Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

You haven’t learned life’s lesson very well if you haven’t noticed that you can give the tone or color, or decide the reaction you want of people in advance. It’s unbelievably simple. If you want them to take an interest in you, take an interest in them fi rst…….People will treat you as you treat them.

Winston Churchill

Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

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2 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

It is obvious that personal relationships and friendships are important to us. We need merely to refl ect for a moment on the source of our greatest pleasure and pain to appreciate that nothing else in our life has aroused the extremes of emotion more than the relationships that we have experienced with other human beings.

How would you answer the following question? What is it that makes your life meaningful? Take a few minutes and think about this question before you go on. . . . Research has shown us that most people answer this ques- tion by saying, “personal relationships.” Argyle (1987) confi rms this and notes that, by contrast, money, career, and religion are relatively less important for people than are their personal relationships.

Since relationships are so important in our lives, why do many of us fi nd it so diffi cult to get acquainted with other people? Psychologists have found that a person must gain an understanding of himself or herself before they can become acquainted with others. Let us discover some ways to fi nd the person within yourself.


Do You Know Yourself?

To become acquainted, to get to know another person, requires a shared giv- ing and taking regarding what we know about ourselves. We also need to know how we are reacting to the present situation and how we feel about something the other person has done or said.

Getting to know other people is important, but getting to know yourself is more important. It is not until you can understand yourself that you can understand others. It is not until you can learn to accept yourself for who you are, that you can accept others for being the person they are. How can I do this? I have heard these words so many times. It seems kind of crazy, because I have also heard, that in order to understand myself, I need feedback from others. If I do not get feedback from others, I do not know if I’m a good person or a jerk. Sidney Jourard (1976) states: “that a maladjusted person is a person who has not made himself or herself known to another human being and thus, does not know or understand themselves.” We need relationships

W hen one is a stranger to oneself, then one is estranged from others, too.


A ccept me as I am, only then will we discover each other. FREDERICO FELLINI

Think about this Th ink for a minute about your greatest experiences in life. Undoubtedly, you were with another person.

What would we do without other people? What would you do without friends?

What would it be like? Where would you go? Would you have fun? Would you know what love is? Would life have any meaning? Have you ever had a close friend or close relative die? How did you feel when it happened? Have you ever experienced or had a close friend or relative experience a divorce? Did they feel lonely? Were

they depressed? What did they experience? How did you feel when your best friend or lover returned aft er being gone for a long period of time?

Overjoyed? Excited?

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 3

in order to discover who we are, but we need to understand ourselves fi rst in order for our relationships to grow from acquaintances to friendships, and ultimately to intimate relationships (this topic will be discussed in-depth in the chapter “Becoming Intimate”). In order to become a healthy and happy person, an individual needs to form close, caring, interpersonal relationships. How do we learn to do this?

Th ere are some basic questions concerning self-discovery and getting acquainted with others that you can ask yourself. How well do I know myself? Is it easy for other people to get to know me? How well do other people really know me? How much of myself do I reveal to those with whom I want to have a close, personal relationship? How much do I want them to know about me regarding my innermost thoughts, feelings, and actions? You also have to ask yourself, How interested am I in learning the innermost thoughts, feelings, and actions of those with whom I desire to have a close relationship? As you read on, you will discover the importance of revealing the “real you” to other people.


Do You Know Yourself?

THE REVEALING OF THE INNER-SELF IS CALLED SELF- DISCLOSURE. Th is means talking to another person about your innermost thoughts and feelings, your aspi- rations and dreams, your fears and doubts. It is talking about things of which you are ashamed and proud. Self- disclosure is a crucial part of relationship building.

WHY STUDY SELFDISCLOSURE? Th e evolution of a relationship, getting acquainted, becoming friends, and developing intimacy is based on how much you are willing to disclose about yourself and how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you. Th e more you know about another person and the more he or she knows about you, the more eff ective and effi cient the relationship will be. People who share their ideas, interests, experiences, expectations, and feelings with others will generally have more friends and develop long lasting relationships easier than those who do not (Delerga et al. 1993). A lack of self-disclosure will make people suspicious and uncomfortable around us. In turn, they will not talk about themselves, and fi nding those common interests on which to base a relationship will become diffi cult.

WHO DO YOU DISCLOSE TO? When college students were asked to identify the person they felt closest to, 47 percent named a romantic partner, 36 percent identifi ed a friend, 14 percent listed a family member, and 3 percent named another person, such as a co-worker or fellow student (Berscheid, Snyder, and Omoto 1989).

IS SELFDISCLOSURE IMPORTANT IN A RELATIONSHIP? Good self-disclosure skills are fundamental to relationships for many reasons. Th ese reasons include the following:

Defi ning Yourself. Disclosing personal information lets you be known to others. If you do not defi ne yourself, misunderstandings are more likely to

T he unexamined life is not worth living. SOCRATES

I f I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and

it’s all that I have.


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How do we learn to form close relationships?

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4 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

occur. Others may perceive you based on their own interpretation rather than on information you give them.

Knowing Yourself. As you disclose information about yourself, you can get deeper insight and understanding about the kind of person you are. You also give others the opportunity to give you feedback.

Getting Acquainted. Talking about yourself and letting other people talk about themselves gives each of you the opportunity to understand and know the other as an individual. Each is given the opportunity to under- stand and trust the other.

Developing Intimacy. As you begin to share and receive, a deeper feeling of trust and understanding will evolve and a mutual feeling of closeness will develop.

Sidney Jourard (1976) has investigated the process of self-disclosure in detail. In Th e Transparent Self, he writes:

You cannot collaborate with another person towards some common end unless you know him. How can you know him, and he you, unless you have engaged in enough mutual disclosure of self to be able to antici- pate how he will react and what part he will play? Self-disclosure, my communication of my private world to you, in language, which you clearly understand is truly an important bit of behavior for us to learn something about. You can know me truly only if I let you, only if I want you to know me. Your misunderstanding of me is only partly your fault. If I want you to know me, I shall fi nd means of communicating myself to you. If you want me to reveal myself, just demonstrate your goodwill—your will to employ your power for my good and not for my destruction.

Before we can engage in self-disclosure, there must be an atmosphere of goodwill and trust. An individual is not likely to engage in much self- disclosure if the situation involves too much personal threat, or even a threat to anyone with whom he or she is closely associated. Jourard feels that it some- times takes a form of self-disclosure to stimulate goodwill in other people. For example, a little self-disclosure establishes your goodwill which encourages the other person to some self-disclosure, thus establishing his or her goodwill, which reassures you about further self-disclosure, and so on.

I f I expose my nakedness as a person to you, do not

make me feel shamed.


O nly in the part of us that we share, can we understand each other.


Respect Diversity in Relationships

Researchers often study communication behaviors of various cultures and have noted that self-disclosure tends to be high in mainstream North American society. Actually, people from the United States are more disclosing than members of any cultures studied (Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey 1988). In fact, they are likely to dis-

close more about themselves to acquaintances and even strangers.

People from various cultures, including ones within the United States, have learned dif- ferent communication styles. What Westerners consider openness and healthy self-disclosure may feel offensively intrusive to people from some Asian societies. The dramatic, assertive speaking style of many African Americans can be misinterpreted as abrasive within a Western Caucasian perspective. The best way to understand what another’s behavior means is to ask. This conveys the relational message that they mat- ter to you, and it allows you to gain insight into the interesting diversity among us.






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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 5

Women Disclose More Than Men Women tend to have more friends and closer relationships than men. These friendships tend to provide them with more social support. Most research shows that women tend to be more openly self-disclosing than males, although the disparity seems smaller than originally believed. Because women tend to value “personal talk” more than men, they tend to share more personal information and feelings with their female friends (Kilmartin 2007).

Males tend to disclose more to strangers than females do, and are more willing to disclose casual things about themselves, such as their work, accomplishments, attitudes, and opinions. Males are also

less intimate and less personal than females. Males are expected not to disclose; it’s not “manly.” In peer/friendship relationships that emphasize competition and challenge, males often avoid revealing weaknesses, and at times associate self-disclosure with loss of control and vulnerability. Research shows that men often become closer by doing things together or doing things for each other, rather than just talking with each other (Wood 2004).

DO YOU NEED TO DISCLOSE? Self-disclosure usually involves the sharing of private information, and it is generally of such a nature that it is not some- thing you would normally disclose to everyone who might inquire about it. Th erefore, you are not expected to bare the innermost secrets of your soul to casual acquaintances—you can save that information for the signifi cant others in your life. However, if you are to communicate eff ectively with others, some degree of self-disclosure is required.

Yet, it is extremely important to ask ourselves some important questions before disclosing (Punches 2008):

Can I trust this person with this information? How could this information be used against me? Misconstrued?

Is this the right time and place to disclose? Am I sharing things about myself incrementally and slowly, or too much,

too soon? How has the person received private information in the past?


Likes and dislikes Fears and anxieties

Feelings and reactions about something another person has said or done Attitudes and opinions Tastes and interests Ideas about money Work perceptions Personality choices

Feelings and reactions about events that have just taken place Perceptions of self and others

Th ere are some disadvantages to self-disclosure as well, particularly if there is too much of it. Talking too much about ourselves early in a relation- ship may not facilitate the development of friendship. People might attribute your high self-disclosure as an indication that you are too immature, inse- cure, or phony, or even that you tell everyone such things. Other people like to think that they are special to you (O’Connel & O’Connel 2005).

N o one can develop freely in this world and fi nd a full life without feeling understood by at least one person.




