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Article

Leadership has fascinated people from antiquity and has been studied extensively by academics for many decades. A variety of theoretical perspectives have taken hold—most notably that of transformational leadership—and have sought to explore the processes whereby leaders influence followers, to delineate the factors that put limits on such influence, and to determine the interrelationship between the attributes that leaders bring to their role and the contexts in which they find themselves. There has also been a growing interest in followership and how the behaviors, cognitions, and emotions of followers both contribute to organizational and group outcomes and help to shape leader behavior. The issue of followership, however, remains very much a nascent area of inquiry within the broader field of leadership studies. Recently, explicitly communication perspectives have been brought more frequently to bear on leadership studies. This has assumed two main forms. First, “discursive leadership” has looked at both the linguistic mechanisms by which leader action and effects take place and how larger frames of leadership discourse can be said to constitute both broader leader–follower dynamics and our understanding of them. Associated with this, some complexity leadership theorists have stressed the “relational” dynamics implicit to leadership processes as a means of countering what they see as an excessive focus on the traits and actions of individual leaders. These approaches emphasize the importance of context and the relational dynamics between leaders and followers embedded in such contexts. Second, some communication scholars influenced by process theories of organization have begun to sketch out the means whereby communication is central to how organizational actors make, refuse, and enact claims to leadership agency, particularly in contexts where such claims may be contested by many. The role of follower dissent and power relations more generally is viewed as a crucial area of inquiry. Accordingly, communication approaches to leadership have adopted a variety of theoretical perspectives. Many scholars from communication backgrounds have researched communication processes whereby leaders influence others. More recently, critically oriented communication scholars have explored the often conflicted dynamics between leaders and followers, focusing on such issues as power, domination, and control and their implications for leadership theory. Both explicitly and implicitly, these have therefore challenged dominant leadership perspectives, particularly but not exclusively that of transformational leadership.

Article

Steven R. Wilson and Leanne K. Knobloch

Since the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on September 11, 2001, communication scholars have turned their attention to understanding family communication processes across the deployment cycle. Military families are composed of service members as well as their spouses/partners, children, and extended family members. In 2012, U. S. Department of Defense statistics indicate that 53% of U.S. military personnel are married and 44% have children. Although scholars from fields such as family studies, psychology, and sociology have been studying military families since World War II, family communication scholars are relative newcomers to this topic. There are several reasons why communication scholars have spent the past decade investigating how service members, spouses, and children interact with each other as well as their larger social networks. One reason is the length and scope of the post 9/11 conflicts, such that millions of families in the U.S. and abroad have been impacted by these wars. A second is that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq represent the first time the U.S. has fought two wars simultaneously with an all-volunteer force. This has meant that the burden of service has fallen on a small percentage of the U.S. public, which sometimes has left military families feeling isolated from their civilian counterparts. Third, communication technologies have evolved in comparison to prior conflicts, such that service members often have had the opportunity to interact regularly with family via multiple channels (e.g., phone, video, email, and social networking sites as well as letters/packages) during recent deployments. A fourth reason is that deployments create a context in which families are faced with choices and potential dilemmas about communicating. From the time that deployment orders are received, throughout months of separation, and after the service member returns home, military families must decide what to talk about (or avoid talking about) openly. During deployment, family members must find ways of maintaining their relationships while coping with new stressors. After the service member returns home, families often must manage relational uncertainty while renegotiating routines. In cases where service members have difficulty readjusting to civilian life, family members must find ways of navigating dilemmas that can arise when they attempt to voice their concerns. Most military families display remarkable resilience in responding to these communicative transitions and tensions. By conducting research framed by a number of theories, family communication scholars have worked towards better understanding the experiences of military families and producing knowledge useful for those serving with military families. Although comparative work on military families in other countries is starting to emerge, most research on communication processes has focused on U.S. military families. Research grounded in the relational turbulence model, communication privacy management theory, multiple goals theories, relational dialectics, and intergroup communication theories has helped clarify how military families communicatively navigate the process of having a service member deployed.

