication, and consequences of multicommunication. The research contexts for multicommunication to date have been predominantly limited to working life. Very few studies have actually focused on family communication, contacts between friends, or other contexts involving communication in private life. For their preferred methods in empirical multicommunication research, most scholars to date have used surveys, interviews, diaries, critical incidents, and other self-reports, as well as laboratory experiments. Researchers are beginning to learn quite a bit about the motivators and consequences of multicommunication, as described by employees in the workplace. Multicommunication research would thus benefit from the observation and analysis of natural communication found in actual contexts, settings, and relationships.