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6 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

WHAT IS THE GREATEST RISK OF SELFDISCLOSURE? Self-disclosure involves taking risks. Th e greatest risk is one of rejection—not being liked or accepted. Th is may cause us to hide behind a mask—a facade —and try to be something we know we are not. In this state, eff ective communication cannot occur and the growth and maintenance of those deep, special, and meaningful relation- ships with friends and spouses cannot occur. Risk nothing, gain nothing. You have a choice—to withdraw from honest encounters, to hide your feelings, to falsify your intentions—or to be transparent, open, and real through self- disclosure.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF SELFDISCLOSURE? Self-disclosure has the potential to improve and expand interpersonal relationships, but it serves other functions as well. One advantage is that self-disclosure improves relationships . We prefer to be with people who are willing to disclose to us and we are more willing to be open with them. Self-disclosure is a recip- rocal process. Disclosure leads to trust and trust leads to more disclosure, and, thus, the relationship will grow and develop into a mature and long- lasting, loving interaction. Th ere is a strong positive correlation between self- disclosure and marital satisfaction. Research has shown that the more a couple is willing to disclose about themselves, the greater the marital satisfaction and the greater the chance the marriage will last over a longer period of time (Santrock 2006).

SELFDISCLOSURE PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH. Th e second advantage is that self-disclosure promotes mental health. Withholding important information can create stress and thus lead to less-eff ective functioning and even pos- sible physical problems (Jourard 1976). We all need a release, and for many of us “talking-out” our feelings, problems, and thoughts will relieve us of the stresses and anxieties that are interfering with our everyday functioning. Th is release of emotional tension through talking is known as a catharsis . As many of you have discovered, you feel relieved aft er sharing your problems with another person. Th is is the reason counseling and therapy are so eff ective for many individuals.

SELFVALIDATION. Another advantage of self-disclosure is that periodically we need self-validation . If we disclose information such as “I think I may have made a mistake . . .”—with the hopes of obtaining the listeners agree- ment, you are seeking validation on your behavior—confi rmation of a belief you hold about yourself. On a deeper level, this sort of self-validating disclo- sure seeks confi rmation of important parts of your self-concept (Adler and Proctor 2007).

SOCIAL CONTROL. Also, a possible advantage of self-disclosure is social con- trol . Revealing personal information may increase your control over other people and sometimes over the situation in which you and the other person fi nd yourself. For example, you tell your partner that someone else is show- ing interest in you, your partner may begin to show more interest in you. You tell your boss that another fi rm has off ered you a job, you probably will have an increased chance of getting a raise and improved working conditions. Could this type of disclosure also lead to a negative reaction? What else could happen?

We all need to discover new ways to communicate our feelings and thoughts to others. One way to illustrate how self-disclosure operates in com- munication is to look at Figure 1.1 (Th e Johari Window).

W hat does the baby chicken know which we overlook? The shell around us won’t crack at its own accord.


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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 7

The Johari Window

Th e Johari Window (1969), developed by and named aft er psycholo- gists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingram, can be looked upon as a communi- cation window through which you become more aware of yourself and your potential as a communicator, as you give and receive information about yourself and others. In order for a relationship to develop into a quality relationship, there needs to be trust and mutual sharing of information and feelings, also known as openness . An open commu- nicator is one who is willing to seek feedback from others and to off er information and personal feelings to others. Open communication involves both giving and receiving. According to the Window, a per- son’s communication behavior can be viewed by looking at the size of each of the four windowpanes—Open, Hidden, Blind, and Unknown.

Figure 1.1 is the “Total You”—everything there is to know about you. Figure 1.2 is divided into two squares—the left half is everything that you are aware of regarding yourself (Known to Self). Th e right half is your unconscience—everything about you that you are not aware of (Not Known to Self). Figure 1.3 is divided into a top half and a bottom half. Th e top half is everything that others are aware of about you (Known to Others). Th e bottom half is the part of you that others are not aware of about you (Not Known to Others). As you look at Figures 1.2 and 1.3 , you will notice that as you now put the whole window together you will observe that the window is divided into four sections or windowpanes. Th ese four quadrants, illustrated in Figure 1.4 on page 9, represent the whole person in relation to others.

Th e Open Self (I know, others know) represents information, feelings, and opinions that you know about yourself and that others know about you. Th is area also includes feelings that others have about you, perhaps a mutual friend of yours and another person, of which you are aware. Communication in this open area is free and open.

Th e Blind Self (Others know, I don’t know) represents information about you of which you are unaware but is easily apparent to others. An example would be a mannerism in speech or gesture of which you are unaware but that

This is the


(This is everything about you)

Figure 1.1

Not Known

to Self

(Everything you are not

aware of about yourself) (Your


Known to


(Everything you are

aware of about yourself)

Known to Others

(Everything others know about you)

Not Known to Others

(Everything you are not willing to disclose to anyone)

Figure 1.2 Figure 1.3

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8 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

is quite obvious to others, such as constantly saying, “you know” or constantly “playing with your keys.” Communication in this area is not free and open.

Th e Hidden Self (I know, others don’t know) represents information and personal feelings that you keep hidden from others. Consequently, com- munication in this area is restricted. Th e only way others can learn of this information is if you decide to participate in self-disclosure. Th is area is quite large with a new acquaintance because we do not feel safe in revealing our true selves and feelings.

Th e Unknown Self (I don’t know, others don’t know) represents informa- tion about you that is unknown to self or others. For example, you may have an aptitude or skill of which you and others are completely unaware. Com- munication in this area is impossible, since it is totally unknown. Information in this area may take years to be known. However, as you try to gain insight into your real, true self, you may be able to add to this area.

CAN THE SIZE OF THE WINDOWPANE CHANGE? Th e size of each windowpane varies depending on your communication behavior and the quality of your relationship. When you fi rst meet someone, the area of common knowledge is minimal. Likewise, your communication with that individual would be rep- resented by a small open windowpane and a large unknown area. Also, if you fi nd it diffi cult to share your ideas and feelings with others, as well as to receive feedback from others, you would tend to have a small open window- pane, as illustrated in Figure 1.5 .

As a relationship grows and the trust level increases, you will be more likely to share more information and feelings. Consequently, others will respond by giving you more feedback. Th erefore, your communication behavior should be represented by a much larger open windowpane and a smaller unknown pane. See Figure 1.6 .

If you are receptive to feedback but are basically unwilling to share infor- mation and feelings with others, your communication behavior will be rep- resented by a fairly large hidden pane and a smaller open pane, as illustrated in Figure 1.7 .

On the other hand, you may fi nd it very diffi cult to receive criticism or suggestions from others, but it may be easy for you to share information and feelings with others. Consequently, your communication behavior would be represented with a large blind pane, as illustrated in Figure 1.8 .

As we can see, interpersonal communication of any signifi cance is vir- tually impossible if the individuals involved have little or no open window- pane. Ideally, we strive to make the open window the largest area, which would indicate the extent to which two or more persons can give and take, work together, and enjoy experiences together. By improving the use of feedback in our communication with others, we begin to expand our open windowpane.

Some people may get along fi ne with others without insight or awareness. Such lack of awareness, however, inhibits our communication eff ectiveness, and, thus, impedes our personal growth.

Now that we understand the importance of self-disclosure in the devel- opment of a relationship, we need to understand why relationships are so important. We are all social beings and seek social relationships. We all have a need for other people. Relationships satisfy needs. We are motivated not only to seek the company of others, but to form close and lasting relationships. Many people have diffi culty forming relationships and do not seem to have any friends. What happens to these people?

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 9

Open Self

Blind Self

Hidden Self

Unknown Self

Open Self

Blind Self

Hidden Self

Unknown Self

Open Self

Blind Self

Hidden Self

Unknown Self

Open Self

Blind Self

Hidden Self

Unknown Self

Open Self

Blind Self

Hidden Self

Unknown Self

Figure 1.7

Figure 1.5

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.8

Figure 1.6

Adapted from Joseph Luft, Of Human Interaction, by permission of Mayfi eld Publishing Co., Copyright 1969 by the National Press.

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10 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others


Have you ever felt lonely? What causes loneliness? Answer the questions above before you continue to read this section.

Th e lack of relationships creates loneliness. Loneliness occurs when a person has fewer interpersonal relationships than desired or when the relationships are not as satisfying as desired. Loneliness is one of the most serious problems in our society today. Harry Stack Sullivan (1968) consid- ered loneliness to be the worst emotional experience imaginable. He stated that the deepest problems for people are loneliness, isolation, and diffi culty with self-esteem. Research has shown that loneliness leads to depression, and depression can cause psychological and physiological problems.

In national surveys, roughly one American in four says he or she has felt very lonely or remote from other people in the past two weeks (Perlman and Peplau 1998). Most of you have observed many of your friends and rela- tives going through some form of transition in their lives—the breaking-up of a long-term relationship or marriage, death of a loved one, etc.—that has caused them to be in a state of need. Most of us at one time or another in our lives have also experienced this feeling, that something is lacking in our life and there does not seem to be anything to live for. What is this feeling? It is the feeling of loneliness. Loneliness is a feeling of longing and emptiness that is caused by the lack of emotional attachment and/or social ties.

