You haven’t learned life’s lesson very well if you haven’t noticed that you can give the tone or color, or decide the reaction you want of people in advance. It’s unbelievably simple. If you want them to take an interest in you, take an interest in them fi rst…….People will treat you as you treat them.
Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
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2 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
It is obvious that personal relationships and friendships are important to us. We need merely to refl ect for a moment on the source of our greatest pleasure and pain to appreciate that nothing else in our life has aroused the extremes of emotion more than the relationships that we have experienced with other human beings.
How would you answer the following question? What is it that makes your life meaningful? Take a few minutes and think about this question before you go on. . . . Research has shown us that most people answer this ques- tion by saying, “personal relationships.” Argyle (1987) confi rms this and notes that, by contrast, money, career, and religion are relatively less important for people than are their personal relationships.
Since relationships are so important in our lives, why do many of us fi nd it so diffi cult to get acquainted with other people? Psychologists have found that a person must gain an understanding of himself or herself before they can become acquainted with others. Let us discover some ways to fi nd the person within yourself.
Do You Know Yourself?
To become acquainted, to get to know another person, requires a shared giv- ing and taking regarding what we know about ourselves. We also need to know how we are reacting to the present situation and how we feel about something the other person has done or said.
Getting to know other people is important, but getting to know yourself is more important. It is not until you can understand yourself that you can understand others. It is not until you can learn to accept yourself for who you are, that you can accept others for being the person they are. How can I do this? I have heard these words so many times. It seems kind of crazy, because I have also heard, that in order to understand myself, I need feedback from others. If I do not get feedback from others, I do not know if I’m a good person or a jerk. Sidney Jourard (1976) states: “that a maladjusted person is a person who has not made himself or herself known to another human being and thus, does not know or understand themselves.” We need relationships
W hen one is a stranger to oneself, then one is estranged from others, too.
ANN MORROW LINDBERGH
A ccept me as I am, only then will we discover each other. FREDERICO FELLINI
Think about this Th ink for a minute about your greatest experiences in life. Undoubtedly, you were with another person.
What would we do without other people? What would you do without friends?
What would it be like? Where would you go? Would you have fun? Would you know what love is? Would life have any meaning? Have you ever had a close friend or close relative die? How did you feel when it happened? Have you ever experienced or had a close friend or relative experience a divorce? Did they feel lonely? Were
they depressed? What did they experience? How did you feel when your best friend or lover returned aft er being gone for a long period of time?
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 3
in order to discover who we are, but we need to understand ourselves fi rst in order for our relationships to grow from acquaintances to friendships, and ultimately to intimate relationships (this topic will be discussed in-depth in the chapter “Becoming Intimate”). In order to become a healthy and happy person, an individual needs to form close, caring, interpersonal relationships. How do we learn to do this?
Th ere are some basic questions concerning self-discovery and getting acquainted with others that you can ask yourself. How well do I know myself? Is it easy for other people to get to know me? How well do other people really know me? How much of myself do I reveal to those with whom I want to have a close, personal relationship? How much do I want them to know about me regarding my innermost thoughts, feelings, and actions? You also have to ask yourself, How interested am I in learning the innermost thoughts, feelings, and actions of those with whom I desire to have a close relationship? As you read on, you will discover the importance of revealing the “real you” to other people.
Do You Know Yourself?
THE REVEALING OF THE INNER-SELF IS CALLED SELF- DISCLOSURE. Th is means talking to another person about your innermost thoughts and feelings, your aspi- rations and dreams, your fears and doubts. It is talking about things of which you are ashamed and proud. Self- disclosure is a crucial part of relationship building.
WHY STUDY SELFDISCLOSURE? Th e evolution of a relationship, getting acquainted, becoming friends, and developing intimacy is based on how much you are willing to disclose about yourself and how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you. Th e more you know about another person and the more he or she knows about you, the more eff ective and effi cient the relationship will be. People who share their ideas, interests, experiences, expectations, and feelings with others will generally have more friends and develop long lasting relationships easier than those who do not (Delerga et al. 1993). A lack of self-disclosure will make people suspicious and uncomfortable around us. In turn, they will not talk about themselves, and fi nding those common interests on which to base a relationship will become diffi cult.
WHO DO YOU DISCLOSE TO? When college students were asked to identify the person they felt closest to, 47 percent named a romantic partner, 36 percent identifi ed a friend, 14 percent listed a family member, and 3 percent named another person, such as a co-worker or fellow student (Berscheid, Snyder, and Omoto 1989).
IS SELFDISCLOSURE IMPORTANT IN A RELATIONSHIP? Good self-disclosure skills are fundamental to relationships for many reasons. Th ese reasons include the following:
Defi ning Yourself. Disclosing personal information lets you be known to others. If you do not defi ne yourself, misunderstandings are more likely to
T he unexamined life is not worth living. SOCRATES
I f I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and
it’s all that I have.
How do we learn to form close relationships?
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4 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
occur. Others may perceive you based on their own interpretation rather than on information you give them.
Knowing Yourself. As you disclose information about yourself, you can get deeper insight and understanding about the kind of person you are. You also give others the opportunity to give you feedback.
Getting Acquainted. Talking about yourself and letting other people talk about themselves gives each of you the opportunity to understand and know the other as an individual. Each is given the opportunity to under- stand and trust the other.
Developing Intimacy. As you begin to share and receive, a deeper feeling of trust and understanding will evolve and a mutual feeling of closeness will develop.
Sidney Jourard (1976) has investigated the process of self-disclosure in detail. In Th e Transparent Self, he writes:
You cannot collaborate with another person towards some common end unless you know him. How can you know him, and he you, unless you have engaged in enough mutual disclosure of self to be able to antici- pate how he will react and what part he will play? Self-disclosure, my communication of my private world to you, in language, which you clearly understand is truly an important bit of behavior for us to learn something about. You can know me truly only if I let you, only if I want you to know me. Your misunderstanding of me is only partly your fault. If I want you to know me, I shall fi nd means of communicating myself to you. If you want me to reveal myself, just demonstrate your goodwill—your will to employ your power for my good and not for my destruction.
Before we can engage in self-disclosure, there must be an atmosphere of goodwill and trust. An individual is not likely to engage in much self- disclosure if the situation involves too much personal threat, or even a threat to anyone with whom he or she is closely associated. Jourard feels that it some- times takes a form of self-disclosure to stimulate goodwill in other people. For example, a little self-disclosure establishes your goodwill which encourages the other person to some self-disclosure, thus establishing his or her goodwill, which reassures you about further self-disclosure, and so on.
