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1.7: Ethical Communication

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    Defining Communication Ethics

    Communication has ethical implications. Ethics in the broadest sense asks questions about what we believe to be right and wrong. Communication ethics asks these questions when reflecting on our communication. Everyday we have to make communicative choices, and some of these choices will be more or less ethical than other options. It is because we have these different options that our ethics are tested. We can never really say that something is completely ethical or unethical, especially when it comes to communication. “Murdering someone is generally thought of as unethical and illegal, but many instances of hurtful speech, or even what some would consider hate speech, have been protected as free speech. This shows the complicated relationship between protected speech, ethical speech, and the law” (Communication in the Real World, 2013).

    When we make communication choices, the question of whether they are ethical or not depends on a variety of situational, personal, and and/or contextual variables that can be difficult to navigate. Many professional organizations have created ethical codes to help guide this decision-making, and the field of Communication Studies is no different. In 1999, the National Communication Association officially adopted the Credo for Ethical Communication. The NCA Credo for Ethical Communication is a set of beliefs that Communication scholars have about the ethics of human communication (NCA Legislative Council, November 1999).

    We should always strive for ethical communication, but it is particularly important in interpersonal interactions. We will talk more about climate, trust and honesty, and specific relationships in the coming chapters, but at the most basic level you should strive to make ethical choices in your communication. Communication is impactful. Our communication choices have lasting impacts on those with whom we engage. While ethics is a focus on what is right and wrong, it is not easy to navigate. What is right in one circumstance may not be in another. To help us make our way through difficult ethical choices we must be competent.

    Communication Competence

    Communication competence focuses on communicating effectively and appropriately in various contexts (Kiessling & Fabry, 2021). In order to be competent you must have knowledge, motivation, and skills. You have been communicating for most of your life, so you have observational knowledge about how communication works. You are also now a college student actively studying communication so your knowledge will continue to increase. As you learn more about communication, continue to observe these concepts around you and you will expand the information you have to draw on in any given context. In addition to having basic information you must also be motivated to better your own communication and you need to develop the skills necessary to do so. One way to improve your communication competence is to become a more mindful communicator. “A mindful communicator actively and fluidly processes information, is sensitive to communication contexts and multiple perspectives, and is able to adapt to novel communication situations” (Communication in the Real World), 2013. Your path to improving your interpersonal communication competence is just beginning. You will learn more about specific aspects of mindfulness, such as listening, conflict management, deception, etc., in the coming chapters. For now we hope you are motivated to improve your knowledge and grow your skills.

    This page titled 1.7: Ethical Communication is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Multiple Authors (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.