CAN PEOPLE BE LONELY IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHERS? Th e answer is a resounding yes , and the feeling can be dreadful. Mara commented, “You can be in the center of a crowd and be dreadfully lonely.” Some people can feel lonely even when surrounded by others. Debbi, whose husband had left her, said, “I have periods of loneliness now, but it’s nothing compared to how lonely I felt when my husband was sitting in the same room with me.” In fact, living together loneliness (LTL) , can result when there is a discrepancy between expected and achieved contact (Kiley 1989). More than one-fourth of married people, the majority of them females, suff er from LTL.

Being lonely is not the same as being alone. Some people prefer solitude and are content with fewer social interactions. Many of us have a need to be alone at times in order to maintain our mental health. Loneliness is a highly subjective and personal feeling.

What Do You Know about Loneliness? True or False? ______ Loneliness is more predominant during adolescence. ______ Loneliness varies with the time of day and day of the week. ______ Loneliness may be a sign of personal problems. ______ Loneliness may be the cause of depression, suicide, and other mental disorders. ______ The elderly are less lonely than most groups of individuals. ______ Loneliness is not the same as aloneness. ______ Most people assume other people have more friends than they do.

All of the above questions will be answered in the following discussion. Based on research and literature all of the above statements are mostly true.

Check This Out

M aybe the biggest problem with loneliness is that we walk around thinking we are the only ones suffering from it.


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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 11

WHO IS MORE LONELY? Loneliness is found in all groups. Loneliness is most prevalent among teenagers, unmarried young adults, the divorced, and the widowed. Actually, traditional college students who are among thousands of peers suff er more loneliness than any other group (Wiseman et al. 2006).

Loneliness makes a person vulnerable to many diff erent situations. Th is may include more depression, use of drugs as an escape, and higher blood pressure. Th ere is even some evidence that points to loneliness as being associated with higher risks for heart disease, lessened longevity, and increased risk for recurrent illness (Hafen et al. 2005). Maintaining that love and intimacy are instrumental in protection from disease and in the main- tenance of wellness, a medical doctor believes that emotional support, the opposite of loneliness, is essential (Ornish 1998).

Loneliness is something that will aff ect most of us at one time or another in our life. What can we do to help ourselves and others to prevent this feeling of loneliness from taking over our lives? Robert Weiss (1995) has found that satisfying two relationship needs will help us overcome feelings of loneliness. Th ese are: 1) the need for emotional attachments and; 2) the need for social ties. If one or both of these needs are not satisfi ed, loneliness will exist. What are these needs and why do we really need relationships?

What Should a Relationship Provide?

Why do our society and many other cultures put so much emphasis on marriage? Why are there clubs for single people, escort services, single’s bars, dating services, social networking websites, people advertising for partners in local newspapers, and using 1-900 telephone services to meet new people? Why—because people are lonely. We have a strong need for relationships. Th e following needs must be satisfi ed in order to have a fulfi lling life and overcome feelings of loneliness.

EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENTS. We all need to know that no matter what the situation is or whatever we do, good or bad (for better or worse, in sickness or in health), that there will be someone around to take care of us or help us out. As long as we know this, we feel comfortable and secure. A child who knows that mother or father is available whenever he or she needs one of them will feel secure enough to explore the world around them. Th ey will be willing to take some chances and risks in life. A child who is insecure and not sure if the parents will be available when needed will be clinging and unsure of other people. How would you feel if you were told by your parents, “If you ever get in trouble with the law,” or “If I ever hear about you taking drugs,” or “If you ever get someone pregnant or get pregnant, don’t step a foot back in this house?” Most people who have been told this when they were young feel very insecure and lonely since they are not sure anyone will be there in a time of need.

WHERE DO WE GET EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENTS? Most people will receive their emotional attachments from their parents, especially during their early years of development. And if you think about it, many individuals continue to rely on their parents for this support for most of their lives. Th is is why you will hear stories about married couples who, when they are having marital problems, will go back to their parents’ home, because parents still provide that individual with the feeling of security. As we tend to mature and start to “cut the apron strings,” becoming more independent, we begin to fi nd

R elationships with others lie at the very core of human existence.


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12 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

this emotional support from others—our best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, pastor, etc. For some people, their dog or cat will provide them with this feeling of security. Having a confi dant , a signifi cantly close personal friend with whom one can safely share one’s deepest concerns and joys, is related to higher levels of well-being, health, satisfaction, and lowered dis- tress (Ornish 1998). One of the earlier studies on confi dants found that older people who had a confi dant lived longer than those who didn’t.

Inanimate objects can also be a source of security. Items such as teddy bears, dolls, or imaginary companions are examples. Other sources could be certain belief systems, religious beliefs, or a philosophy of life, and even confi dence within one’s self may satisfy the need for emotional attachments for some people. A young child’s blanket or teddy bear is a source of security for some. As you know, if you take the blanket or bear away from some chil- dren even for a short time just to be washed, the child will go into a rage and become very insecure and lonely.

What happens to a person who has been relying solely on their spouse for the satisfaction of this need, especially when the spouse announces that the relationship is over? Th is person will become insecure, lonely, and vulnerable. A newly divorced or separated individual who has lost his or her emotional support is very open and vulnerable to another person or belief system that tends to show support for the individual. Th is is why many individuals will possibly end up in a negative relationship, some type of cult, or so-called reli- gion, or gang that purports to provide emotional support.

SOCIAL TIES. Social ties provide us with the feeling of belonging—a feeling that we are part of a group and have an identity. During early childhood this feeling of belonging and developing an identity is, for most children, pro- vided by their parents. Th is is expressed with statements like, “I’m a member of the Smith family or Adams family or Sanchez family.” Later in childhood, the peer group becomes more important to them than the family, especially during adolescence. Special groups, clubs, teams, and religious organizations such as Boy Scouts, Bluebirds, Indian Guides, Little League, church youth

groups, pep clubs, gangs, and fraternal organizations provide many young people with a feeling of identity. Have you ever observed a child walking down the street in their scout uniform or team uniform? Th ey really think they are “special.” Th e uniform makes them feel like they are part of a group and they have an identity. We all need an identity.

How does the person feel who is not able to join a club or be a member of a team? Th is person feels “left out” and feels that there is something missing in their life. Th ey will do whatever it takes to satisfy this need. Th e end result of not having this need satisfi ed is the same as for those whose emotional attachment needs are not satisfi ed. Th is person will feel lonely, depressed, and vulnerable.

HOW CAN WE SATISFY THIS NEED? Social ties may be satisfi ed through positive as well as negative means. Social ties may be satisfi ed through marriage—a legal bond that makes you feel like you belong to another person and have a recognized identity. A person’s job or career may also give some people a feeling of identity or belonging. Ask a person the question, “Who are you?” and the response is generally, “I’m a stu- dent, a banker, a plumber, a salesperson, an attorney,” etc. Th ese titles give the individual an identity, and the organization the person works for gives the person a feeling of belonging.

W hosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.


P eople are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.


Who provides you with a feeling of belonging?

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 13

During the high school and college years, a person’s identity may be found in many diff erent ways. Some students fi nd their identity by being on an athletic team, by being an excellent student, playing in the band or orchestra, dating a cheerleader, or being in a sorority or fraternity. If a student does not fi nd his or her identity or feeling of belonging through “normal” or acceptable means, he or she will attempt to satisfy this need through other means, such as drugs, bizarre clothing, a unique hairstyle, promiscuous behavior, gang activity, or delinquent behavior.

Emotional support and social ties are not only important to young people, but they are vital to all of us and will continue to be important throughout our lives. We will be in a constant state of stress and anxiety if our emotional sup- port and social ties change too much. Divorce, death of a loved one, changing jobs or being fi red from a job, retirement, breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a serious illness may be the cause of our needs changing. People with adequate social support are also less likely to suff er from depression, anxiety and numerous physical problems. And, in a four-year study of 823 people, Dr. Robert Wilson (2007), senior neuropsychologist, Rush University Medical Center, reported that seniors who feel disconnected from other people are twice as likely to develop an Alzheimer’s-like form of dementia as those who are not lonely.

Th e discussion of emotional support and social ties should demonstrate to all of us that we should not rely only on one person or one source for the satisfaction of our emotional and social needs. We all need to work at devel- oping a good support system. Yet, is there anything we can do to enhance our personal, meaningful relationships?

Mutual Reward Theory (MRT)

Th e Mutual Reward Th eory (MRT) states that a relationship between two people is enhanced when there is a satisfactory balance of rewards between them (O’Neil & Chapman 2008). Actually, if any meaningful relationship is to remain healthy over a long period of time, the individuals involved must benefi t from the relationship. Th e more equally the rewards balance out, the stronger and more permanent the relationship becomes. Th e rela- tionship will quickly weaken if one individual suddenly realizes that he or she has been contributing signifi cantly more than he or she has been receiving.

Now that we understand the need for relationships, many of us still fi nd it diffi cult to get to know other people and develop good relationships. Why do we fear getting acquainted?

The Fear of Getting Acquainted—Shyness

Meeting people and forming relationships should be fun, but for a lot of peo- ple it is a diffi cult process full of stress and anxiety. “It seems so easy for other people, but for me, it’s one of the most diffi cult things I do in life.” Because of the complexity of our society, we have made the process of getting acquainted and developing relationships an involved process. “How can I make meeting people and forming relationships more fun and less stressful? Why do I feel so uncomfortable meeting people?” You may want to answer the questions in the box on page 15.

M an never reasons so much and becomes so introspec- tive as when he suffers since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings.


H aving enjoyed the friendship of many people in many places for many years—I have learned that, in the main, people are as we choose to fi nd them.