I f I expose my nakedness as a person to you, do not
make me feel shamed.
O nly in the part of us that we share, can we understand each other.
Respect Diversity in Relationships
Researchers often study communication behaviors of various cultures and have noted that self-disclosure tends to be high in mainstream North American society. Actually, people from the United States are more disclosing than members of any cultures studied (Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey 1988). In fact, they are likely to dis-
close more about themselves to acquaintances and even strangers.
People from various cultures, including ones within the United States, have learned dif- ferent communication styles. What Westerners consider openness and healthy self-disclosure may feel offensively intrusive to people from some Asian societies. The dramatic, assertive speaking style of many African Americans can be misinterpreted as abrasive within a Western Caucasian perspective. The best way to understand what another’s behavior means is to ask. This conveys the relational message that they mat- ter to you, and it allows you to gain insight into the interesting diversity among us.
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 5
Women Disclose More Than Men Women tend to have more friends and closer relationships than men. These friendships tend to provide them with more social support. Most research shows that women tend to be more openly self-disclosing than males, although the disparity seems smaller than originally believed. Because women tend to value “personal talk” more than men, they tend to share more personal information and feelings with their female friends (Kilmartin 2007).
Males tend to disclose more to strangers than females do, and are more willing to disclose casual things about themselves, such as their work, accomplishments, attitudes, and opinions. Males are also
less intimate and less personal than females. Males are expected not to disclose; it’s not “manly.” In peer/friendship relationships that emphasize competition and challenge, males often avoid revealing weaknesses, and at times associate self-disclosure with loss of control and vulnerability. Research shows that men often become closer by doing things together or doing things for each other, rather than just talking with each other (Wood 2004).
DO YOU NEED TO DISCLOSE? Self-disclosure usually involves the sharing of private information, and it is generally of such a nature that it is not some- thing you would normally disclose to everyone who might inquire about it. Th erefore, you are not expected to bare the innermost secrets of your soul to casual acquaintances—you can save that information for the signifi cant others in your life. However, if you are to communicate eff ectively with others, some degree of self-disclosure is required.
Yet, it is extremely important to ask ourselves some important questions before disclosing (Punches 2008):
Can I trust this person with this information? How could this information be used against me? Misconstrued?
Is this the right time and place to disclose? Am I sharing things about myself incrementally and slowly, or too much,
too soon? How has the person received private information in the past?
WHAT KIND OF THINGS CAN YOU REVEAL TO ANOTHER PERSON? A few exam- ples might be:
Likes and dislikes Fears and anxieties
Feelings and reactions about something another person has said or done Attitudes and opinions Tastes and interests Ideas about money Work perceptions Personality choices
Feelings and reactions about events that have just taken place Perceptions of self and others
Th ere are some disadvantages to self-disclosure as well, particularly if there is too much of it. Talking too much about ourselves early in a relation- ship may not facilitate the development of friendship. People might attribute your high self-disclosure as an indication that you are too immature, inse- cure, or phony, or even that you tell everyone such things. Other people like to think that they are special to you (O’Connel & O’Connel 2005).
N o one can develop freely in this world and fi nd a full life without feeling understood by at least one person.
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6 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
WHAT IS THE GREATEST RISK OF SELFDISCLOSURE? Self-disclosure involves taking risks. Th e greatest risk is one of rejection—not being liked or accepted. Th is may cause us to hide behind a mask—a facade —and try to be something we know we are not. In this state, eff ective communication cannot occur and the growth and maintenance of those deep, special, and meaningful relation- ships with friends and spouses cannot occur. Risk nothing, gain nothing. You have a choice—to withdraw from honest encounters, to hide your feelings, to falsify your intentions—or to be transparent, open, and real through self- disclosure.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF SELFDISCLOSURE? Self-disclosure has the potential to improve and expand interpersonal relationships, but it serves other functions as well. One advantage is that self-disclosure improves relationships . We prefer to be with people who are willing to disclose to us and we are more willing to be open with them. Self-disclosure is a recip- rocal process. Disclosure leads to trust and trust leads to more disclosure, and, thus, the relationship will grow and develop into a mature and long- lasting, loving interaction. Th ere is a strong positive correlation between self- disclosure and marital satisfaction. Research has shown that the more a couple is willing to disclose about themselves, the greater the marital satisfaction and the greater the chance the marriage will last over a longer period of time (Santrock 2006).
SELFDISCLOSURE PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH. Th e second advantage is that self-disclosure promotes mental health. Withholding important information can create stress and thus lead to less-eff ective functioning and even pos- sible physical problems (Jourard 1976). We all need a release, and for many of us “talking-out” our feelings, problems, and thoughts will relieve us of the stresses and anxieties that are interfering with our everyday functioning. Th is release of emotional tension through talking is known as a catharsis . As many of you have discovered, you feel relieved aft er sharing your problems with another person. Th is is the reason counseling and therapy are so eff ective for many individuals.
SELFVALIDATION. Another advantage of self-disclosure is that periodically we need self-validation . If we disclose information such as “I think I may have made a mistake . . .”—with the hopes of obtaining the listeners agree- ment, you are seeking validation on your behavior—confi rmation of a belief you hold about yourself. On a deeper level, this sort of self-validating disclo- sure seeks confi rmation of important parts of your self-concept (Adler and Proctor 2007).
SOCIAL CONTROL. Also, a possible advantage of self-disclosure is social con- trol . Revealing personal information may increase your control over other people and sometimes over the situation in which you and the other person fi nd yourself. For example, you tell your partner that someone else is show- ing interest in you, your partner may begin to show more interest in you. You tell your boss that another fi rm has off ered you a job, you probably will have an increased chance of getting a raise and improved working conditions. Could this type of disclosure also lead to a negative reaction? What else could happen?
We all need to discover new ways to communicate our feelings and thoughts to others. One way to illustrate how self-disclosure operates in com- munication is to look at Figure 1.1 (Th e Johari Window).
W hat does the baby chicken know which we overlook? The shell around us won’t crack at its own accord.
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 7
The Johari Window
Th e Johari Window (1969), developed by and named aft er psycholo- gists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram, can be looked upon as a communi- cation window through which you become more aware of yourself and your potential as a communicator, as you give and receive information about yourself and others. In order for a relationship to develop into a quality relationship, there needs to be trust and mutual sharing of information and feelings, also known as openness . An open commu- nicator is one who is willing to seek feedback from others and to off er information and personal feelings to others. Open communication involves both giving and receiving. According to the Window, a per- son’s communication behavior can be viewed by looking at the size of each of the four windowpanes—Open, Hidden, Blind, and Unknown.
