{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

2.2.LovagliaChapter2

2.2.LovagliaChapter2 - Chapter 2 Knowing Yourself and Other...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–8. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Chapter 2. Knowing Yourself and Other People Too Social situations get extremely complicated. Maintaining our social relations is probably the most difficult thing we do. People are not easy to get along with and they are all different. Figuring out how to behave in different situations with different people takes all the mental ability we have. The skill needed for social competence is easy to describe but difficult to put into practice W_ cial situations, see situafioflsfifrm anotheLperson’ s point of 12/91er own. Our failure to consider the point of view of other people creates many problems, from minor arguments between two drivers caught in traffic to war between countries. For example, what seems to Israelis to be the reasonable attempt to secure a tiny bit of land to call home, seems to Palestinians to be wanton aggression. Neither side is capable of considering the other’s point of view. The result is recurring conflict. In everyday situations, seeing another person’s point of View can help us to make accurate judgments. . Seeing situations from another person’s point of view is not easy, even for a person who knows it is a good idea. Social situations develop quickly, suddenly. Emotional reactions can make it difficult to think clearly. For example, I get fi'ightened and angry when another driver suddenly pulls out in front of me in traffic, making me brake hard to avoid a crash. From my point of view the other driver is a malicious lout with no regard for my safety. Blasting my horn and yelling insults would seem an appropriate response on my part, given the obviously intentional nature of the offense. Alter all, I need to let peeple know that they should not push me around. Reacting with anger, attempting to warn or punish, is a common and even reasonable response when a person’s wellbeing is threatened. That is the situation fi'om my point of View. How does the other driver see it? Without knowing the other driver, I can get some idea of his point of view by imagining what I would feel in his place. There is good evidence for how I would feel because sometimes in traffic people blast their horn or gesture angrily at me. Usually this happens after I have innocently pulled into the flow of traffic. I may have realized that the driver I cut off would have to brake to let me in. A reasonable person would not mind, Would they? Or, I may not have noticed the other car at all, an innocent mistake. It happens to everyone, and so the other driver’s angry behavior seems not only rude but also puzzling. The same social situation appears totally different to me depending on my position in it. When another driver cuts me off in traffic, a serious offense has occurred. My angry response is justified. Alternatively, when I pull into traffic, cutting off another driver, no offense has occurred. The angry driver behind me appears irrationally antisocial. My response to the situation in both positions has a common element. In 15 deciding how to respond, I have failed to consider the point of view of the other driver. The failure to see a situation from another person’s point of view as well as our own has serious consequences. Much human conflict is a direct result. For example, fist fights, collisions and sometimes homicide result from minor traffic disputes. Such negative social consequences would not occur if drivers considered each other’s point of view. On one of my good days, I see the situation from the other driver’s point of view as well as my own. When my social awareness is high, my response to a driver who cuts me off is quite different. Even though I may be startled, before I get angry, I will understand how I would feel in his place. I might shake my head at his inattentive driving but there seems no need to retaliate. And if I have out someone off and they are angry at me, I would realize why. Instead of reacting to their anger with anger of my own, I might try to apologize by smiling sheepishly and mouthing, “I’m sorry.” Seeing social situations from another’s point of view drastically reduces the chances of negative outcomes. It not only increases human understanding but encourages forgiveness. During the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln’s wife commented negatively about the southern enemy, Lincoln said, “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances” (Carnegie 1932). Social awareness makes possible extremely complicated networks of social relations. Human beings, when they are being most human, can see social situations from several different points of view simultaneously. Seeing situations fiom various points of view is the key to success in society. 0 The Self and Social Awareness How does social awareness, that most human of abilities, come about, that mental juggling act? How do we become aware of the various points of view held by those around us? The explanation comes from a branch of social psychology called symbolic interactionism. Symbolic interactionism is a way of looking at society, a perspective. From the symbolic interactionist perspective, people are social actors who create society by using symbols to communicate. Language is the main symbol system we use, but people also use gestures and other symbols. As we saw in Chapter 1, just about anything that a person does can be used by others to gain insight into the kind of person she is. When people exchange symbols, they converse. For example, a new employee, Hanna, arrives at work and meets her new office mate, Toby. Toby says, “Hello, I’m Toby. Welcome to the company.” The words are symbols that Toby has sent to Hanna. Hanna responds, “I’m Hanna. This is my first day.” Hanna has interpreted the symbols sent by Toby and responded with symbols of her own. Toby then reaches out to shake hands, symbolically offering a non-hostile relationship (an Open hand without a weapon). When Hanna responds by extending her own hand, the relationship has begun on a cooperative basis. The two coworkers have coordinated their behavior to accomplish their first collaborative taslg shaking hands. Toby says, “Here is your desk. Let me show you where to put your coat. What did you do before joining us?” Hanna answers and the ongoing conversation between the two workers leads to a shared definition of the W situation, a working relationship. Through symbolic interaction, people come to agree, more or less, on a picture of the social world. Symbolic interactionists are fond of saying that reality is socially constructed. Symbols