The Power of Silence in Communcation

Function
Silence

Observation
The Power of Silence in Communication reading piqued my interest this week, as this is a common function of communication, though it’s, in a way, a lack of communcation. While reading, I instinctively thought of the way President Barack Obama gave speeches during his terms. I decided to go back and watch his farwell address so that I could see how intentional or unintentional his silences actually were.

I noticed that he did use silence very intentionally to complement his message. Particulary, around the 7 minute mark he starts discussing our country’s history in democracy and the road to it. He says, “For every two steps forward, it often seems we take one step back, but the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.” Upon concluding this statement, he takes a long pause. This intentional silence gives the crowd time to process his statement and appreciate the message. I thought this to be a very tactical and effective way to use silence in communication.

My Thoughts
Through the silence, President Obama engages the audience, more so than if he’d continued quickly onto his next point without pausing for effect. The silence in the specific example above really adds to his message, increasing the effectiveness of it. Without silence in this instance, the importance of his message might have gone unnoticed.  Particularly with speeches, effective use of silence is imperitave to the speakers effectiveness, but I think this also applies to our every day conversations, where silence can serve as a vital supplement to our messages.

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Mini Observation #1 – Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT)

Function
Communication Accomodation Theory

Observation
We often spend time with my husand’s older brother, Heath, and his family. Heath is about eight years older than my husband, Andrew, and as such Andrew looks up to, and admires him. This weekend, I noticed Andrew converging upward toward Heath to accommodate to his personality. Specifically, I noticed that when I spoke with Heath and Andrew together, Andrew spoke louder than usual, not yelling, but speaking at a louder volume to make his presence known. His tone also changed, from passive, easygoing tone, to a more demanding, sort of, “I’m the boss” tone. The initial observation began during a debate about a topic between me and my sister-in-law, and Heath and Andrew. We were arguing one point while Heath and Andrew, were arguing the other. Andrew immediately stepped in and argued the same point that Heath was making in a very boisterous and confident tone, in a way that made him come across as though he knew what he was talking about and we did not. The convergence seemed most pronounced when we were all talking in the same room together, and less obvious when it was just the two of them talking, leading me to the conclusion that this was a partial convergence. Another interesting observation I made was that as soon as we left Heath’s house, Andrew’s demeanor changed, from strong and demanding, to laid back and thoughtful.

My Thoughts
I didn’t observe any downward convergence or accommodation on Heath’s part and, because they tend to spend a lot of time together when we are all together, it’s hard to tell if Heath is affected by the convergence or if it affects his and Andrew’s relationship; perhaps they spend so much time together because Andrew is converging and, in that case, it would be improving their relationship.