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14 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

AM I SHY? How did you answer the questions? If your answer to any of the questions is that you feel uncomfortable, anxious, inhibited, and excessively cautious, then you showed signs of shyness. Do not feel bad—shyness is universal. You have lots of company. Nearly one of two Americans claim to be shy. What is more interesting, the incidence is rising, and the use of the computer and technology may be turning our society into a culture of shy people (Carducci and Zimbardo 1995). It aff ects the young and old, men and women, celebrities and people like you and me. It is a very common problem.

HOW COMMON IS SHYNESS? Researcher Dr. Bernardo Carducci (2000) in his popular book, Shyness A Bold New Approach, makes it very clear that between 75 and 95 percent of people have felt shy at one point in their lives. In fact, Dr. Carducci has compiled the following statistics on the pervasiveness of shyness:

About 80% of American college students report they have been shy at some point in their lives.

Almost 50 percent of our population say that they’re shy. About 89 percent of shy people claim that they’ve been shy all their lives. Of people who are not shy now, 75 percent have been shy at some point in

the past. Only 11 percent of our population claim that they are not shy now and

have never been shy in the past. About 21 percent of shy people feel shy daily or almost daily, while almost

60 percent of the people who say that they’re shy feel shy at least once a week.

About 78 percent of shy people believe that they can overcome shyness, while 3 percent say that they cannot.

Dr. Carducci also comments that the three most common shyness- provoking situations are 1) being around strangers, 2) the presence of people in positions of authority by virtue of their role or knowledge, and 3) being with members of the opposite sex, either one-on-one or in a group.

WHAT IS SHYNESS? Shyness refers to a tendency to withdraw from people, particularly unfamiliar people (Stein and Walker 2000). Shyness involves feel- ings, physical reactions, and thoughts, that create a state of anxiety, discomfort, and inhibition. Let’s discuss each one.

Feelings. Feelings associated with shyness include anxiety, insecurity, stress, loneliness, mistrust, embarrassment, tension, fear, and confusion.

Physical reactions. Physical reactions associated with shyness include nausea, butterfl ies in the stomach, shaking, perspiring, pounding heart, feeling faint, and blushing.

Th oughts. Th oughts associated with shyness include: “I’m not an inter- esting person,” “I’m not as good as they are,” “Th ey won’t like me,” “I lack self-confi dence,” or “I don’t have the social skills.”

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SHYNESS? For some people shyness may become a “mental handicap” that is as crippling as the most severe of physical handicaps. Its consequences can be devastating. What are the consequences of shyness? (Zimbardo 1990), (Carducci and Zimbardo 1995), (Duff y 2007/2008).

A man who talks only of himself and thinks only of himself is hopelessly uneducated.


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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 15

1. Shy people become preoccupied with themselves and thus become self- conscious. Because of this, they are not aware of other people’s feelings and needs. For example, if this person has a facial blemish or their hair is not “just right,” they know everybody will notice so they will not go to school or to a party. 2. Shyness makes it diffi cult for us to become acquainted with new people and thus make new friends. At a party these people would not introduce themselves to others, but would say to themselves, “Nobody is interested in me, I must be a boring person, nobody would want to get to know me anyway.” 3. Shyness keeps us from experiencing new situations. A new experience is a risk that may result in failure, so it seems easier not to take the chance. 4. Shyness prevents people from standing up for their own rights and as individuals, keeps them from expressing their own feelings and beliefs. If other people do not know how you feel and what you want, how do you expect them to make decisions that will benefi t you? 5. Shy people tend not to demonstrate their personal strengths and capabilities. As a result, they prevent others from making positive evaluations. If you have two employees, equal in all abilities except that one is shy and the other is not shy, which of the two would you promote? In most situations the non-shy person would be promoted because we are more aware of his or her potential than that of the shy person.

As you have observed, shyness can have some very negative eff ects.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SHY AND NONSHY PERSON? It may come as a surprise to many of you that the major diff erence between the two individuals is a matter of self-evaluation. How do you compare yourself to others? Do you see yourself as capable, intelligent, or as attractive as the per- son next to you? If the answer is no, then would you interact with them? Or, if you did have to interact with them, how would you feel? Would you feel inferior or inadequate? Many people would feel this way. Why? As we stated earlier, shyness is a matter of self-evaluation —how you compare yourself with others. Actually this should tell you how ridiculous shyness really is, since we are all capable human beings. Just because the other person is a doctor,

M utual confi dence is the foundation of all satisfactory human relationships.


Meeting people for the fi rst time. Asking someone for a date. Giving a talk in front of a group of people. Going to a party. Asking someone for help—for example, your boss or professor. Being interviewed. Situations requiring assertiveness—for example, asking for your money back. Participating in a discussion group. Showing your body in a nonsexual context. Going to a dance or nightclub.

How Do You Feel in the Following Situations?

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16 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

lawyer, teacher, or engineer does not mean that person is superior to you. Th e other person may have more formal education than you or more money than you, but you may have more common sense, or real-life education. You are just as good as the other person.

WHAT CAUSES SHYNESS? Actually, there is no one cause of shyness but many diverse causes including brain chemistry and reactivity (inborn tempera- ment), harsh treatment from teachers or classmates, overprotective parents, faulty self-perceptions, poor adaptability, intolerance for ambiguity, physical appearance, life transitions (such as going to school, divorce, a new job), and even cultural expectations. Furthermore, some people are simply more sensitive about their behavior and are more easily embarrassed than others (Carducci 2000); (Casriel 2007).

OVERCOMING SHYNESS. How can a person overcome shyness? It would be naive to pretend that shyness can be overcome easily. It is important, how- ever, to emphasize that shyness can be overcome successfully. Th ere are three steps in the process of dealing with shyness (Zimbardo 1987); (Pelusi 2007). Th ese steps are: 1) Analyzing your shyness, 2) Building your self-esteem, and 3) Improving your social skills.


Try to pinpoint exactly what social situations tend to elicit your shy behavior.

Try to identify what causes your shyness in that situation. Use a diary or journal to keep track of the times you experience this feeling.

Have a friend or relative give you feedback. Discuss how you interact with others and how you can improve.


Recognize that you ultimately control how you see yourself. Set your own standards. Do not let others tell you how to live your life. Set realistic goals. Do not set your goals too high or too low. Many people

demand too much of themselves. Talk positively to yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it and that you are

a good person. Learn to take rejection. Rejection is one of the risks everyone takes in

social interactions. Try not to take it personally; it may have nothing to do with you.


Follow a role model. Select someone you respect and observe how they interact. Imitate their behavior.

Learn to listen. Talk to one new person everyday about something. Smile. Reinforce yourself for each successful interaction. Use your imagination. Rehearse in your mind new situations—how you

will respond. Practice with a friend—interviews, dating situations, etc.

S hyness is a series of choices that gradually cement into a lifestyle.


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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 17

Find your comfort zone. Not all social situations are for everyone. Go where your interests are. You might be happier at an art gallery, book club, or on a volleyball team than you are at a cocktail party or bar.

It takes time to change. Do not expect to overcome shyness overnight, it is a gradual process.

According to psychologist Bernardo Carducci (Casriel 2007), conversa- tion with strangers typically moves through fi ve stages:

opening line (keep it simple) and introductions, 1. trying out topics and exploring for common ground, 2. closing, in which you tell the person that you’re going, 3. summing up what you learned, and 4. possibly exchanging contact information. 5.

Remember, once you internalize these steps, you will always have a mental map of where to go next. Actually, shy people who are determined to develop their social skills can force themselves to interact despite the nervousness it provokes, and they can also end up garnering great satisfaction from the eff ort even if the bashfulness remains (Rodgers 2006).

TECHNOLOGY AND SHYNESS. Th e future of shyness is bleak—it is not going to disappear and there are many reasons to expect the numbers of shy peo- ple to climb. Technology is continually redefi ning how we communicate. We are not engaging in as many face-to-face interactions on a daily basis. How oft en do you call a friend or colleague when you know they are not in so you can leave a message on their machine? How oft en do you see a bank teller or gas station attendant? Voice mail, faxes, banking on-line, text messaging, and e-mail give us an illusion of being “in touch,” but what is to touch but the keyboard? Some people no longer even have to go to the offi ce, they telecommute. Many individuals do not get to practice their social skills on a daily basis. Technology is ushering in a culture of shyness, and it is the perfect environment for the shy. Th e danger is that technol- ogy will become the hiding place for those who dread social interactions (Carducci and Zimbardo 1995). We need to be aware of this and hopefully stay “in-touch.”

As we begin to reach out and meet new people in the process of overcom- ing shyness, we attempt to sift through the millions of people in the world to select the individuals that will eventually become our friends and lovers. How do we do this? We begin the process of getting acquainted and fi nding friends through perceptual awareness.

Perception refers to how we mentally organize and interpret the world around us. Because we all have diff erent backgrounds and experiences, we perceive the world around us in diff erent ways—and thus many of us misinterpret and misunderstand the people around us. We need to increase our perceptual awareness.

Perceptual Awareness

How can we prevent misunderstandings due to the inaccuracy of our own perceptions? Serious problems can arise when people accept their misinter- pretations as if they were a fact of life while we tend to get upset with others when they jump to conclusions about our own behavior.

M ost of us feel that others will not tolerate emotional honesty in communication. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others; and having rationalized our phoniness into mobility, we settle for superfi cial relationships.


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18 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

A friend says, “You really look tired today!” (You were feeling great until they said that.)

“What’s the matter with you today?” (Who said anything was wrong?)

