Posts Tagged ‘strange feeling’

How certain are you of your certainty

December 21, 2008

Uncertainty Reduction Theory

Obama- McCane campaign made a few things very clear. We are living in times of change. In reality, they are telling us, times are uncertain and we must adapt. But they have not defined what is change or as some of us may call it, moments of uncertainty is. Nor have they defined to us, what constitutes a time period of uncertainty. Yes, we do agree, uncertain times could mean socio-economic challengers; it could be a time to reflect upon political concerns. However, if one could understand the principles that govern uncertainty, then moments of certainty become more certain. Fear is converted to hope and challenge is viewed to create a better outcome. Thus, for everything, we must turn to the best within a given field to gain mastery of its concepts.

Psychologist and communication specialist have outlined the theory called the theory of Uncertainty Reduction. To better understand Uncertainty Reduction Theory, we must first understand the definition of certainty as well as uncertainty.

Certainty is defined as having superior knowledge regarding a given entity or situation. A limited range of ambiguity exists. Such a moment could be related to work, meeting of a stranger, suffering form an illness, etc. Each situation however calls for certainty in that the person has prior knowledge which reduces their level uncertainty. In effect, they become more certain as to a possible outcome. This in turn makes communication somewhat of an ease. Certainty has thus also been linked greatly to the internal positive personal state of a person. It is the internal self that sometimes dictates how we really feel about a given situation.

By contrast, uncertainty in a person produces an unpleasant sensation within the internal state of an individual. As humans we seek balance of our internal states. When this imbalanced is perceived, a sense of arousal takes place. Thus, we would notice, upon the initial phase of an interaction with people of unfamiliarity, we try our best to create equilibrium; we seek out clarity on simple issues as to the gender, nationality of an accented person, etc. Be it in the form of directly asking or by mere observation. If things don’t seem right, arousal is created within us. For example, sometimes people due to excessive uncertainty regarding a situation that they can hardly walk through the door of a company for an interview, or cannot gain the courage to present themselves adequate, fearing an adverse outcome. Such negative uncertainty feeds of itself. By contrast, positive uncertainty helps prepare a person to eliminate awkwardness, thus functioning as a positive.

Persons seeking to reduce uncertainty seek cues that indicate socio-economic status and other pertinent demographic data surrounding their environment. This is significant for persons seeking to be interacting only with a certain class or type of people. (Sounds bad, but this is not always a bad thing!)We also seek other necessary data. The method of attaining such valuable data, Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) postulates that it occurs through communication. It is through (effective) communication that we reduce feelings of uneasiness. To explain URT, social scientists have examined factors such as verbal and nonverbal, intimacy, information seeking strategies, reciprocity, similarity, and liking. (Berger & Calabrese, 1975)

Berger and Calabrese (1975) tell us that people by nature utilize:

1) Passive strategies such as mere observation to see what the other person is all about. Do I like what I see, must I go beyond? Is this the place I really want to work at? Does this represent who I am? Such questions and mind exploration takes place.

2) Active strategies compromise of a person asking pertinent questions regarding a target or they may actively create a situation that would aid in getting a given response. Questions such as: do you all get along in this company? Who do we go to when matters are unresolved? If family day is important to them, then they would ask if there is a family day at the company. Is person x angry all the time, or just on Mondays? etc.

3) Finally within this phase, a person who directly interacts with persons with the people they are interested to eliminate or reduce uncertainty to the greatest extent possible. Here they ask questions directly to the target, is it true that you fire people for that come late beyond three times within the first week? Do you not like scary movies? I have noticed that you have a preference for digital cameras, is my assumption correct? Etc.

You would notice, our discussion thus far surrounds helping people getting to know the definition of URT and how it functions. The strategies people utilize to gain into their comfort zone. The strategies you may have utilized or strategies that may have been used against you without even knowing.

We would like you to share your experience with us. As to how you feel the above theory has helped or hindered your social interaction.

Also send us your comments as to topics you would like for us to discuss.

* This is a social blog to help everyday people understand themselves in their everyday situation so they can become more effective in their interactions. Share your examples with us on how you overcame a given situation. Help people learn from your learning.

Sincere communication certainly always works