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Sinclaire Tirona

COML 595

October 20, 2017

Philosophy of Communication

I chose to study socio-cultural anthropology for my undergraduate degree because I felt

there was a need to understand the world before I could try to make a positive change. The study

of communication theory has provided me with the tools and analysis needed not only to better

understand the issues around me, but to help effect positive change as well. The theories and

traditions we studied, such as the socio-cultural tradition provided me with a framework to use in

better understanding the world (and the interactions within it). These theories and more have

proven integral to my analysis and understanding of the hidden messages and influences in

interpersonal and mass communication, elucidating not only strategies to better communicate on

a micro level, but also to effect change on a larger societal level.

The socio-cultural tradition of communication theory posits that we both create and

reinforce our own reality and culture through our use of language (Griffin, 2012, p. 43). While I

dont definitively agree with Sapir-Whorfs hypothesis that language is a solely influential aspect

dictating how people think and feel (Griffin, 2012, p.43), I do believe that our language has the

power to influence our understanding of reality, especially in its power in maintaining structures

of power as well as reinforcing stereotypes. In light of this, we must be cognizant in our

interactions to ensure that we are not just reinforcing negative stereotypes, supporting incorrect

assumptions of power, and perpetuating inequity. One such example of the power of language to

support individuals as opposed to perpetuating inequity is the correct use of preferred pronouns.

As someone who is cisgender, Ive never struggled with the issue of people incorrectly referring

to my gender, and it was in a conversation with a close friend of mine who is gender non-
conforming just how disempowering it can be when people refuse to acknowledge and refer to

them by their preferred pronoun. It exemplifies how language is inherently structured to privilege

some and disempower others. By better understanding these hidden facets of language and

communication, I feel as though I am in a better position to acknowledge and actively try to

address them in my daily communications and interactions with others.

David Foster Wallace once gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College entitled,

This is water. In this speech Wallace talks about choosing what to think and how to interpret

events and interactions, highlighting that we have the power to decide how to interpret things, it

just takes awareness and mindfulness. Wallace states, It is about simple awareness

awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to

keep reminding ourselves, over and over: This is water, this is water. (Wallace, 2009). The

tools and strategies that I learned in this course kept bringing me back to his speech and my

belief that it is up to us to use communication to understand and shape our interactions. I feel like

this is imperative in using communication to foster good relationships and actions. When

speaking with an upset student at my work, I can choose to be frustrated and blame them for

their bad attitude, responding in kind or I can choose to think about where they are coming from,

what may be influencing their interaction, whether it be a sleepless night, stress about work, or

even just anxiety about being in college.

By choosing to interact mindfully and use my understanding of communication theory, I

can try to effect social change by positively interacting with those around me. By cobbling

together the bits and pieces of the communication theories and traditions we studied, I feel as

though I have a solid philosophy of communication to go forth with in my pursuit of positive

social change.

Griffin, Em. (2014). A first look at communication theory. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher


Wallace, D. F., & Kenyon College. (2009). This is water: Some thoughts, delivered on a

significant occasion about living a compassionate life. New York: Little, Brown.