Article

Jenny Crowley

Self-disclosure, or revealing information about the self to others, plays an integral role in interpersonal experiences and relationships. It has captivated the interest of scholars of interpersonal communication for decades, to the extent that some have positioned self-disclosure as the elixir of social life. Sharing personal information is the means by which relationships are built and maintained, because effective disclosures contribute to greater intimacy, trust, and closeness in a relationship. Self-disclosure also confers personal benefits, including reduced stress and improved physical and psychological health. Furthermore, disclosing private thoughts and feelings is often a necessary precondition for reaping the benefits of other types of communication, such as supportive communication. Despite the apparent advantages for personal and relational well-being, self-disclosure is not a panacea. Revealing intimate information can be risky, awkward, and incite judgment from close others. People make concerted efforts to avoid self-disclosure when information has the potential to cause harm to themselves, others, and relationships. Research on self-disclosure has primarily focused on dyadic interactions; however, online technologies enable people to share personal information with a large audience and are challenging taken-for-granted understandings about the role of self-disclosure in relating. As social networking sites become indispensable tools for maintaining a large and robust personal network, people are adapting their self-disclosure practices to the features and affordances of these technologies. Taken together, this body of research helps illuminate what is at stake when communicating interpersonally.

Article

Few concerns in critical-cultural approaches to communication intersect with as many adjacent fields of inquiry as does “space.” To talk about space is to share a conversation with philosophers (Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Edward Casey, Bruno Latour, Manuel DeLanda), critical geographers (Derek Gregory, David Harvey, Edward Soja, Doreen Massey), historians (Fernand Braudel, Michel de Certeau), sociologists (Pierre Bourdieu, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs), literary and cultural theorists (Fredric Jameson, Meaghan Morris, Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg, Timothy Morton), media ecologists (Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, James Carey), political theorists (Jane Bennett, Nigel Thrift), and rhetoricians (Carole Blair, Greg Dickinson, Joan Faber McAlister, Jenny Rice, Nathaniel Rivers, Thomas Rickert). To talk about space is thus to talk with a plenitude of others about a plenitude of social practices, landscapes, mediums, objects, and configurations, but at bottom a concern with space is a concern with the kinds and qualities of relations between and among bodies and things. To be concerned with space is to be invested in the emergent scenery of arrangement, how groupings of bodies come to assume particular shapes and orderings and not others. The “how” question, in turn, is the question of communication as it leads to issues of influence and pressure: of the historical processes that shape our habits and modes of persuasion and constellations of power. Communication and space converge where the “how” of influence meets the “where” of historical emergence. While we have always lived and acted in importantly spatial ways, however, the critical-spatial consciousness that pervades the humanities today is itself a recent historical emergence.

Article

The United States military is a frequent point of public conversation since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Approximately two and a half million service members have deployed in the Global War on Terror, and many have completed multiple deployments with almost 7,000 fatalities across operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Communication research on the military has a long history but since 9/11 has picked up pace with scholars seeking to understand the military’s relationship with the media, its discussion in the public sphere, and the interpersonal/familial experiences of service members and their families. The theoretical and methodological approaches are wide ranging within the discipline, but an intergroup perspective is noticeably absent. Many opportunities exist for answering intergroup communication questions, most notably at the military and civilian divide and, in turn, offering insight about and practical suggestions for communication within and about the military. Given the numerous possibilities for intergroup communication research related to the military, researchers should seize the opportunity to bring new theoretical and methodological approaches to the area. One theory, which has not been used in the intergroup communication scholarship but has great potential for this part of the discipline, is relational dialectics theory. Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is a critical/interpretive theory/method package that explores the substance and form of relational talk with a keen eye for dominant and marginalized discourses. For example, intergroup communication scholars who study the military from an RDT perspective could help illuminate how different groups (e.g., military families and civilian families; same-sex military married couples; and opposite-sex military married couples) understand and construct, for example, their similarities and differences with the goal of improving their interactions. Intergroup communication scholars could use also RDT to study how multiple group-related discourses are present within military groups who have diverse membership (e.g., Family Readiness Groups, FRGs) where members constitute the intersections of several identities (e.g., military wives are simultaneously members of military culture but technically are not military personnel; members are also often simultaneously women, spouses, who, in some cases, are mothers who come from different socioeconomic and ethnic groups, as well as identify as officer or enlisted wives).