have a peculiarly human property. They are capable of several meanings at once. When we use symbols, we must interpret the appmpn'ate meaning given the context of the situation. Language, rather than making symbols less ambiguous, increases the need for interpretation. For example, consider the question, ccHow are you?” When two acquaintances meet it is common for one to ask, “How are you,” and the other to answer, “Fine.” As long as both interpret the context of the question as a part of a greeting ritual, social interaction proceeds smoothly. The person who asked the question does not expect to hear a lengthy, or even accurate, description of the other person’s health problems. In another context, the same question requires a quite different answer. For example, if we see a person who looks ill or behaves oddly, we might ask, “How are you?” hoping to find out if the person needs help. We want as much information as possible about the person’s mental and physical state. How the person being asked interprets the question determines the answer. That interpretation depends on how the person sees the situation and himself. When I’m feeling good and a person asks me how I am, I interpret it as a friendly greeting. However, when things are not going so well, I can come to more troubling conclusions. Why did she ask me that? Do I look ill? Was I behaving inappropriately? What was meant as a friendly greeting, I might interpret as a wanting. Further, I may start feeling worse having concluded that the other person found something wrong with me. Because symbols are ambiguous, when we use them we do not just describe reality. We also help create it. The Interpretation of Symbols Our socially created reality can appear quite different depending on our position in it. For example, the same situations often look different to women than they do to men. That is, women often interpret symbols differently than men do. One reason for the gender difference is that the everyday social world is more dangerous for women. For example, few men need to spend any time worrying about becoming the victim of a sexual assault. Women do not have that luxury. We are more observant when we feel threatened. At the same time, the awareness of danger alters a person’s view of the world. The different interpretations of reality made by men and women were brought home to me while I was working my way through college selling furniture. I worked for a chain of Scandinavian firrniture stores. There were about 10 stores in the San Francisco Bay area at the time. Manufacturer’s representatives would come around to the stores to show us the new products that the main office had ordered for our stores. A manufacturer’s rep would demonstrate the product so we salespeople would know how to show it to our customers. One afternoon, a representative for a new line of mattresses came into my store. I was alone. There is relatively little foot traffic in furniture stores. During the week, less than 10 people might come in the store all day. If one of them bought a dining room set, then I would be happy. When the manufacturer’s rep came in, I was the only salesperson on duty and no customers were in the store. l7 We had just put the new mattresses on the display beds in the store that week. The manufacturer’s rep introduced himself and began showing me the features of his mattresses. He was like a lot of good salespeople. He was older than I was, perhaps in his mid-403. Manufacturer’s reps get paid more than retail salespeople, so they are often a little older. He smiled too much, looked the straight in the eye when he talked. He seemed sincere in a practiced way. Then, while he was showing me the mattress, a fitnny thing happened. He winked at me. He kept talking as if nothing had happened. Then a minute or so later, he winked again. I was confused. The social situation I was in had become difficult for me to interpret. A wink is a symbol. It has a socially constructed meaning. Like most symbols, a wink has different meanings in different contexts. A wink can be conspiratorial, signaling a shared secret. In a group of people when one person winks at another, it can mean, “You and I know what is really going on even if these others don’t.” When two people are alone and one of them winks, it can mean that something has been left unsaid. The person winking signals the other that he hopes what was left unsaid will nonetheless be understood. I could not figure out what unspoken message the manufacturer’s rep might be trying to send me. For one thing, a wink between two people who are alone often has a sexual connotation. Direct requests for sex are usually inappropriate. Rather than come out with a blunt proposition, a wink is one way for a person to signal interest in a sexual relationship. The manufacturer’s rep winked at me then continued with his presentation as if nothing had happened. He asked me to lie down on his mattress to see how comfortable it was. I was not comfortable at all. As he demonstrated the features of the different mattresses, he winked again and again. By about the fifth wink, I realized that the rep had a facial tie that caused him to wink. It did not look like an involuntary spasm, however. He wore his salesperson’s smile. He looked right at me and winked. After I realized that the manufacturer’s rep had a facial tic, the social situation changed. I no longer felt uncomfortable. The rep, sensing the change in my attitude toward him, relaxed as well. He finished his demonstration. I thanked him and he left to demonstrate his mattresses in the other stores in the chain. The demonstration had started normally enough. But the wink had caused me to reinterpret it. It forced me to consider other possible meanings that could create serious social problems. To overcome my confusion, the rep tried harder. He became friendlier, more sincere. He smiled more. But the rep’s response to my anxiety only made it worse. Then when I reaiized that the wink had no intended meaning, it no longer worried me. Our interaction returned to normal. The rep went on to give his demonstration in the other stores in the chain during the next week or so. A free phone line connected all the stores in the chain so that salespeople could locate furniture for their customers in other stores. To pass the time, we salespeople spent a lot of time on the phone and got to know each other. During the two weeks after the mattress demonstration, several salespeople told me about the manufacturer’s rep. All were women and they were irate. Some were even a little scared. They thought the rep was a disgusting macho jerk. They thought he was leering at them. They called him sneaky and slimy for not making an honest if