Figure 1.1 is the “Total You”—everything there is to know about you. Figure 1.2 is divided into two squares—the left half is everything that you are aware of regarding yourself (Known to Self). Th e right half is your unconscience—everything about you that you are not aware of (Not Known to Self). Figure 1.3 is divided into a top half and a bottom half. Th e top half is everything that others are aware of about you (Known to Others). Th e bottom half is the part of you that others are not aware of about you (Not Known to Others). As you look at Figures 1.2 and 1.3 , you will notice that as you now put the whole window together you will observe that the window is divided into four sections or windowpanes. Th ese four quadrants, illustrated in Figure 1.4 on page 9, represent the whole person in relation to others.
Th e Open Self (I know, others know) represents information, feelings, and opinions that you know about yourself and that others know about you. Th is area also includes feelings that others have about you, perhaps a mutual friend of yours and another person, of which you are aware. Communication in this open area is free and open.
Th e Blind Self (Others know, I don’t know) represents information about you of which you are unaware but is easily apparent to others. An example would be a mannerism in speech or gesture of which you are unaware but that
This is the
(This is everything about you)
(Everything you are not
aware of about yourself) (Your
(Everything you are
aware of about yourself)
Known to Others
(Everything others know about you)
Not Known to Others
(Everything you are not willing to disclose to anyone)
Figure 1.2 Figure 1.3
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8 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
is quite obvious to others, such as constantly saying, “you know” or constantly “playing with your keys.” Communication in this area is not free and open.
Th e Hidden Self (I know, others don’t know) represents information and personal feelings that you keep hidden from others. Consequently, com- munication in this area is restricted. Th e only way others can learn of this information is if you decide to participate in self-disclosure. Th is area is quite large with a new acquaintance because we do not feel safe in revealing our true selves and feelings.
Th e Unknown Self (I don’t know, others don’t know) represents informa- tion about you that is unknown to self or others. For example, you may have an aptitude or skill of which you and others are completely unaware. Com- munication in this area is impossible, since it is totally unknown. Information in this area may take years to be known. However, as you try to gain insight into your real, true self, you may be able to add to this area.
CAN THE SIZE OF THE WINDOWPANE CHANGE? Th e size of each windowpane varies depending on your communication behavior and the quality of your relationship. When you fi rst meet someone, the area of common knowledge is minimal. Likewise, your communication with that individual would be rep- resented by a small open windowpane and a large unknown area. Also, if you fi nd it diffi cult to share your ideas and feelings with others, as well as to receive feedback from others, you would tend to have a small open window- pane, as illustrated in Figure 1.5 .
As a relationship grows and the trust level increases, you will be more likely to share more information and feelings. Consequently, others will respond by giving you more feedback. Th erefore, your communication behavior should be represented by a much larger open windowpane and a smaller unknown pane. See Figure 1.6 .
If you are receptive to feedback but are basically unwilling to share infor- mation and feelings with others, your communication behavior will be rep- resented by a fairly large hidden pane and a smaller open pane, as illustrated in Figure 1.7 .
On the other hand, you may fi nd it very diffi cult to receive criticism or suggestions from others, but it may be easy for you to share information and feelings with others. Consequently, your communication behavior would be represented with a large blind pane, as illustrated in Figure 1.8 .
As we can see, interpersonal communication of any signifi cance is vir- tually impossible if the individuals involved have little or no open window- pane. Ideally, we strive to make the open window the largest area, which would indicate the extent to which two or more persons can give and take, work together, and enjoy experiences together. By improving the use of feedback in our communication with others, we begin to expand our open windowpane.
Some people may get along fi ne with others without insight or awareness. Such lack of awareness, however, inhibits our communication eff ectiveness, and, thus, impedes our personal growth.
Now that we understand the importance of self-disclosure in the devel- opment of a relationship, we need to understand why relationships are so important. We are all social beings and seek social relationships. We all have a need for other people. Relationships satisfy needs. We are motivated not only to seek the company of others, but to form close and lasting relationships. Many people have diffi culty forming relationships and do not seem to have any friends. What happens to these people?
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 9
Adapted from Joseph Luft, Of Human Interaction, by permission of Mayfi eld Publishing Co., Copyright 1969 by the National Press.
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10 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
Have you ever felt lonely? What causes loneliness? Answer the questions above before you continue to read this section.
Th e lack of relationships creates loneliness. Loneliness occurs when a person has fewer interpersonal relationships than desired or when the relationships are not as satisfying as desired. Loneliness is one of the most serious problems in our society today. Harry Stack Sullivan (1968) consid- ered loneliness to be the worst emotional experience imaginable. He stated that the deepest problems for people are loneliness, isolation, and diffi culty with self-esteem. Research has shown that loneliness leads to depression, and depression can cause psychological and physiological problems.
In national surveys, roughly one American in four says he or she has felt very lonely or remote from other people in the past two weeks (Perlman and Peplau 1998). Most of you have observed many of your friends and rela- tives going through some form of transition in their lives—the breaking-up of a long-term relationship or marriage, death of a loved one, etc.—that has caused them to be in a state of need. Most of us at one time or another in our lives have also experienced this feeling, that something is lacking in our life and there does not seem to be anything to live for. What is this feeling? It is the feeling of loneliness. Loneliness is a feeling of longing and emptiness that is caused by the lack of emotional attachment and/or social ties.
CAN PEOPLE BE LONELY IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHERS? Th e answer is a resounding yes , and the feeling can be dreadful. Mara commented, “You can be in the center of a crowd and be dreadfully lonely.” Some people can feel lonely even when surrounded by others. Debbi, whose husband had left her, said, “I have periods of loneliness now, but it’s nothing compared to how lonely I felt when my husband was sitting in the same room with me.” In fact, living together loneliness (LTL) , can result when there is a discrepancy between expected and achieved contact (Kiley 1989). More than one-fourth of married people, the majority of them females, suff er from LTL.
Being lonely is not the same as being alone. Some people prefer solitude and are content with fewer social interactions. Many of us have a need to be alone at times in order to maintain our mental health. Loneliness is a highly subjective and personal feeling.
What Do You Know about Loneliness? True or False? ______ Loneliness is more predominant during adolescence. ______ Loneliness varies with the time of day and day of the week. ______ Loneliness may be a sign of personal problems. ______ Loneliness may be the cause of depression, suicide, and other mental disorders. ______ The elderly are less lonely than most groups of individuals. ______ Loneliness is not the same as aloneness. ______ Most people assume other people have more friends than they do.
