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1.1: Why Study Communication?

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    Learning Outcomes
    1. Understand communication needs.
    2. Discuss physical needs.
    3. Explain identity needs.
    4. Describe social needs.
    5. Elucidate practical needs.

    Most people think they are great communicators. However, very few people are “naturally” good. Communication takes time, skill, and practice. To be a great communicator, you must also be a great listener. It requires some proficiency and competence. Think about someone you know that is not a good communicator. Why is that person not good? Do they say things that are inappropriate, rude, or hostile? This text is designed to give you the skills to be a better communicator.

    Reasons to Study Communication

    We need to study communication for a variety of reasons. First, it gives us a new perspective on something we take for granted every day. As stated earlier, most people think they are excellent communicators. However, most people never ask another person if they are great communicators. Besides being in a public speaking class or listening to your friends’ opinions, you probably do not get a lot of feedback on the quality of your communication. In this book, we will learn all about communication from different perspectives. As the saying goes, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, you won’t be able to see the impact of your communication behaviors, if you don’t focus on certain communication aspects. The second reason we study communication is based on the quantity of our time that is devoted to that activity. Think about your daily routine; I am sure that it involves communicating with others (via face-to-face, texting, electronic media, etc.). Because we spend so much of our time communicating with others, we should make that time worthwhile. We need to learn how to communicate and communicate better because a large amount of our time is allotted to communicating with others. The last reason why we study communication is to increase our effectiveness. Marriages and relationships often fail for several reasons. The most popular reason is that people don’t know how to communicate with each other, which leads to irreconcilable differences. People often do not know how to work through problems, and it creates anger, hostility, and possibly violence. In these cases, communication needs to be effective for the relationship to work and be satisfying. Think about all the relationships that you have with friends, family, coworkers, and significant others. This course could possibly make you more successful in those relationships.

    We all have specific and general reasons why we communicate with others. They vary from person to person. We know that we spend a large amount of our time communicating. Also, every individual will communicate with other people. Most people do not realize the value and importance of communication. Sherry Morreale and Judy Pearson believe that there are three main reasons why we need to study communication.3 First of all, when you study communication behaviors, it gives you a new perspective on something you probably take for granted. Some people never realize the important physiological functions until they take a class on anatomy or biology. In the same fashion, some people never understand how to communicate and why they communicate until they take a communication studies course. Second, we need to study communication because we spend a large portion of our time communicating with other people. Gina Chen found that many people communicate online every day, and Twitter subscribers fulfill their needs of camaraderie by tweeting with others.4 Hence, we all need to communicate with others. Third, the most important reason is to become a better communicator. Research has shown that we need to learn to communicate better with others because none of us are very good at it.

    Communication Needs

    Think for a minute of all the problematic communication behaviors that you have experienced in your life: personally or professionally. You will probably notice that there are areas that could use improvement. In this book, we will learn about better ways to communicate. To improve your communication behaviors, you must first understand the needs for communicating with others.


    Studies show that there is a link between mental health and physical health. In other words, people who encounter negative experiences, but are also willing to communicate those experiences are more likely to have better mental and physical health.5 Ronald Adler, Lawrence Rosenfeld, and Russell Proctor found that communication has been beneficial to avoiding or decreasing:6

    • Stress
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Cancer
    • Coronary problems
    • Common Cold

    Research clearly illustrates that communication is vital for our physical health. Because many health problems are stress-induced, communication offers a way to relieve this tension and alleviate some of the physical symptoms. It is vital for people to share what they feel, because if they keep it bottled up, then they are more likely to suffer emotionally, mentally, and physically.


    Communication is not only essential for us to thrive and live. It is also important to discover who we are. From a very young age, you were probably told a variety of characteristics about your physical appearance and your personality. You might have been told that you are funny, smart, pretty, friendly, talented, or insightful. All of these comments probably came from someone else. For instance, Sally went to a store without any makeup and saw one of her close friends. Sally’s friend to her that she looked horrible without any makeup. So, from that day forward, she never walked out of the house without her cosmetics. You can see that this one comment affected Sally’s behavior but also her perceptions about herself. Just one comment can influence how you think, act, and feel. Think about all the comments that you have been told in your life. Were they hurtful comments or helpful comments? Did they make you stronger or weaker? You are who you are based on what others have told you about yourself and how you responded to these comments. In another opposite example, Mark’s parents told him that he wasn’t very smart and that he would probably amount to nothing. Mark used these comments to make himself better. He studied harder and worked harder because he believed that he was more than his parents’ comments. In this situation, you can see that the comments helped shaped his identity differently in a positive manner.


    Other than using words to identify who we are, we use communication to establish relationships. Relationships exist because of communication. Each time we talk to others, we are sharing a part of ourselves with others. We know people have strong relationships with others due to the conversations that they have with others. Think about all the relationships that you are involved with and how communication differs in those relationships. If you stopped talking to the people you care about, your relationships might suffer. The only way relationships can grow is when communication occurs between individuals. Joy Koesten analyzed family communication patterns and communication competence. She found that people who grew up in more conversation oriented families were also more likely to have better relationships than people who grew up in lower conversation-oriented families.7


    Communication is a key ingredient in our life. We need it to operate and do our daily tasks. Communication is the means to tell the barista what coffee you prefer, inform your physician about what hurts, and advise others that you might need help.

    We know that communication helps in the business setting. Katherine Kinnick and Sabrena Parton maintained that communication is important in workplace settings. They found that the ability to persuade effectively was very important. Moreover, females are evaluated more on their interpersonal skills than males, and males were evaluated more on their leadership skills than interpersonal skills.8 Overall, we know that to do well in the business setting, one must learn to be a competent communicator.

    Moreover, we know that communication is not only crucial in professional settings but in personal settings. Daniel Canary, Laura Stafford, and Beth Semic found that communication behaviors are essential in marriages because communication is essential for marriage longevity and success.9 In another study, Laura Stafford and Daniel Canary illustrated the importance of communication in dating relationships.10 All in all, communication is needed for people to relate to others, build connections, and help our relationships exist.

    Key Takeaways
    • We need communication. We need to be able to study communication because we spend so much time doing it, we could learn to be more effective at it, and it is something we have done for a long time.
    • Research has shown us that communication can help us with physical needs. When we are hungry or thirsty, we can tell someone this, but also it helps to release stress.
    • To maintain, create, or terminate relationships, we need communication. Communication helps fulfill our social needs to connect with others.
    • To function, we need communication for practical needs.
    • Think of an example for each communication need. Which need is most important for you? Why?
    • Why do you think it is important to study communication? Is this class required for you? Do you think it should be a requirement for everyone?
    • Think about how your identity has been shaped by others. What is something that was said to you that impacted how you felt? How do you feel now about the comment?

    This page titled 1.1: Why Study Communication? is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jason S. Wrench, Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter & Katherine S. Thweatt (OpenSUNY) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.