“Why are you mad at me and not talking to me?” (You are concerned about your fi nal exam that you are not prepared for.)

How can we become more aware of our misinterpretations and make people more aware of their personal perceptions? Th e perceptual awareness process will provide us with a technique that will help us deal with these misperceptions. What is this process?

Make note of the behavior you are observing. Describe the behavior. Interpret the behavior. Why is that person acting that way? (Write down at

least two interpretations.) Ask yourself what you would do in the same situation. Put yourself in the

other person’s “shoes.” Ask for clarifi cation about how to interpret the behavior. Do not jump to

conclusions. Ask the person why they are acting that way or ask someone else how they would interpret the situation.

Th e perceptual awareness process will help us understand others more accurately instead of assuming that our fi rst impression is correct. Our goal is a mutual understanding and acceptance of others.

Now, let us take a closer look at how we perceive the people we meet and interact with on a regular basis through the process called people perception .

People Perception

Imagine yourself alone at a large party that you are attending. You look around and see nothing but unfamiliar faces. As you look at each individual, you immediately make a judgment of what you think each person is like. Your perception of each individual is based on many things, such as your past experiences, prejudices, and stereotyping. Since your past experiences, prejudices, and stereotypes are diff erent from those of others, your percep- tion of each individual will be diff erent from other people’s interpretations. You may perceive someone as serious and studious while someone else may perceive the same individual as depressed and slow intellectually. Sometimes we discover that our perception is not always accurate. Some recent psycho- logical studies indicate that our perception may be distorted at the time of perception because we are using our own past experiences, prejudices, and stereotyping to make the interpretation.

As we encounter people daily, we form an impression or perception of them. Th e term social perception describes the way we perceive, evaluate, categorize, and form judgments about the qualities of people we encoun- ter (Nevid 2006). Th ese social perceptions have a critical infl uence on our interactions. In fact, they are more important in guiding our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors than the actual traits or attitudes of the people around us. Th e factors that seem to infl uence our social perceptions are fi rst impressions, stereotyping, and prejudices.

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 19

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear for I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me, but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake don’t be fooled. I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffl ed with me, within as well

as without, that confi dence is my name and coolness my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command and that I need no one, but don’t believe me. My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask, ever-varying and ever-concealing. Beneath lies no complacence. Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness. But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it. I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed. That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, a nonchalant sophisticated facade, to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope, and I know it. That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, if it’s followed by love. It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self-built prison walls, from the barriers I so painstakingly erect. It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself, that I’m really worth something. But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to, I’m afraid to. I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance, will not be followed by love. I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me. I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game, with a facade of assurance without and a trembling child within. So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks, and my life becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk. I tell you everything that’s really nothing, and nothing of what’s everything, of what’s crying within me. So when I’m going through my routine do not be fooled by what I’m saying.

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20 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying, what I’d like to be able to say, what for survival I need to say, but what I can’t say.

I don’t like hiding. I don’t like playing superfi cial phony games. I want to stop playing them. I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me but you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to hold out your hand even when that’s the last thing I seem to want. Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead. Only you can call me into aliveness. Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings– very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling you can breathe life into me. I want you to know that. I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be a creator–an honest-to-God creator– of the person that is me if you choose to. You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble, you alone can remove my mask, you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic, from my lonely prison, if you choose to. Please choose to.

Do not pass me by. It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back. It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man often I am irrational. I fi ght against the very thing I cry out for. But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls and in this lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with fi rm hands but with gentle hands for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well. For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.

Charles C. Finn September 1966

Reprinted by permission of Charles Finn.

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 21

FIRST IMPRESSIONS. First impressions can have a tremendous infl uence on our perception of others. Th e initial impression we have of another person may have a strong impact on our future interactions with them. If you go to a party and see someone that looks just like the boss that fi red you last week, what is your impression of that person? What is the likelihood of you approaching that person? You will most likely avoid that person even though they seem to be very friendly and not at all like your boss. Th e primacy eff ect occurs when the fi rst impression carries more weight than any subsequent information. Th at fi rst impression of the person that looks like your previous boss will be diffi cult to change even if you see them in a new and diff erent situation (Myers 2007).

Our fi rst impressions are formed quite rapidly—oft en within a matter of seconds. Research indicates that negative fi rst impressions are oft en quickly formed and hard to overcome. Th is is why they say “getting off on the wrong foot” may be particularly damaging to a person. Th e opposite tends to be true of positive fi rst impressions, which are oft en hard to earn but easily lost (Rothbart and Park 1986). If the person you are going out with for the fi rst time is late, what is your fi rst impression? Would you think that he or she is unreliable and must be a fl ake—a negative fi rst impression? Many of you would feel this way and this impression will be diffi cult to change. If your new date is on time are you willing to say that this person is reliable and conscien- tious? Most of us will take more time to make that judgment even though the fi rst impression was positive.

WHAT DO YOU NOTICE FIRST? While you are walking down the street one day, notice a person that you have never seen before. In your mind you immedi- ately form an impression of what you think this person is like. What had the greatest impact on the formation of your opinion? Was it the way the per- son was dressed, their hairstyle, their size or shape, their facial expression, or their physical attractiveness? A recent survey indicated that women are most impressed by the way a man dresses, while men seem to be infl uenced most by the physical attractiveness of women. Overall, we seem to be infl uenced more by physical appearance than anything else. Th is may be due to the fact

Consider this . . .Consider this . . .

Application of the Perceptual Awareness Process

Your roommate, Stephanie, has been quiet for the last two days and has not been talking to you (behavior). You are sure that she is mad at you (fi rst interpretation). She may have had a fi ght with her boyfriend (second interpretation). Why would I be acting that way? (Put yourself in that situa- tion.) Ask Stephanie, “Why have you been so quiet recently?” (request for clarifi cation).

Jim stomped out of the room and slammed the door (behavior). Jim must have not liked what I said and got mad (fi rst interpretation). Jim sure must be in a hurry and accidently slammed the door (second interpretation.) “Why would I have acted that way?” (Put yourself in that situation). “Jim, how did you feel when you left the room yesterday?” (request for clarifi cation).

Think of some situations you have been in and go through this process.

Y ou never get a second chance to make a fi rst impression.


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22 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

that mass media puts too much emphasis on these factors and, thus, has a great infl uence on our perception of the world.

Other factors that seem to have an impact on our fi rst impressions of others include what the individual is doing (their behavior) at the time you perceive them and what the interactional possibilities are with that person (whether or not they would be a good date, tennis partner, or study partner). If you see someone acting weird the fi rst time you see them, what kind of person do you think he or she is? What will you think of that person the next time you see them? Most of us would continue to perceive them as weird, because of what we observed them doing the fi rst time we saw them. If you see someone who you think would be fun to date, will you approach them? If you think the person sitting in the corner would help you study psychol- ogy, will you ask them to help you? If you perceive someone as “stuck-up,” or with an “attitude,” will you approach them? Based on your fi rst impression of these individuals, you have already determined how you will respond or not respond to them. You are making your decision based on how you perceive the interactional possibilities (Aronson et al. 2006).

What about the impression you leave on the worldwide web, such as MySpace and Facebook? Do you realize that any information you post on those sites is quite public and long-lasting? Do you realize that the public can see all the pictures taken in various stages of sobriety, etc. on Facebook? Do you realize that what you post may be the fi rst impression someone has of you further down the road? Do you realize that employers might check the worldwide web to see what you have posted on various websites? Th e lesson is just think carefully—the worldwide web is available to millions of people— just think before you post.

PREJUDICES. Our perception of other people may be infl uenced and distorted by our prejudices. Prejudices predispose us to behave in certain ways toward other people and groups. Prejudice is when we prejudge a person or group of people prior to having all known information and facts. Being prejudiced does not always have a negative meaning, it can also be positive. You see someone dressed as a nurse. You automatically perceive that person as kind and gener- ous, even though you do not know anything else about the individual. It is too bad that most of us allow our prejudices to aff ect our interaction with others negatively.

STEREOTYPING. Many people think people with red hair have hot tempers, that all police offi cers are mean, that all Irish people drink a lot, that all Japanese are intelligent, and that all Jewish people are rich. Th ese are all stereotypes —preconceived, inaccurate, rigid beliefs about individuals or groups of people. Th e habit of stereotyping people is so common that almost any personal characteristic leads to the formation of stereotypes. For exam- ple, what are your feelings about overweight people, people who wear glasses, short people, black people, women, or homosexuals?

Did you know that tall people are more apt to get hired fi rst and get paid more than short people? Did you know that attractive students tend to get better grades than less attractive students? Are you aware that women are paid about seventy percent of what men are paid for doing the same job? Is this because tall people are better qualifi ed than short people, attractive students are more intelligent than the less attractive students, women are not as good employees? No, it is because we have allowed our prejudices and stereotyping to infl uence our behavior. We must learn to overcome these infl uences and

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 23

accept people as they are and not how we learned to perceive them. We must work together to reduce prejudices and break down the assumptions that one group is better than or inferior to others. We must work toward developing positive interactions among all individuals—no matter what size, shape, or color the person is.

DO OUR SOCIAL PERCEPTIONS INFLUENCE OUR ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS TOWARD PREJUDICE AND STEREOTYPING? Social perception involves the creation of images of ourselves and of others. Our cultural background and past experiences have a tremendous impact upon how we interpret our daily experiences. A prejudice is a negative attitude toward members of a group, while discrimination involves your behavior toward members of a group. Prejudice is a negative cognitive set; discrimination is negative behavior (unfair treatment). For example, a store owner has a strong prejudice toward everyone from Mexico, yet treats them like everyone else because she needs their business. Th is is an example of prejudice without discrimination. Can discrimination happen without prejudice? It is less common, but it can happen. A restaurant manager who has a handicapped child has empathy for all handicapped people but still will not hire them at his restaurant.