All of the above questions will be answered in the following discussion. Based on research and literature all of the above statements are mostly true.
Check This Out
M aybe the biggest problem with loneliness is that we walk around thinking we are the only ones suffering from it.
JEANNE MARIE LASKAS
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 11
WHO IS MORE LONELY? Loneliness is found in all groups. Loneliness is most prevalent among teenagers, unmarried young adults, the divorced, and the widowed. Actually, traditional college students who are among thousands of peers suff er more loneliness than any other group (Wiseman et al. 2006).
Loneliness makes a person vulnerable to many diff erent situations. Th is may include more depression, use of drugs as an escape, and higher blood pressure. Th ere is even some evidence that points to loneliness as being associated with higher risks for heart disease, lessened longevity, and increased risk for recurrent illness (Hafen et al. 2005). Maintaining that love and intimacy are instrumental in protection from disease and in the main- tenance of wellness, a medical doctor believes that emotional support, the opposite of loneliness, is essential (Ornish 1998).
Loneliness is something that will aff ect most of us at one time or another in our life. What can we do to help ourselves and others to prevent this feeling of loneliness from taking over our lives? Robert Weiss (1995) has found that satisfying two relationship needs will help us overcome feelings of loneliness. Th ese are: 1) the need for emotional attachments and; 2) the need for social ties. If one or both of these needs are not satisfi ed, loneliness will exist. What are these needs and why do we really need relationships?
What Should a Relationship Provide?
Why do our society and many other cultures put so much emphasis on marriage? Why are there clubs for single people, escort services, single’s bars, dating services, social networking websites, people advertising for partners in local newspapers, and using 1-900 telephone services to meet new people? Why—because people are lonely. We have a strong need for relationships. Th e following needs must be satisfi ed in order to have a fulfi lling life and overcome feelings of loneliness.
EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENTS. We all need to know that no matter what the situation is or whatever we do, good or bad (for better or worse, in sickness or in health), that there will be someone around to take care of us or help us out. As long as we know this, we feel comfortable and secure. A child who knows that mother or father is available whenever he or she needs one of them will feel secure enough to explore the world around them. Th ey will be willing to take some chances and risks in life. A child who is insecure and not sure if the parents will be available when needed will be clinging and unsure of other people. How would you feel if you were told by your parents, “If you ever get in trouble with the law,” or “If I ever hear about you taking drugs,” or “If you ever get someone pregnant or get pregnant, don’t step a foot back in this house?” Most people who have been told this when they were young feel very insecure and lonely since they are not sure anyone will be there in a time of need.
WHERE DO WE GET EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENTS? Most people will receive their emotional attachments from their parents, especially during their early years of development. And if you think about it, many individuals continue to rely on their parents for this support for most of their lives. Th is is why you will hear stories about married couples who, when they are having marital problems, will go back to their parents’ home, because parents still provide that individual with the feeling of security. As we tend to mature and start to “cut the apron strings,” becoming more independent, we begin to fi nd
R elationships with others lie at the very core of human existence.
ELLEN BERSCHEID AND LETTIA PEPLAU
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12 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
this emotional support from others—our best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, pastor, etc. For some people, their dog or cat will provide them with this feeling of security. Having a confi dant , a signifi cantly close personal friend with whom one can safely share one’s deepest concerns and joys, is related to higher levels of well-being, health, satisfaction, and lowered dis- tress (Ornish 1998). One of the earlier studies on confi dants found that older people who had a confi dant lived longer than those who didn’t.
Inanimate objects can also be a source of security. Items such as teddy bears, dolls, or imaginary companions are examples. Other sources could be certain belief systems, religious beliefs, or a philosophy of life, and even confi dence within one’s self may satisfy the need for emotional attachments for some people. A young child’s blanket or teddy bear is a source of security for some. As you know, if you take the blanket or bear away from some chil- dren even for a short time just to be washed, the child will go into a rage and become very insecure and lonely.
What happens to a person who has been relying solely on their spouse for the satisfaction of this need, especially when the spouse announces that the relationship is over? Th is person will become insecure, lonely, and vulnerable. A newly divorced or separated individual who has lost his or her emotional support is very open and vulnerable to another person or belief system that tends to show support for the individual. Th is is why many individuals will possibly end up in a negative relationship, some type of cult, or so-called reli- gion, or gang that purports to provide emotional support.
SOCIAL TIES. Social ties provide us with the feeling of belonging—a feeling that we are part of a group and have an identity. During early childhood this feeling of belonging and developing an identity is, for most children, pro- vided by their parents. Th is is expressed with statements like, “I’m a member of the Smith family or Adams family or Sanchez family.” Later in childhood, the peer group becomes more important to them than the family, especially during adolescence. Special groups, clubs, teams, and religious organizations such as Boy Scouts, Bluebirds, Indian Guides, Little League, church youth
groups, pep clubs, gangs, and fraternal organizations provide many young people with a feeling of identity. Have you ever observed a child walking down the street in their scout uniform or team uniform? Th ey really think they are “special.” Th e uniform makes them feel like they are part of a group and they have an identity. We all need an identity.
How does the person feel who is not able to join a club or be a member of a team? Th is person feels “left out” and feels that there is something missing in their life. Th ey will do whatever it takes to satisfy this need. Th e end result of not having this need satisfi ed is the same as for those whose emotional attachment needs are not satisfi ed. Th is person will feel lonely, depressed, and vulnerable.
HOW CAN WE SATISFY THIS NEED? Social ties may be satisfi ed through positive as well as negative means. Social ties may be satisfi ed through marriage—a legal bond that makes you feel like you belong to another person and have a recognized identity. A person’s job or career may also give some people a feeling of identity or belonging. Ask a person the question, “Who are you?” and the response is generally, “I’m a stu- dent, a banker, a plumber, a salesperson, an attorney,” etc. Th ese titles give the individual an identity, and the organization the person works for gives the person a feeling of belonging.
W hosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.
P eople are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.
Who provides you with a feeling of belonging?
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 13
During the high school and college years, a person’s identity may be found in many diff erent ways. Some students fi nd their identity by being on an athletic team, by being an excellent student, playing in the band or orchestra, dating a cheerleader, or being in a sorority or fraternity. If a student does not fi nd his or her identity or feeling of belonging through “normal” or acceptable means, he or she will attempt to satisfy this need through other means, such as drugs, bizarre clothing, a unique hairstyle, promiscuous behavior, gang activity, or delinquent behavior.