Article

Carla L. Fisher and Thomas Roccotagliata

From birth to death, our interactions with others are what inform our identity and give meaning to life. Ultimately, it is interpersonal communication that is the bedrock of wellness. Much of the scholarship on interpersonal communication places communication in the background, characterized merely as a resource, symptom, or contributing factor to change. In the study of our interpersonal experiences, communication must be at the forefront. As a pragmatic lens concerned with real-world issues, a life-span perspective of interpersonal scholarship provides boundless opportunities for bridging science and practice in meaningful ways that improve social life on multiple levels, from families to schools to government to hospitals. Interpersonal communication research that is concerned with life-span issues tends to prioritize communicative phenomena and bring the communication dynamics of our relational lives to the surface. Typically, this scholarship is organized around the various stages or phases of life. In other words, researchers concerned with interpersonal communication often contextualize this behavior based on dimensions of human development and life changes we typically encounter across the life course, those major life experiences from birth to death. Much of that scholarship also centers on how we develop competence in communication across time or how communication competence is critical to our ability to attain relational satisfaction as well as a high psychological and physical quality of life. This research also highlights the influential role of age, human development, and generational differences, recognizing that our place in the life span impacts our goals and needs and that our sociocultural-historical experiences also inform our communication preferences. A life-span perspective of interpersonal communication also encompasses various theoretical paradigms that have been developed within and outside the communication discipline. Collectively, this scholarship helps illustrate the communicative nature of human life across the entire life trajectory.

Article

Owing to advances in communication technology, the human race now possesses more opportunities to interact with interpersonal partners than ever before. Particularly in recent decades, such technology has become increasingly faster, mobile, and powerful. Although tablets, smartphones, and social media are relatively new, the impetus behind their development is old, as throughout history humans have developed mechanisms for communicating ideas that transcend inherent temporal and spatial limitations of face-to-face communication. In the ancient past, humans developed writing and the alphabet to preserve knowledge across time, with the later development of the printing press further facilitating the mass distribution of written ideas. Later, the telegraph was arguably the first technology to separate communication from transportation, and the telephone enabled people at a distance to hear the warmth and intimacy of the human voice. The development of the Internet consolidates and advances these technologies by facilitating pictorial and video interactions, and the mobility provided by cell phones and other technologies makes the potential for communication with interpersonal partners nearly ubiquitous. As such, these technologies reconfigure perception of time and space, creating the sense of a smaller world where people can begin and manage interpersonal relationships across geographic distance. These developments in communication technology influence interpersonal processes in at least four ways. First, they introduce media choice as a salient question in interpersonal relationships. As recently as the late 20th century, people faced relatively few options for communicating with interpersonal partners; by the early years of the 21st century, people possessed a sometimes bewildering array of channel choices. Moreover, these choices matter because of the relational messages they send; for example, choosing to end a romantic relationship over the phone may communicate more sensitivity than choosing to do so via text messaging, or publicly on social media. Second, communication technology affords new opportunities to begin relationships and, through structural features of the media, shape how those meetings occur. The online dating industry generates over $1 billion in profit, with most Americans agreeing it is a good way to meet romantic partners; friendships also form online around shared interests and through connections on social media. Third, communication technology alters the practices people use to maintain interpersonal relationships. In addition to placing traditional forms of relational maintenance in more public spaces, social media facilitates passive browsing as a strategy for keeping up with interpersonal partners. Moreover, mobile technology affords partners increased geographic and temporal flexibility when keeping contact with partners, yet simultaneously, it may produce feelings of over-connectedness that hamper the desire for personal autonomy. Fourth, communication technology makes interpersonal networks more visibly manifest and preserves their continuity over time. This may provide an ongoing convoy of social support and, through increased efficiency, augment the size and diversity of social networks.