INACCURACY IN SOCIAL PERCEPTIONS. Th is is both a cause and an eff ect of prejudice. We will examine a few sources of inaccuracy that we discussed earlier that contribute to prejudice in important ways.

Stereotyping. Stereotyping seems to contribute more than any other factor in determining our prejudices. Many people subscribe to derogatory stereotypes of various groups. Although studies suggest that racial stereo- types have declined over the last fi ft y years, they are still not a thing of the past (Plous 2002).

First Impressions. One of the problems with the power of fi rst impres- sions is that many people’s fi rst impressions of minorities come not from actual interactions, but from disparaging remarks made by parents, neighbors, and others. Th us, many impressionable children develop unfa- vorable opinions toward Hispanics, African Americans, homosexuals, the handicapped, etc., before they have any opportunity for rewarding inter- actions with members of these groups. Even though these negative fi rst impressions may eventually be overridden by contradictory experiences, the primacy eff ect probably contributes to prejudice. Judging a book by its cover is a pervasive consequence of our initial reactions to other people— reactions that encourage oft en inaccurate stereotypes about races and eth- nic groups other than our own, women, old people, overweight people, and many other negatively stigmatized social groups (Pingitore et al. 1994).

Categorizing. People frequently categorize others on the basis of age, sex, race, sexual orientation, weight, height, and so forth. In-group-out-group bias explains the tendency to hold less favorable opinions about groups to which we do not belong (out-groups) , while holding more favorable opinions about groups to which we do belong (in-groups) (Hewstone et al. 2002). We perceive people like ourselves to be members of the “in-group” and those who are diff erent to be part of the “out-group.” We tend to have more favorable attitudes toward “in-group” members than “out-group” members. We tend to explain the behavior of people in the “out-group” on the basis of their membership in the group. Jamie is slow, not very athletic, and obese, so Jamie must be just like all fat people. In contrast, my best

Y ou can see a lot by observing. . . . YOGI BERRA

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24 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

friend, Larry, is slow and also obese, but I do not categorize him into the “out-group,” because I perceive Larry to be a unique person. Th erefore, he’s part of my “in-group.” We need to learn to avoid categorizing people.

Attribution Error. When we observed Juan for the fi rst time, he was studying by himself in the cafeteria using a laptop computer. What is our fi rst impression of Juan? He must be a loner. He must be an intellectual.

He must be a “nerd.” Are we right about our perception of Juan? Th e next day we are walking by the soccer fi eld and we notice a very fast aggressive player scoring a goal and we discover that it is Juan. Was our fi rst impression of Juan correct? We then further discover that Juan is also a very outgoing individual with lots of friends. We defi nitely made an error based on our fi rst impression. Remember, a person’s behavior at a given time may or may not refl ect their per- sonality—but we tend to assume that it does.

Inaccuracy in our perceptions tend to persist because fi rst impressions can be very diffi cult to overcome. Evidence tends to demonstrate that we tend to see what we expect to see in our inter- personal interactions. Now that you are more aware of how your per- ceptions are infl uenced, we hope that you can begin to accept people as they really are.

As we continue the process of people perception, we discover that it is common for us to make many mistakes and errors in our perceptions of others. We have found that our prejudices and our stereotypes oft en lead to unfair treatment of others. We will now take a look at one characteristic that seems to have the greatest impact on our perception of others without substantial evidence to support its

accuracy—another distortion in perception.

PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS. Are you more likely to seek out an attractive person as a friend or someone who is perceived as less attractive? If you were an employer, would you be more likely to hire the most attractive applicant? Do you perceive physically attractive people to be more poised, likeable, sexy, competent, happy, interesting, and socially skilled than people of average or unattractive appearance? Many of you would answer no to these questions, but when it comes time for you to act on these questions it could be a diff erent story. Research indicates that physical attractiveness has a profound infl uence on our impression of others and our interactions with them (Berscheid and Reis 1998; Baron and Byrne 2006).

In general, people tend to believe that what is beautiful is good (Duff y and Atwater 2008). Th is stereotype seems to start early in life. When preschool children were asked to pick whom they liked best and who they thought was the best behaved in their class, they selected both categories of their class- mates with the same group of children adults judged to be the most attractive physically (Berscheid and Reis 1998).

We have all been told, “beauty is only skin deep, it’s what’s inside the per- son that counts.” A person’s character and behavior are more important than looks. Most of us would probably agree that physical attractiveness should not be a major factor in interpersonal attraction. Th en, why is physical beauty such a powerful infl uence in attracting us to others?

One reason is that we all want to be accepted and liked, and we perceive attractive people as being more friendly, liked more by others, and thus, if we hang around them more we will also be perceived in the same way. People

What is your impression of this person?

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 25

tend to see themselves as being more similar to attractive people than to unattractive people. Another reason is that, beginning early in life, we have been told that beautiful things are good and that ugly things are bad, so we have generalized this belief to include our perception of people. Later, we dis- cover that attractive people tend to receive more positive reinforcement than less attractive individuals, and, thus, they will be more likely to feel good about themselves. Finally, if they feel good about themselves, other people will also perceive them as more positive and they will continue to receive more and more reinforcement. As a result of such cultural conditioning, most people do associate physical attractiveness with a wide variety of desirable characteristics (Myers 2007) .

People’s attractiveness is surprisingly unrelated to their self-esteem. One reason may be that, except aft er comparing themselves with superattractive people, few people view themselves as unattractive (Th ornton and Moore 1993). As time goes by, we become accustomed to our own face and perceive it on a positive basis.

WHAT ABOUT DATING? When selecting a date, does physical attractiveness infl uence your selection? Research has shown that people desire to date the most attractive person possible. But when given the opportunity to choose a date, people tend to choose someone of attractiveness nearly equal to their own (Berscheid 2000). We may desire the more attractive date, but we are afraid that they would reject us. In order to maintain a positive self-concept, we are more likely to select someone we think would be more likely to say “yes.” Th at person will most likely be someone whom we perceive as equal to us in physical attractiveness. Th e matching hypothesis proposes that people of similar levels of physical attractiveness gravitate toward each other (Worchel et al. 2000). Th ere seems to be evidence to support this in regard to selecting friends, dating partners, and marriage partners. Look around you, look at your friends and mates. Are they similar to you?

WHAT TRAITS ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU? Your best friend wants to get you a date. Your friend asks you to list the three most important characteris- tics you would like that date to have. What are the three characteristics you would list? Take a minute and write down the three characteristics that are most important to you in a date. Most people would say intelligence, friendli- ness, and sincerity are the most important qualities. But when you actually make your selection, you base your selection on physical appearance.

Are attractive people really better adjusted, smarter, or more assertive than unattractive people? Aft er analyzing dozens of studies, psychologist Alan Feingold (1992) found that there were actually very few personality dif- ferences between beautiful people and their plainer counterparts. Physical attractiveness is not correlated with intelligence, mental health, or even self- esteem. However, our tendency is to perceive beautiful people as healthier and just plain better than others (Flora 2004).

Th e more aware we are that characteristics, like physical attractiveness, infl uence our perceptions of others, the less chance that these characteristics will have on infl uencing our perceptions of others. Th ank goodness that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what is beautiful to one person is not considered beautiful to another person. Th is gives all of us a fair chance.

Perception is an interesting subject. Th e better we get to know someone, the more beautiful he or she becomes in our eyes. We oft en perceive the peo- ple we love as being beautiful, regardless of what anyone else may think.

W hen you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes, and when you leave, you judge him by his heart.


T he only way to live happily with others is to overlook

their faults and admire their virtues.


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26 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

Another important aspect of people perception is the judgment we make about why people behave as they do. Our responses to other people are strongly infl uenced by these judgments, and we are constantly attempting to understand the reasons for other people’s behavior. Th is leads us to the attri- bution process.

WHAT IS THE ATTRIBUTION PROCESS? Attributions allow us to make sense out of other people’s actions, fi gure out their attitudes and personality traits, and ultimately to gain some control over subsequent interactions with them through our increased ability to predict their behaviors. To keep our world predictable and controllable, we do not need to ask “why” questions all the time. Many of our casual attributions are virtually automatic, implicit in the impression we form of other people and situations as we have seen (Krull and Dill 1998).

What would you do and think in the following situation? Class is over and you are walking to your next class and you see your boyfriend or girl- friend on the other side of campus talking to a member of the opposite sex. Many of you would feel your emotions take control of your mind and body and react aggressively toward your partner and accuse them of fl irt- ing with the other person. Are you jealous? What would you say when your boyfriend or girlfriend fi nds you talking to a member of the opposite sex? It tends to be a diff erent story when the shoe is on the other foot, doesn’t it? Why? Attribution theory shows that we frequently over-estimate the infl uence of a person’s personality and under-estimate the impact of the situation he or she is in (Worchel et al. 2000). In the situation above, you attributed your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s behavior to his or her personal- ity and not being a trustworthy person. You forgot to consider the situa- tion she was in. Remember, yesterday she was sick and missed her classes and she was talking to the other person in order to get the notes for class. Your response to this event was inappropriate because you did not con- sider the situation your girlfriend was in. Have you ever done this? We are more likely to respond this way to people we do not know than people we do know. Hopefully, you are secure enough in your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend that you would trust them talking to a person of the opposite sex.