Emotional support and social ties are not only important to young people, but they are vital to all of us and will continue to be important throughout our lives. We will be in a constant state of stress and anxiety if our emotional sup- port and social ties change too much. Divorce, death of a loved one, changing jobs or being fi red from a job, retirement, breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a serious illness may be the cause of our needs changing. People with adequate social support are also less likely to suff er from depression, anxiety and numerous physical problems. And, in a four-year study of 823 people, Dr. Robert Wilson (2007), senior neuropsychologist, Rush University Medical Center, reported that seniors who feel disconnected from other people are twice as likely to develop an Alzheimer’s-like form of dementia as those who are not lonely.
Th e discussion of emotional support and social ties should demonstrate to all of us that we should not rely only on one person or one source for the satisfaction of our emotional and social needs. We all need to work at devel- oping a good support system. Yet, is there anything we can do to enhance our personal, meaningful relationships?
Mutual Reward Theory (MRT)
Th e Mutual Reward Th eory (MRT) states that a relationship between two people is enhanced when there is a satisfactory balance of rewards between them (O’Neil & Chapman 2008). Actually, if any meaningful relationship is to remain healthy over a long period of time, the individuals involved must benefi t from the relationship. Th e more equally the rewards balance out, the stronger and more permanent the relationship becomes. Th e rela- tionship will quickly weaken if one individual suddenly realizes that he or she has been contributing signifi cantly more than he or she has been receiving.
Now that we understand the need for relationships, many of us still fi nd it diffi cult to get to know other people and develop good relationships. Why do we fear getting acquainted?
The Fear of Getting Acquainted—Shyness
Meeting people and forming relationships should be fun, but for a lot of peo- ple it is a diffi cult process full of stress and anxiety. “It seems so easy for other people, but for me, it’s one of the most diffi cult things I do in life.” Because of the complexity of our society, we have made the process of getting acquainted and developing relationships an involved process. “How can I make meeting people and forming relationships more fun and less stressful? Why do I feel so uncomfortable meeting people?” You may want to answer the questions in the box on page 15.
M an never reasons so much and becomes so introspec- tive as when he suffers since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings.
LUIGI PIRANDELLO, 1922
H aving enjoyed the friendship of many people in many places for many years—I have learned that, in the main, people are as we choose to fi nd them.
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14 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
AM I SHY? How did you answer the questions? If your answer to any of the questions is that you feel uncomfortable, anxious, inhibited, and excessively cautious, then you showed signs of shyness. Do not feel bad—shyness is universal. You have lots of company. Nearly one of two Americans claim to be shy. What is more interesting, the incidence is rising, and the use of the computer and technology may be turning our society into a culture of shy people (Carducci and Zimbardo 1995). It aff ects the young and old, men and women, celebrities and people like you and me. It is a very common problem.
HOW COMMON IS SHYNESS? Researcher Dr. Bernardo Carducci (2000) in his popular book, Shyness A Bold New Approach, makes it very clear that between 75 and 95 percent of people have felt shy at one point in their lives. In fact, Dr. Carducci has compiled the following statistics on the pervasiveness of shyness:
About 80% of American college students report they have been shy at some point in their lives.
Almost 50 percent of our population say that they’re shy. About 89 percent of shy people claim that they’ve been shy all their lives. Of people who are not shy now, 75 percent have been shy at some point in
the past. Only 11 percent of our population claim that they are not shy now and
have never been shy in the past. About 21 percent of shy people feel shy daily or almost daily, while almost
60 percent of the people who say that they’re shy feel shy at least once a week.
About 78 percent of shy people believe that they can overcome shyness, while 3 percent say that they cannot.
Dr. Carducci also comments that the three most common shyness- provoking situations are 1) being around strangers, 2) the presence of people in positions of authority by virtue of their role or knowledge, and 3) being with members of the opposite sex, either one-on-one or in a group.
WHAT IS SHYNESS? Shyness refers to a tendency to withdraw from people, particularly unfamiliar people (Stein and Walker 2000). Shyness involves feel- ings, physical reactions, and thoughts, that create a state of anxiety, discomfort, and inhibition. Let’s discuss each one.
Feelings. Feelings associated with shyness include anxiety, insecurity, stress, loneliness, mistrust, embarrassment, tension, fear, and confusion.
Physical reactions. Physical reactions associated with shyness include nausea, butterfl ies in the stomach, shaking, perspiring, pounding heart, feeling faint, and blushing.
Th oughts. Th oughts associated with shyness include: “I’m not an inter- esting person,” “I’m not as good as they are,” “Th ey won’t like me,” “I lack self-confi dence,” or “I don’t have the social skills.”
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SHYNESS? For some people shyness may become a “mental handicap” that is as crippling as the most severe of physical handicaps. Its consequences can be devastating. What are the consequences of shyness? (Zimbardo 1990), (Carducci and Zimbardo 1995), (Duff y 2007/2008).
A man who talks only of himself and thinks only of himself is hopelessly uneducated.
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 15
1. Shy people become preoccupied with themselves and thus become self- conscious. Because of this, they are not aware of other people’s feelings and needs. For example, if this person has a facial blemish or their hair is not “just right,” they know everybody will notice so they will not go to school or to a party. 2. Shyness makes it diffi cult for us to become acquainted with new people and thus make new friends. At a party these people would not introduce themselves to others, but would say to themselves, “Nobody is interested in me, I must be a boring person, nobody would want to get to know me anyway.” 3. Shyness keeps us from experiencing new situations. A new experience is a risk that may result in failure, so it seems easier not to take the chance. 4. Shyness prevents people from standing up for their own rights and as individuals, keeps them from expressing their own feelings and beliefs. If other people do not know how you feel and what you want, how do you expect them to make decisions that will benefi t you? 5. Shy people tend not to demonstrate their personal strengths and capabilities. As a result, they prevent others from making positive evaluations. If you have two employees, equal in all abilities except that one is shy and the other is not shy, which of the two would you promote? In most situations the non-shy person would be promoted because we are more aware of his or her potential than that of the shy person.
As you have observed, shyness can have some very negative eff ects.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SHY AND NONSHY PERSON? It may come as a surprise to many of you that the major diff erence between the two individuals is a matter of self-evaluation. How do you compare yourself to others? Do you see yourself as capable, intelligent, or as attractive as the per- son next to you? If the answer is no, then would you interact with them? Or, if you did have to interact with them, how would you feel? Would you feel inferior or inadequate? Many people would feel this way. Why? As we stated earlier, shyness is a matter of self-evaluation —how you compare yourself with others. Actually this should tell you how ridiculous shyness really is, since we are all capable human beings. Just because the other person is a doctor,
M utual confi dence is the foundation of all satisfactory human relationships.
