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Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Self-Concept and Perception of Others Essay

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“Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” These words came from Epictetus, a famous Greek Stoic philosopher in the first century B.C. It was not uncommon for Greeks during that time to concern themselves with finding answers as to who they are. This concept of knowing oneself is aptly summed up in an ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself.”

But how can one really know himself? Is there really an accurate perception of oneself? How may the perception of others affect our own perception of ourselves?

Many psychologists say that our self-perception has an effect on how others perceive us. But others say that there is a gap between how we view ourselves and how others judge us.

Adnan and Adnan (2002) in their book Social Personality and Behavior mentioned three factors that may affect one’s perception of self and how this perception may affect the perception of others. These are: self-monitor, self-esteem, and self-evaluation of own personalities. These three factors were found to have direct correlation with the positive effect on self-perception and on the impression of others. Carlin Flora (2005) mentioned in her article Metaperceptions: How do you view yourself? Professor William Swan’s research which concludes that people with negative concepts about themselves tend to make others evaluate them negatively.

However, studies show that there is a gap between how we judge ourselves and how others see us on certain aspects of our life. A study done on the gap between self-perception and the impression of others concluded that “individuals see their personality traits in a more favorable way than others see them in terms of anxiety and introversion.” (Adnan & Adnan, 2002, p. 150).

To examine the relationship of my self-perception and the impression of others about me, I did self-evaluation on my interpersonal skills and communication style using two questionnaires for each. Afterwards, I asked my spouse and two acquaintances to answer the same questionnaires. For the interpersonal skills evaluation, I used R.B. Hill’s (1992) self-administered questionnaire (See Appendix A) and I used the informal survey format of Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O’Connor (1996) for the communication style evaluation (See Appendix B).

For the interpersonal skills evaluation, my spouse’s evaluation of me did not differ much from my own evaluation of myself. But in evaluating my communication style, there is a gap between our perceptions. On the other hand, I found that my acquaintances’ evaluation of both my interpersonal skills and communication style was not so different from my self-evaluation.

Using the communication style inventory of Alessandra and O’Connor (1996), I rated myself as being “open to getting to know people personally and establishing relationships with them” while my spouse said otherwise. My acquaintances’ evaluation of me on this aspect is the same with my self-evaluation. At first glance, I can understand why my spouse evaluated me as such. He may have in mind my behavior particularly when I am with his family (issues with in-laws!). In making decisions, my husband described me as being guided by emotions and feelings whereas my acquaintances described me as being guided by facts or evidence. I see my ideal as an objective decision-maker so I rated myself as such which was reflected in my acquaintances’ impression of me on this aspect. My self-concept did not influence my spouse’s impression of me because I may have acted unguarded with regards to succumbing to my emotions on many occasions when I was with my spouse.

From this and other similar evaluations, I have concluded that the impression of others about my communication style and interpersonal skills depend on how my self-perception influence their impression of me. This “influence” is explained in the self-presentational theory which “stipulates that people express their ideas and judgments about self in ways designed to create a favorable impression that aims to avoid looking foolish or inconsistent in front of others” (Adnan & Adnan, 2002, p. 150). Susan Losh (2001) in her lecture on Social Psychology said that “most of us try to influence the impressions others hold of us by using self-presentation and impression management tactics.” This influence, however, may be diminished as the relationship gets more intimate. Here enters the social interaction dimension.

The Johari window effectively describes human interaction. In the model, there are four quadrants: 1) the public area; 2) the hidden area; 3) the unknown area; and 4) the private area.

The public area contains things that are openly known to ourselves and the others. The hidden area contains things that the others know but we do not. The unknown area contains things that we, as well as the others, do not know. The private area contains things that we know but we hide from the others. (Chimaera, 1999, p. 1)

Our self-perception may greatly influence the perception of “others” in the first quadrant since they are limited to things that we let them know about us. We can thus have greater control over their impression of us. These people may include people we meet in the park, our clients, our university professors, and the like.

The “others” who fall in the second quadrant are those that may not be easily influenced by our self-perception. Since they are aware of our behaviours that may not be known to us, there may be a gap between their impression of us and our self-perception. The most typical persons that would fall in this category are members of our immediate family such as our parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

My spouse’s evaluation of me is based on a greater knowledge of my behavior and personality. There are things about me that I may not let my friends or colleagues know to preserve a certain ideal and to reinforce the favorable impression they have about me. This may be because of certain agenda such as keeping a job. However, my relationship with my spouse is different. I may have certain ideals of a good mate but because of physical and emotional proximity, I may unconsciously exhibit traits with my husband which I would be keen enough to control when I am around other people.

I have learned some basic truths from this informal survey. First, I was able to understand that there is a strong relationship between what I would like to be and its effect on the impression of others about me. This can explained by the self-presentation theory. Second, I learned that the influence of my self-concept to the impression of others diminishes as the relationship gets more intimate. This can be explained by the human interaction model, the Johari Window. “Others” who fall within the “hidden area” quadrant are those that are likely less influenced by our self-concept.

It is thus important to get occasional feedback from other people with regards to our interpersonal skills and communication style to be able to have a more thorough understanding of our “self.” It is also worth noting that the degree of our self-perception depends greatly on our willingness to accept evaluation from others especially by people who are more aware of our personality, traits, and behaviour.