Another variable that has a powerful infl uence on our perception of others and our interaction with them is the power of expectations.

Predicting the future is usually the work of astrologers or others who claim to be a prophet. In reality, each of us predicts what will be, and we also make it come true. A self-fulfi lling prophecy is “an expectation that helps to bring about the predicted events, which consequently strengthens the expectation” (Myers 2007). Psychologists are aware that these expectations can aff ect the behavior and outcome of others.

THE SELFFULFILLING PROPHECY. We see what we want to see; we become what others expect of us. Th is is the premise of the self-fulfi lling prophecy . Th is is such a powerful force in our life that it not only determines how you see yourself in the present, but can actually infl uence your future behavior and that of others. A self-fulfi lling prophecy occurs when a person’s expec- tations of an event makes the outcome more likely to happen than would otherwise have been true. Self-fulfi lling prophecies occur all the time, although you are not always aware of them. For example,

T reasure life in yourself and you will give it to others, give

it to others and it will come back to you. For life, like love, cannot thrive inside its own threshold, but is renewed as it offers itself. Life grows as it is spent.


T he greatest discovery in our generation is that human

beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.


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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 27

You hate math, but you register for a math class anyway, knowing that you will have diffi culty learning the material. You end up dropping out because you’re failing the course.

You expected to become nervous and not do well in a job interview, and later you did actually become nervous and your interview suff ered.

Your boss assigns you a new task saying that you will have diffi culty com- pleting it. You proved him right and did not complete it.

A parent keeps telling his daughter that she is a brat. She proves him right and keeps causing problems.

You anticipated having a good (or terrible) time at a social aff air and your expectations came true.

In each of these cases, there is a good chance that the event happened because you expected it to happen. Rosenthal and Jacobson (2003) found that teacher expectations can have a tremendous aff ect on his or her students. For example, a teacher was told that certain students had more intellectual poten- tial than the other students in the class. Th e class was given a test prior to the teacher’s fi rst day of class and another test a few months later. Th e results were surprising, because all of the students started with about the same potential. Th e students who were recognized as having “high potential” by the teacher improved at a much higher rate than those recognized as “average” students— apparently as a result of the teacher’s higher expectations.

TYPES OF SELFFULFILLING PROPHECIES. Th ere are two types of self-fulfi lling prophecies. Th e fi rst type that we will discuss is imposed by one person on another, so that the expectation of one person seems to control another’s action. We described this in the Jacobson and Rosenthal study of a teacher’s expectations of their students. Th e teacher expected certain students to do well, and as a result they did better than the low-expectation students. To put this phenomenon in context with self-concept, we can say that when a teacher communicates to a student the message “I think you’re bright,” the student accepts that evaluation and changes their self-concept to include it. In contrast, we realize that the reverse is also true for students whose teachers send the message “I think you’re stupid.” Can you think of some examples of this type of self-fulfi lling prophecy that you have observed?

A coach telling a player he is not sure if he will make the team. A parent telling his daughter that she is a brat. A doctor telling her patient that he may not live much longer.

A teacher telling his student that he is not college material. A coach telling a player that she is too short to play basketball.

How would these comments infl uence a person’s behavior?

Th e second category of self-fulfi lling prophecy is the self-imposed proph- ecy that occurs when your own expectations infl uence your behavior.

EXPECTATIONS ARE THE BASIS OF THE SELFFULFILLING PROPHECY. We fi nd that expectations are the foundation of our success, but they can also be the basis of our failure. If we believe that we can succeed, we can do it. If we believe that we are incompetent and not capable, we will be a failure. Which do you want to become—a failure or a success? Th is type of self- fulfi lling prophecy becomes a vicious circle (Schultz and Oskamp 2000). A thought about self is carried out in behavior, which then brings

I f you think you can do something, or you think you

cannot, you are usually right.


G et on good terms with yourself and see how quickly others get on good terms with you.


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28 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

about an even stronger confi rming thought. You, a shy person, will fulfi ll your own prophecy. If the descriptor is a positive one which increases your self-esteem, the self-fulfi lling prophecy is a friend. Too oft en, though, our thoughts are limiting and serve as our enemy. Figure 1.9 demonstrates this vicious circle.

Self-fulfi lling prophecies are powerful. Th ey can have a positive or negative impact on our self-concept, or they can infl uence us in the business world, or in how our family operates. What kind of eff ect has the self-fulfi lling prophecy had on you?

Can I Change My Image?

Can I change how others perceive me? Can I change my expectations? It is not easy, but you can change. How can you do this? You are con- stantly projecting yourself to others as being a capable, good, bad, infe-

rior, successful, dumb, happy, sad, depressed, or superior type of person. Do you like the way others perceive you as a person? You can change your image through impression management.

IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT. Th ere is a strong correlation between the self- fulfi lling prophecy and impression management. If you project yourself as being a successful person, others will perceive you as being successful, and if they expect you to be successful, you become more successful. Impression management refers to our conscious eff ort to present ourselves in socially desirable ways (Worchel et al. 2000); (Santrock 2006).

Have you ever been interviewed for a job? How did you dress? Did you project yourself in a positive way? Did you relate to this person diff erently than you do with your friends? Most of you would dress diff erently for the interview. You would make sure that you say the “right” things and respond positively to the interviewer. You are doing what we call impression man- agement. You are attempting to portray yourself in a way that you think the interviewer expects you to be. Impression management is necessary if we want people to like us, respect us, hire us, or buy something from us.

How can you infl uence the impressions you make on others?

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop. ANCIENT CHINESE PROVERB

Thoughts of


Behavior Confirming Thoughts

Figure 1.9 Person to Person: Positive Relationships Don’t Just Happen, 2nd Edition by Sharon L. Hanna, © 1995. Adapted by permission of Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

How To Make Favorable Impressions How can you infl uence the impressions you make on others? Most of us make a conscious effort to infl uence the way others think of us. When we present ourselves to others, we usually try to make ourselves look better than we really are. We spend billions of dollars rearranging our bodies, our faces, our minds, and our social skills.

To increase your odds of making a good fi rst impression, Valerie White and Ann Demarais (2005), authors of First Impressions: What You Don’t Know about How Others See You, offer these tips:

1. Make eye contact at least half to two-thirds of the time (any more than this and you may come on too strong). And pay attention to your body language. Lean toward others when they speak. Nod every now and then.

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 29

2. Smile, even if you aren’t in the mood. Just going through the motions of showing some teeth may make you—and others—feel better, says the research.

3. Be careful about “oversharing,” i.e., disclosing too much personal information about yourself. Keep it light. Keep it positive.

4. Try a little fl attery. People warm to others who pay them compliments even if they know they’re false. But, it is best when done sincerely.

5. Got a prepared opening line as an ice-breaker? Ditch it, or you risk coming across as shallow, aggressive, and calculating.

6. Check your impulse to use the other person’s name repeatedly. Once or twice might work, but overplaying the name game can make you seem “salesy” and forced.

7. Think a neutral, inscrutable style makes you appear thoughtful, deep or cool? Forget it. Aloof behavior like kicking back at the table, crossing your arms or showing zero emotion makes you look bored or arrogant.

Remember that fi rst impression techniques that work in one cultural setting may not work in another. For example, the non-verbal “thumbs up” gesture, which means in the U.S. that every- thing is OK, or that we would like to hitch a ride, means something very different in Greece—an insult similar to a raised fi nger. In the Native American culture of the Sioux, it is considered courte- ous to open a conversation with a compliment. In some Eastern European countries, if one person expresses great admiration for another’s wristwatch, courtesy dictates that the watch be given to the admirer. When interacting with people from different backgrounds and different cultures, you need to remember that they may be interpreting the situation or event differently than you.

Our values can also color “the facts.” Our preconceptions can bias our observations and interpretations. Sometimes, we see what we are predisposed to see. Even the words we use to describe a person or an event can refl ect our values.

WHAT KIND OF IMAGE DO YOU PROJECT? How do others perceive you? Remember, if you do not like how others are perceiving you, you can change the image. You can change the way you dress, the way you act, your hairstyle, your posture, whatever it takes to change the image. You can do it.

As we begin to understand the process of people perception, we are now ready to begin the process of getting acquainted. What are the stages in the development of a friendship?

Developing New Relationships

Unfortunately, it is not easy to meet or get acquainted with others. If we wait for others to initiate the encounter, we may become very lonely. It is up to you, and only you to initiate the encounter and get the ball rolling in order for your friendships to grow and develop into long-lasting relationships.

If we understand the steps that are involved in initiating new relation- ships, we will be more likely to begin to incorporate them into our everyday life. What are these steps?

STEPS IN INITIATING NEW RELATIONSHIPS. Here are four steps you can take to initiate new relationships.

1. Communication underlies all relationships, but in order to communicate with others we must fi rst make contact with them. Whatever the nature of the situation, an encounter will usually begin

L ife is now in session. Are you present?


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30 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

with some communicative act that invites a response from another person. In order to do this, we must develop good communication skills. We fi nd that the people who seem to have lots of friends also seem to have good communication skills. Th ese skills can be learned. Th e Communication chapter will help you learn these skills. 2. Exposing yourself may give you the opportunity to get acquainted with someone you would like to get to know. When we say exposing yourself, we do not mean by showing parts of your body. We mean, by allowing the people you want to get to know you to see you more oft en. Th e more familiar you become with someone the more apt you are to interact with that person. Th e fi rst time you walk by a stranger what do you do? Most of us would ignore the stranger. Th e next time you walk by the stranger you may smile. Th e next time you see one another you say, “Hi,” and from then on the more you encounter this person the more you begin to interact. All of a sudden—you’re friends.