Meeting people for the fi rst time. Asking someone for a date. Giving a talk in front of a group of people. Going to a party. Asking someone for help—for example, your boss or professor. Being interviewed. Situations requiring assertiveness—for example, asking for your money back. Participating in a discussion group. Showing your body in a nonsexual context. Going to a dance or nightclub.
How Do You Feel in the Following Situations?
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16 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
lawyer, teacher, or engineer does not mean that person is superior to you. Th e other person may have more formal education than you or more money than you, but you may have more common sense, or real-life education. You are just as good as the other person.
WHAT CAUSES SHYNESS? Actually, there is no one cause of shyness but many diverse causes including brain chemistry and reactivity (inborn tempera- ment), harsh treatment from teachers or classmates, overprotective parents, faulty self-perceptions, poor adaptability, intolerance for ambiguity, physical appearance, life transitions (such as going to school, divorce, a new job), and even cultural expectations. Furthermore, some people are simply more sensitive about their behavior and are more easily embarrassed than others (Carducci 2000); (Casriel 2007).
OVERCOMING SHYNESS. How can a person overcome shyness? It would be naive to pretend that shyness can be overcome easily. It is important, how- ever, to emphasize that shyness can be overcome successfully. Th ere are three steps in the process of dealing with shyness (Zimbardo 1987); (Pelusi 2007). Th ese steps are: 1) Analyzing your shyness, 2) Building your self-esteem, and 3) Improving your social skills.
ANALYZING YOUR SHYNESS
Try to pinpoint exactly what social situations tend to elicit your shy behavior.
Try to identify what causes your shyness in that situation. Use a diary or journal to keep track of the times you experience this feeling.
Have a friend or relative give you feedback. Discuss how you interact with others and how you can improve.
Recognize that you ultimately control how you see yourself. Set your own standards. Do not let others tell you how to live your life. Set realistic goals. Do not set your goals too high or too low. Many people
demand too much of themselves. Talk positively to yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it and that you are
a good person. Learn to take rejection. Rejection is one of the risks everyone takes in
social interactions. Try not to take it personally; it may have nothing to do with you.
IMPROVING YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS
Follow a role model. Select someone you respect and observe how they interact. Imitate their behavior.
Learn to listen. Talk to one new person everyday about something. Smile. Reinforce yourself for each successful interaction. Use your imagination. Rehearse in your mind new situations—how you
will respond. Practice with a friend—interviews, dating situations, etc.
S hyness is a series of choices that gradually cement into a lifestyle.
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 17
Find your comfort zone. Not all social situations are for everyone. Go where your interests are. You might be happier at an art gallery, book club, or on a volleyball team than you are at a cocktail party or bar.
It takes time to change. Do not expect to overcome shyness overnight, it is a gradual process.
According to psychologist Bernardo Carducci (Casriel 2007), conversa- tion with strangers typically moves through fi ve stages:
opening line (keep it simple) and introductions, 1. trying out topics and exploring for common ground, 2. closing, in which you tell the person that you’re going, 3. summing up what you learned, and 4. possibly exchanging contact information. 5.
Remember, once you internalize these steps, you will always have a mental map of where to go next. Actually, shy people who are determined to develop their social skills can force themselves to interact despite the nervousness it provokes, and they can also end up garnering great satisfaction from the eff ort even if the bashfulness remains (Rodgers 2006).
TECHNOLOGY AND SHYNESS. Th e future of shyness is bleak—it is not going to disappear and there are many reasons to expect the numbers of shy peo- ple to climb. Technology is continually redefi ning how we communicate. We are not engaging in as many face-to-face interactions on a daily basis. How oft en do you call a friend or colleague when you know they are not in so you can leave a message on their machine? How oft en do you see a bank teller or gas station attendant? Voice mail, faxes, banking on-line, text messaging, and e-mail give us an illusion of being “in touch,” but what is to touch but the keyboard? Some people no longer even have to go to the offi ce, they telecommute. Many individuals do not get to practice their social skills on a daily basis. Technology is ushering in a culture of shyness, and it is the perfect environment for the shy. Th e danger is that technol- ogy will become the hiding place for those who dread social interactions (Carducci and Zimbardo 1995). We need to be aware of this and hopefully stay “in-touch.”
As we begin to reach out and meet new people in the process of overcom- ing shyness, we attempt to sift through the millions of people in the world to select the individuals that will eventually become our friends and lovers. How do we do this? We begin the process of getting acquainted and fi nding friends through perceptual awareness.
Perception refers to how we mentally organize and interpret the world around us. Because we all have diff erent backgrounds and experiences, we perceive the world around us in diff erent ways—and thus many of us misinterpret and misunderstand the people around us. We need to increase our perceptual awareness.
How can we prevent misunderstandings due to the inaccuracy of our own perceptions? Serious problems can arise when people accept their misinter- pretations as if they were a fact of life while we tend to get upset with others when they jump to conclusions about our own behavior.
M ost of us feel that others will not tolerate emotional honesty in communication. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others; and having rationalized our phoniness into mobility, we settle for superfi cial relationships.
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18 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
A friend says, “You really look tired today!” (You were feeling great until they said that.)
“What’s the matter with you today?” (Who said anything was wrong?)
“Why are you mad at me and not talking to me?” (You are concerned about your fi nal exam that you are not prepared for.)
How can we become more aware of our misinterpretations and make people more aware of their personal perceptions? Th e perceptual awareness process will provide us with a technique that will help us deal with these misperceptions. What is this process?
Make note of the behavior you are observing. Describe the behavior. Interpret the behavior. Why is that person acting that way? (Write down at
least two interpretations.) Ask yourself what you would do in the same situation. Put yourself in the
other person’s “shoes.” Ask for clarifi cation about how to interpret the behavior. Do not jump to
conclusions. Ask the person why they are acting that way or ask someone else how they would interpret the situation.
Th e perceptual awareness process will help us understand others more accurately instead of assuming that our fi rst impression is correct. Our goal is a mutual understanding and acceptance of others.
Now, let us take a closer look at how we perceive the people we meet and interact with on a regular basis through the process called people perception .