inappropriate proposition. They said things like, “Can you believe this guy? He’s showing me this mattress then winks at me and WW tells me to lie down on it.” None of the other male salespeople mentioned the manufacturer’s rep. When I asked if he had given them the mattress demonstration, they reported nothing unusual. Men had either not noticed the wink or ignored it. Reality was very different for the women who interacted with the manufacturer’s rep than it was for the other men or me. It is a useful lesson. However, the story about the manufacturer’s rep can make peeple uncomfortable. Remember that we started off Chapter I with the idea that social psychology bothers people. In the different reactions of women and men to the manufacturer’s rep, people see the stereotypes they deal with every day reflected back at them. According to gender stereotypes, women overreact and men are oblivious.3 Might that be all that was happening? Probably not. With the manufacturer’s rep, I felt uncomfortable and worried about being embarrassed, but no serious threat. Usually, men can afford to ignore the subtle meaning in others’ behavior without fear of being attacked. However, men are pretty good at reading cues that signal danger for them. For example, men can accurately detect anger in the faces of other men (Rotter and Rotter 1988). As a social psychology student, I may have been more aware of other people’s behavior than the other men were, but many women are better than I am at figuring out the meaning of subtle social behavior. Men and women experience different social realities. If you realize that another person’s reality, not just her or his opinion, is different fi'om yours, then you can find out what that person’s reality is. If you can visualize another person’s reality and yours as well, then you are capable of acting in a way that will benefit both of you. What’s in a Name? The power of symbols to create reality can be seen clearly in the importance we attach to names. Have you noticed how often a person’s profession is related to his or her name? It seems too common to be coincidence. My dentist, for example, was Dr. Ivery. However, the effect of names can be less amusing. A recent newspaper account told of the conviction of Jesse James Smith for murder. All too often people live up to their names. It would be interesting to ask Jesse’s mother what she had in mind when she named him. Did she think that he would grow up to be like the famous murderer and old west outlaw? Human beings are social animals. We live in groups and conform to the expectations that members of our group have for us. People usually do about what is expected of them, good or bad. Group expectations are reflected in names given to people. The ower of names i a exam le of a more eneral recess that social "Or c ass of people. or example, a teenager in your neighborhood could be classified as a basically good kid or as a delinquent. Labeling theory proposes that an individual’s behavior will come to conform to the label that he has been given (Becker 1963). It is easy to see how the process works. Suppose you learned that the teenager who does odd jobs for you was arrested for raping a young girl. Your behavior toward the teenager would probably change, wouldn’t it? While you might not be overtly hostile, you might 3 Chapter 5 explains why women‘s opinions are given less weight than are men’s in many work situations. It also provides techniques that help maximize your impact at work l9 at least avoid him and hire someone else to help you. If other people around him treated him the same way, then he might have trouble making money and turn to theft. If he felt that you had treated him shabbily, then he might retaliate. Whether or not he had committed the rape, the label that neighbors applied to him made his future antisocial behavior more likely. The self-firlfillin b w 'ch a label encoura es deviant seco behavior has been called :32 deviance (Lemert 1951). Lemert (1962) described the self-fulfilling process through which a paranoid personality creates the conditions that lead to paranoia. Full-blown paranoia is evident when a person has the delusion that others are conspiring against him. It is more common in men than women. Typical paranoid behavior includes threats and frequent litigation. We assume that the paranoid person has no rational basis for believing in a conspiracy. However, Lemert (1962) discovered a paranoid process that frequently begins with an actual social defeat. For example, a person susceptible to paranoia might be passed up for a promotion at work. Hostility, envy and stubbornness characterize the paranoid personality. Lemert (1962) observed that coworkers described a person with paranoid personality as irritating, hypercritical and thoroughly unlikable. As a result, they labeled him as difficult to work with and disloyal. This led them to consistently exclude the paranoid person From normal activities. For example, they conducted whispered conversations around the water cooler that suddenly stopped when he approached. Coworkers attempted to avoid him by coordinating work in informal meetings to which he had not been invited. When he confronted them on this, they denied it. Thus, the paranoid person saw very real evidence of a conspiracy against him. Yet, the attempts he made to be included at work, threatening to sue for example, were seen as further reason to exclude him. You can use a similar self—fiilfilling process to your benefit. In a classic self- improvement book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests that we “give a person a fine reputation to live up to.” Research in social psychology demonstrates the power of this technique. Carefiul labeling can more effectively change a person’s behavior than attempts at persuasion. For example, we want our children to be a little tidier than they usually are. Miller, Brickman and Bolen (1975) tried different ways to teach fifih graders not to litter and to help clean up. They attempted to persuade some students with proven techniques such as repetition, explaining the benefits, and active role-playing. They made no attempt to persuade another group of students. Instead students were labeled as responsible and neat. For example, the teacher complimented students on being “ecology minded” and not dropping candy Wrappers in the auditorium. Later, the teacher told students that a janitor mentioned that their classroom was one of the cleanest in the building. The principal sent a letter to the class complimenting them on their neatness. Results of the study showed that labeling had a bigger effect on filth— grader’s behavior than did persuasion. Th...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}