Have you heard the story about people marrying the person next door? You are constantly being exposed to that person. You see each other on a regu- lar basis and without any real eff ort on your part, all of a sudden you are friends and begin dating. Th e more we see someone, the less we will be infl u- enced by fi rst impressions.

WHERE DID YOU MEET YOUR FRIENDS? Was it school, church, near where you live, at your place of employment, the grocery store, or at the athletic club? Research reveals that most people are more likely to like, and even marry, an individual who lives, works, or goes to school within close proximity to them. Proximity—geographical nearness —is perhaps the most powerful predictor of friendship. Of course, proximity also provides opportunities for fi ghts, assaults, rapes, and murders. But much more oft en it instigates liking.

If you live in a college dormitory, your friends are more likely to live down the hall than across campus. Your earliest friends were probably children who lived next door or even in the same neighborhood.

What about the saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder? As long as you isolate yourself from other prospective dates or mates, the saying is accurate. But, for most of us the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder for

F riendship improves happi- ness; it abates misery,

doubles our joy and divides our grief.


Student Story One of my students came to my offi ce one day for counseling. He said he was depressed and that he did not have any friends. He said that there was something missing in his life. I asked him about his daily activities. He had an early morning class where he sat in the front corner seat. After class he went to the library to study, then on to his next two classes where he also sat in the front corner seat. Next, he would go to his job and fi nally go home. This was his daily routine. Was he giving himself the opportunity to meet new friends? No wonder he was lonely and depressed. We discussed some alternatives to his daily routine. What would you recommend?

Some alternatives would be for him to sit near other students, go to where the other students socialize between classes and expose himself to other students. It took some effort on his part but he slowly started to reach out to and get acquainted with others. To his surprise, within one week, he began to make new friends.

Check This Out

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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 31

someone else.” Th ere is another saying that is appropriate here, “When I’m not with the one I love, I love the one I’m with.” What happens when friends and lovers move away? Eventually most of these relationships will slowly dissolve to nothing more than a periodic phone call or card.

DOES FAMILIARITY BREED CONTEMPT? Evidence shows that familiarity does not breed contempt, it breeds fondness. Th e more we are exposed to novel stimuli—a new person or new product—our liking for such stimuli will increase. Th is phenomenon, called the mere-exposure eff ect , explains in part why we are attracted to people in close proximity to us (Wood et al. 2007). Richard Moreland and Scott Beach (1992) demonstrated this by having four equally attractive women silently attend a 200-student class for 0, 5, 10, 15 class sessions. At the end of the class, the students were shown slides of each woman; the students rated the ones they had seen as most attractive. Th e phenomenon will come as no surprise to the young Taiwanese who wrote over 700 letters to his girlfriend, urging her to get married. She did—to the mail carrier (Sternberg 1993).

SOCIAL NETWORKS. If it seems as though you are having diffi culty getting acquainted with others, you may want to join a singles club, or even try a social networking website. Actually, the Internet has tremendously expanded opportunities for people to meet and develop relationships through social networking services, e-mail, chat rooms, and news groups. Of the roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults who go online, 35 percent use social network- ing sites such as MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn, according to a survey and report released in January 2009 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Th e median ages of MySpace and Facebook were 26 and 27 years old. At the career focused LinkedIn it was 40. Even though a growing number of companies have a presence on social networking sites, friendship is the main reason for logging on.

Be careful when joining a club, dating service or social networking website—check their references. How long have they been established? How much will they cost you? Talk to others who have joined or used their services. You want to make sure that you can benefi t from their services and not let them take advantage of you.

Th e other two steps in initiating relationships are:

3. Social Skills enable you to create situations to meet new people and to maintain their friendship. How can you learn these skills? Practice makes perfect. Practice the skills you observe other people using that enables them to interact well among others. Practice role playing with a friend—your friend will also be able to provide you with benefi cial feedback that will enable you to change. Practice diff erent situations in your mind. Picture yourself asking someone out for a date or imagine yourself being interviewed for a job. Th e more you practice, the better you will be able to handle the situation. Practice verbal and non-verbal skills. Another idea would be to have someone video tape you in diff erent situations. Th is is a lot of fun and provides great feedback when you watch yourself on fi lm. 4. Classes in communication skills, human relations, or acquiring assertiveness skills will provide you with new techniques and skills that you can apply in developing new relationships while improving your present relationships.

O ften the deepest relation-ships can be developed during the simplest activities.


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32 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

Th ese are just a few steps you can use in initiating new relationships. What about meeting and interacting with people from diff erent cultures? HOW WE CAN HAVE SUCCESSFUL INTERACTIONS WITH PEOPLE FROM OTHER CULTURES. In the world today, it is important that we learn to relate success- fully with people from other cultures. We need to move beyond prejudicial thinking that aff ects our interactions with diff erent types of people. We all want to experience success in our eff orts in developing intercultural relation- ships. How can we do this?

In order to be successful when engaging in extensive intercultural inter- actions, the following four conditions must be met:

1. People must feel that they are having successful relationships with people from other cultures. Th ey must show respect, seek out activities of mutual interest, work cooperatively on projects, spend part of their free time with others, and so forth. In short, relationships should be warm and cordial, and people should look forward to their intercultural interactions. 2. Th ese feelings must be perceived as positive and be reciprocated by those culturally diverse individuals. Some people report that they have many friends and that these friends are gracious and cordial, but others report that those same people are abrasive, unfriendly, and should be avoided. 3. We discover that most intercultural interactions oft en involve tasks of some kind. Th e tasks that people want to accomplish while interacting with people from other cultures involve such things as: community projects, completing a degree in school, wanting to start or maintain a joint venture, completing forms that have to be fi lled out, visiting a foreign country and fi nding your way to a strange location, communicating with someone you cannot understand, dealing with government agencies, medical facilities, or legal hassles. Th ese tasks need to be accomplished in an effi cient manner and within a reasonable amount of time.

W hen I meet someone from another culture, I behave in the way that is natural to me, while the other behaves in the way that is natural to him or her. The only problem is that our “natural” ways do not coincide.


F riendship is a plant we must often water.


Ways to Make a Friend (Karbo 2006)

Since 1985 the number of Americans who say they have no one to talk to has doubled. Where and how do adults make friends?

SIGN UP FOR a group travel adventure; people tend to bond more easily when out of their comfort zone. The experience will provide an instant group of people with whom you share a unique memory.

TAKE A CLASS in something you love; enthusiasm is contagious. GET A DOG (a pet is also good for your heart) and show up every morning at your local dog

park. People love to chat about their pooches. TAKE A FRESH LOOK at your neighbors, coworkers, classmates, fellow gym gunnies—the

people you meet and greet on a regular basis. If you’ve been standoffi sh, say hello. If you’ve traded hellos for months, engage them in conversation.


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Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others 33

4. People should also experience minimal stress due to the fact that they are dealing with individuals from other cultures rather than from their own culture. Life is stressful enough, and successful intercultural relations suggest that there should be no additional stress brought on by the fact that the others with whom people work and/or interact with are from a diff erent cultural background (Brislin 1997).

If you have the desire to form special, close relationships with other peo- ple, remember that the prerequisite is knowing, accepting, and appreciating yourself.

You can learn to make your social life rich and rewarding by taking an active role in changing yourself. Your knowledge and beliefs about relation- ships will infl uence your ultimate enjoyment. You learn from experience, so take charge of your life, take a few risks and chances. Enjoy life and appreciate each and every relationship you have.

Perhaps these words from business leader Clarence Francis are worth remembering:

I sincerely believe that the word relationships is the key to the prospect of a decent world. It seems abundantly clear that every problem you will have—in your family, your business, in your personal life, in our nation, or in this world—is essentially a matter of relationships or interdependence.

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34 Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ourselves and Others

Chapter Review

Our greatest pleasures and our most traumatic experiences have evolved around relationships.

■ Self-Discovery—To get to know yourself and to get to know another person requires a shared giving and taking regarding what we know about ourselves.

■ Th e revealing of the inner-self is called self-disclosure. ■ Th e evolution of a relationship is based on how much you are willing to disclose about yourself and

how much the other person is willing to disclose about themselves to you—the process called self- disclosure.

■ Good self-disclosure skills are fundamental to relationships for many reasons: defi ning yourself, knowing yourself, getting acquainted, developing intimacy.

■ Th e greatest risk of self-disclosure is rejection. ■ Th ere are many advantages of self-disclosure: improves relationships, promotes mental health, self-

validation, social control, impression management. ■ Th e Johari Window illustrates how self-disclosure operates and will allow you to become more aware

of yourself and your potential as a communicator. ■ Th e size of the window pane in the Johari Window may vary depending on your communication

behavior and the quality of your relationship. ■ Loneliness is one of the most serious problems in our society today—it is a feeling of longing and

emptiness that is caused by the lack of emotional attachments and social ties. ■ Loneliness is most prevalent among teenagers, unmarried young adults, the divorced, and the

widowed. ■ Loneliness makes a person vulnerable to many diff erent situations, including the use of drugs, alcohol,

suicide, medical problems, sexual promiscuity, mental illness, and negative relationships. ■ What should a relationship provide? Emotional attachments and social ties must be satisfi ed in order

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