Imagine yourself alone at a large party that you are attending. You look around and see nothing but unfamiliar faces. As you look at each individual, you immediately make a judgment of what you think each person is like. Your perception of each individual is based on many things, such as your past experiences, prejudices, and stereotyping. Since your past experiences, prejudices, and stereotypes are diff erent from those of others, your percep- tion of each individual will be diff erent from other people’s interpretations. You may perceive someone as serious and studious while someone else may perceive the same individual as depressed and slow intellectually. Sometimes we discover that our perception is not always accurate. Some recent psycho- logical studies indicate that our perception may be distorted at the time of perception because we are using our own past experiences, prejudices, and stereotyping to make the interpretation.
As we encounter people daily, we form an impression or perception of them. Th e term social perception describes the way we perceive, evaluate, categorize, and form judgments about the qualities of people we encoun- ter (Nevid 2006). Th ese social perceptions have a critical infl uence on our interactions. In fact, they are more important in guiding our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors than the actual traits or attitudes of the people around us. Th e factors that seem to infl uence our social perceptions are fi rst impressions, stereotyping, and prejudices.
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 19
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear for I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me.
Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me, but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake don’t be fooled. I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffl ed with me, within as well
as without, that confi dence is my name and coolness my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command and that I need no one, but don’t believe me. My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask, ever-varying and ever-concealing. Beneath lies no complacence. Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness. But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it. I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed. That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, a nonchalant sophisticated facade, to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope, and I know it. That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, if it’s followed by love. It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self-built prison walls, from the barriers I so painstakingly erect. It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself, that I’m really worth something. But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to, I’m afraid to. I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance, will not be followed by love. I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me. I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing and that you will see this and reject me.
So I play my game, my desperate pretending game, with a facade of assurance without and a trembling child within. So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks, and my life becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that’s really nothing, and nothing of what’s everything, of what’s crying within me. So when I’m going through my routine do not be fooled by what I’m saying.
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20 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying, what I’d like to be able to say, what for survival I need to say, but what I can’t say.
I don’t like hiding. I don’t like playing superfi cial phony games. I want to stop playing them. I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me but you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to hold out your hand even when that’s the last thing I seem to want. Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead. Only you can call me into aliveness. Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings– very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings!
With your power to touch me into feeling you can breathe life into me. I want you to know that. I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be a creator–an honest-to-God creator– of the person that is me if you choose to. You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble, you alone can remove my mask, you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic, from my lonely prison, if you choose to. Please choose to.
Do not pass me by. It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back. It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man often I am irrational. I fi ght against the very thing I cry out for. But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls and in this lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with fi rm hands but with gentle hands for a child is very sensitive.
Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.
Charles C. Finn September 1966
Reprinted by permission of Charles Finn.
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 21
FIRST IMPRESSIONS. First impressions can have a tremendous infl uence on our perception of others. Th e initial impression we have of another person may have a strong impact on our future interactions with them. If you go to a party and see someone that looks just like the boss that fi red you last week, what is your impression of that person? What is the likelihood of you approaching that person? You will most likely avoid that person even though they seem to be very friendly and not at all like your boss. Th e primacy eff ect occurs when the fi rst impression carries more weight than any subsequent information. Th at fi rst impression of the person that looks like your previous boss will be diffi cult to change even if you see them in a new and diff erent situation (Myers 2007).
Our fi rst impressions are formed quite rapidly—oft en within a matter of seconds. Research indicates that negative fi rst impressions are oft en quickly formed and hard to overcome. Th is is why they say “getting off on the wrong foot” may be particularly damaging to a person. Th e opposite tends to be true of positive fi rst impressions, which are oft en hard to earn but easily lost (Rothbart and Park 1986). If the person you are going out with for the fi rst time is late, what is your fi rst impression? Would you think that he or she is unreliable and must be a fl ake—a negative fi rst impression? Many of you would feel this way and this impression will be diffi cult to change. If your new date is on time are you willing to say that this person is reliable and conscien- tious? Most of us will take more time to make that judgment even though the fi rst impression was positive.
WHAT DO YOU NOTICE FIRST? While you are walking down the street one day, notice a person that you have never seen before. In your mind you immedi- ately form an impression of what you think this person is like. What had the greatest impact on the formation of your opinion? Was it the way the per- son was dressed, their hairstyle, their size or shape, their facial expression, or their physical attractiveness? A recent survey indicated that women are most impressed by the way a man dresses, while men seem to be infl uenced most by the physical attractiveness of women. Overall, we seem to be infl uenced more by physical appearance than anything else. Th is may be due to the fact
Consider this . . .Consider this . . .
Application of the Perceptual Awareness Process
Your roommate, Stephanie, has been quiet for the last two days and has not been talking to you (behavior). You are sure that she is mad at you (fi rst interpretation). She may have had a fi ght with her boyfriend (second interpretation). Why would I be acting that way? (Put yourself in that situa- tion.) Ask Stephanie, “Why have you been so quiet recently?” (request for clarifi cation).
Jim stomped out of the room and slammed the door (behavior). Jim must have not liked what I said and got mad (fi rst interpretation). Jim sure must be in a hurry and accidently slammed the door (second interpretation.) “Why would I have acted that way?” (Put yourself in that situation). “Jim, how did you feel when you left the room yesterday?” (request for clarifi cation).
Think of some situations you have been in and go through this process.
Y ou never get a second chance to make a fi rst impression.
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22 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
that mass media puts too much emphasis on these factors and, thus, has a great infl uence on our perception of the world.
Other factors that seem to have an impact on our fi rst impressions of others include what the individual is doing (their behavior) at the time you perceive them and what the interactional possibilities are with that person (whether or not they would be a good date, tennis partner, or study partner). If you see someone acting weird the fi rst time you see them, what kind of person do you think he or she is? What will you think of that person the next time you see them? Most of us would continue to perceive them as weird, because of what we observed them doing the fi rst time we saw them. If you see someone who you think would be fun to date, will you approach them? If you think the person sitting in the corner would help you study psychol- ogy, will you ask them to help you? If you perceive someone as “stuck-up,” or with an “attitude,” will you approach them? Based on your fi rst impression of these individuals, you have already determined how you will respond or not respond to them. You are making your decision based on how you perceive the interactional possibilities (Aronson et al. 2006).
What about the impression you leave on the worldwide web, such as MySpace and Facebook? Do you realize that any information you post on those sites is quite public and long-lasting? Do you realize that the public can see all the pictures taken in various stages of sobriety, etc. on Facebook? Do you realize that what you post may be the fi rst impression someone has of you further down the road? Do you realize that employers might check the worldwide web to see what you have posted on various websites? Th e lesson is just think carefully—the worldwide web is available to millions of people— just think before you post.