Understanding who we are is as complex as understanding processes in human interaction. This is why there have been conflicting theories proposed by social scientists and psychologists regarding understanding the “self”. However, I believe that we do not need to be able to explain everything that is involved in this process of getting to know the “self.” What is more important is to be aware of traits within ourselves that will strengthen and positively affect our relationship with others.

Appendix A

(Taken from R.B. Hill’s Interpersonal Skills Questionnaire, 1995, http://www.coe.uga.edu/workethic/isq.htm)

For each statement listed below, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the items. A rating of 10 would indicate that the statement is always true and a rating of 1 would indicate that it is never true.

  1. I always say please and thank you when I ask someone for something.
  2. The clothes I wear would never offend another person.
  3. If something bad happens to someone I don’t like, I tell my friends and laugh about it when that person is not around.
  4. I never curse or use offensive language in public places.
  5. My hair is clean and well groomed.
  6. People who know me would describe me as cheerful and friendly.
  7. I always have good posture.
  8. When I talk with someone, I look them in the eyes.
  9. I keep my fingernails clean and nicely trimmed.
  10. I usually become angry and lose my temper when things don’t go the way I want them to.
  11. When other people do something different from the way I would do it, I avoid being critical of them.
  12. I don’t bite my fingernails.
  13. When I sneeze or cough, I always cover my mouth.
  14. My table manners are very good.
  15. If someone gives me a gift or does me a favor, I send them a thank you note.

Appendix B

(Taken from Tony Alessandra and Michael J. O’Connor’s The Platinum Role, 1996, http://occonline.occ.cccd.edu/online/klee/CommunicationsStyleInventory.pdf. p. 1)

Communications style inventory

This is an informal survey, designed to determine how you usually act in everyday

related situations. The idea is to get a clear description of how you see yourself.

On the answer sheet, circle A or B in each pair of statements below, which shows

the one that MOST, describes you.

1. A) I’m usually open to getting to know people personally and establishing

relationships with them.

B) I’m not usually open to getting to know people personally and establishing

relationships with them.

2. A) I usually react slowly and deliberately.

B) I usually react quickly and spontaneously.

3. A) I’m usually guarded about other people’s use of my time.

B) I’m usually open to other people’s use of my time.

4. A) I usually introduce myself at social gatherings.

B) I usually wait for others to introduce themselves to me at social

gatherings.

5. A) I usually focus my conversations on the interests of the people involved,

even if that means straying from the business or subject at hand.

B) I usually focus my conversations on the tasks, issues, business, or subject

at hand.

6. A) I’m usually not assertive, and I can be patient with a slow pace.

B) I’m usually assertive, and at times I can be impatient with a slow pace.

7. A) I usually make decisions based on facts or evidence.

B) I usually make decisions based on feelings , experiences or relationships.

8. A) I usually contribute frequently to group conversations.

B) I usually contribute infrequently to group conversations.

9. A) I usually prefer to work with and through others, providing support when

possible.

B) I usually prefer to work independently or dictate the conditions in terms

of how others are involved.

10. A) I usually ask questions or speak tentatively and indirectly.

B) I usually make empathic statements or directly expressed opinions.

11. A) I usually focus primarily on ideas, concepts, or results.

B) I usually focus primarily on persons, interactions, and feelings.

12. A) I usually use gestures, facial expression, and voice intonations to

emphasize points.

B) I usually do not use gestures, facial expressions, and voice intonations to

emphasize points

13. A) I usually accept others’ points of view (ideas, feelings, and concerns).

B) I usually don’t accept others’ points of view (ideas, feelings, and

concerns)

14. A) I usually respond to risk and change in a cautious or predictable manner.

B) I usually respond to risk and change in dynamic or unpredictable manner.

15. A) I usually prefer to keep personal feelings and thoughts private, sharing

only when I wish to do to.

B) I usually find it natural and easy to share and discuss my feelings with

others.

16. A) I usually seek out new or different experiences and situations.

B) I usually choose known or similar situations and relationships.

17. A) I’m usually responsive to others’ agendas, interests, and concerns.

B) I’m usually directed toward my own agendas, interests and concerns.

18. A) I usually respond to conflict slowly and indirectly.

B) I usually respond to conflict quickly and directly.

Works Cited

Adnan, F and Adnan, A. 2002. Social Behavior and Personality. Irbid, Jordan: Yarmouk University. pp. 149-156.

Alessandra, T. and O’Connor MJ. 1996. Communication Style Inventory. The Platinum Role. New York: Warner Books.

Doyle, T. 2005. Self-presentation. . Web.

Duen, HY. 1999. Johari Window. .

Falikowski, A. 2002. Mastering Human Relations. 3rd Edition.

Ferguson, TJ. 2004. The Social Self. Chapter 3. , Utah State University. Web.

Flora, C. 2005. Metaperceptions: How do you view yourself?. Psychology Today.

Hill, RB. 1995. Interpersonal Skills Questionnaire. The University of Georgia; Athens, GA. Web.

Johari Window. 1999. Web.

Losh, SC. 2001. Theories of Social Psychology. Lecture Notes. Florida State University.

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