PREJUDICES. Our perception of other people may be infl uenced and distorted by our prejudices. Prejudices predispose us to behave in certain ways toward other people and groups. Prejudice is when we prejudge a person or group of people prior to having all known information and facts. Being prejudiced does not always have a negative meaning, it can also be positive. You see someone dressed as a nurse. You automatically perceive that person as kind and gener- ous, even though you do not know anything else about the individual. It is too bad that most of us allow our prejudices to aff ect our interaction with others negatively.
STEREOTYPING. Many people think people with red hair have hot tempers, that all police offi cers are mean, that all Irish people drink a lot, that all Japanese are intelligent, and that all Jewish people are rich. Th ese are all stereotypes —preconceived, inaccurate, rigid beliefs about individuals or groups of people. Th e habit of stereotyping people is so common that almost any personal characteristic leads to the formation of stereotypes. For exam- ple, what are your feelings about overweight people, people who wear glasses, short people, black people, women, or homosexuals?
Did you know that tall people are more apt to get hired fi rst and get paid more than short people? Did you know that attractive students tend to get better grades than less attractive students? Are you aware that women are paid about seventy percent of what men are paid for doing the same job? Is this because tall people are better qualifi ed than short people, attractive students are more intelligent than the less attractive students, women are not as good employees? No, it is because we have allowed our prejudices and stereotyping to infl uence our behavior. We must learn to overcome these infl uences and
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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 23
accept people as they are and not how we learned to perceive them. We must work together to reduce prejudices and break down the assumptions that one group is better than or inferior to others. We must work toward developing positive interactions among all individuals—no matter what size, shape, or color the person is.
DO OUR SOCIAL PERCEPTIONS INFLUENCE OUR ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS TOWARD PREJUDICE AND STEREOTYPING? Social perception involves the creation of images of ourselves and of others. Our cultural background and past experiences have a tremendous impact upon how we interpret our daily experiences. A prejudice is a negative attitude toward members of a group, while discrimination involves your behavior toward members of a group. Prejudice is a negative cognitive set; discrimination is negative behavior (unfair treatment). For example, a store owner has a strong prejudice toward everyone from Mexico, yet treats them like everyone else because she needs their business. Th is is an example of prejudice without discrimination. Can discrimination happen without prejudice? It is less common, but it can happen. A restaurant manager who has a handicapped child has empathy for all handicapped people but still will not hire them at his restaurant.
INACCURACY IN SOCIAL PERCEPTIONS. Th is is both a cause and an eff ect of prejudice. We will examine a few sources of inaccuracy that we discussed earlier that contribute to prejudice in important ways.
Stereotyping. Stereotyping seems to contribute more than any other factor in determining our prejudices. Many people subscribe to derogatory stereotypes of various groups. Although studies suggest that racial stereo- types have declined over the last fi ft y years, they are still not a thing of the past (Plous 2002).
First Impressions. One of the problems with the power of fi rst impres- sions is that many people’s fi rst impressions of minorities come not from actual interactions, but from disparaging remarks made by parents, neighbors, and others. Th us, many impressionable children develop unfa- vorable opinions toward Hispanics, African Americans, homosexuals, the handicapped, etc., before they have any opportunity for rewarding inter- actions with members of these groups. Even though these negative fi rst impressions may eventually be overridden by contradictory experiences, the primacy eff ect probably contributes to prejudice. Judging a book by its cover is a pervasive consequence of our initial reactions to other people— reactions that encourage oft en inaccurate stereotypes about races and eth- nic groups other than our own, women, old people, overweight people, and many other negatively stigmatized social groups (Pingitore et al. 1994).
Categorizing. People frequently categorize others on the basis of age, sex, race, sexual orientation, weight, height, and so forth. In-group-out-group bias explains the tendency to hold less favorable opinions about groups to which we do not belong (out-groups) , while holding more favorable opinions about groups to which we do belong (in-groups) (Hewstone et al. 2002). We perceive people like ourselves to be members of the “in-group” and those who are diff erent to be part of the “out-group.” We tend to have more favorable attitudes toward “in-group” members than “out-group” members. We tend to explain the behavior of people in the “out-group” on the basis of their membership in the group. Jamie is slow, not very athletic, and obese, so Jamie must be just like all fat people. In contrast, my best
Y ou can see a lot by observing. . . . YOGI BERRA
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24 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others
friend, Larry, is slow and also obese, but I do not categorize him into the “out-group,” because I perceive Larry to be a unique person. Th erefore, he’s part of my “in-group.” We need to learn to avoid categorizing people.
Attribution Error. When we observed Juan for the fi rst time, he was studying by himself in the cafeteria using a laptop computer. What is our fi rst impression of Juan? He must be a loner. He must be an intellectual.
He must be a “nerd.” Are we right about our perception of Juan? Th e next day we are walking by the soccer fi eld and we notice a very fast aggressive player scoring a goal and we discover that it is Juan. Was our fi rst impression of Juan correct? We then further discover that Juan is also a very outgoing individual with lots of friends. We defi nitely made an error based on our fi rst impression. Remember, a person’s behavior at a given time may or may not refl ect their per- sonality—but we tend to assume that it does.
Inaccuracy in our perceptions tend to persist because fi rst impressions can be very diffi cult to overcome. Evidence tends to demonstrate that we tend to see what we expect to see in our inter- personal interactions. Now that you are more aware of how your per- ceptions are infl uenced, we hope that you can begin to accept people as they really are.
As we continue the process of people perception, we discover that it is common for us to make many mistakes and errors in our perceptions of others. We have found that our prejudices and our stereotypes oft en lead to unfair treatment of others. We will now take a look at one characteristic that seems to have the greatest impact on our perception of others without substantial evidence to support its
accuracy—another distortion in perception.
PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS. Are you more likely to seek out an attractive person as a friend or someone who is perceived as less attractive? If you were an employer, would you be more likely to hire the most attractive applicant? Do you perceive physically attractive people to be more poised, likeable, sexy, competent, happy, interesting, and socially skilled than people of average or unattractive appearance? Many of you would answer no to these questions, but when it comes time for you to act on these questions it could be a diff erent story. Research indicates that physical attractiveness has a profound infl uence on our impression of others and our interactions with them (Berscheid and Reis 1998; Baron and Byrne 2006).
In general, people tend to believe that what is beautiful is good (Duff y and Atwater 2008). Th is stereotype seems to start early in life. When preschool children were asked to pick whom they liked best and who they thought was the best behaved in their class, they selected both categories of their class- mates with the same group of children adults judged to be the most attractive physically (Berscheid and Reis 1998).