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Interpersonal Ethical Positions

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Published: Tue, 01 Aug 2017

The interpersonal ethical positions include the nature of man approach, the nature of communication approach, communication as a social contract, communication as a relationship, communication as dialogue, and the ethic of care. Each of these has a basis in how to treat others, how to handle specific situations, and how they interact with the other positions. I will be discussing their application in a couple of cases, as well as how my of interpersonal ethos ties in with my professional ethics.

First and foremost, Aristotle’s view of human nature “emphasizes the capacity for reason as a uniquely human attribute.” This type of ethics stems from a rational and conscious person and what they do freely. This view argues that whatever affirms that nature is ethical and whatever subverts it is unethical. The issue with this view is that emotion is somewhat excluded from ethical consideration, and thus does not properly reflect human nature. The human nature approach is extremely useful in figuring out what persuasive tactics are ethical and what aren’t. The human nature view influences how I treat others because it keeps me from viewing situations with my emotions at the forefront, it helps me view situations where I view people rationally and realize they do indeed consciously make decisions. I believe this application is situational, because it is not always proper to view others as rational beings, sometimes people make mistakes due to emotional sway, mental illness, etc.

Another theory, the nature of communication approach focuses on the idea that facilitating the sharing of meaning is ethical and whatever subverts shared meaning would be unethical. This type of communication puts forth the theory that unethical communication hampers shared meaning and mutual understanding. This works to correct situations such as “lying, group think, coercion and persuasion,” but also tends to be overly simplistic. The nature of communication view influences how I treat others because it reminds me that communication with others is about mutual understanding between communicators. It reminds me to be truthful and straightforward in my communication with others. I believe this application is universal because it is always important to have shared communication with others, and that unethical communication leads to skewed meaning and understanding.

The social contract approach follows the premise that individuals come together because they are motivated by their own self-interest and agree to standards of conduct to form a social contract. This approach states that communication situations are implied social contracts with mutually presumed standards. This encompasses relationship ethics, managerial ethics, and the ethics of teamwork. Social contractarianism is a very useful structure for developing a professional ethos, especially for public relations practitioners. The social contract view influences how I treat others because it reminds me that people will sometimes follow their own self-interests before the interests of others, so it is best to find a middle ground to communicate on. I believe this application is situational because not all communication is based on people who are completely self-interested.

The theory of communication as a relationship sets a standard that communication is the most important element in a relationship. It states that ethical communication is the most important element in maintaining relationships. The nature of the relationship itself determines the “ethical parameters of the communication.” In this view, ethical communication is one of honest and open exchange of information. This is important to professional roles and fulfillment of the responsibilities of professional relationships and is useful in communication professions. The communication as a relationship view influences how I treat others because it informs me about the concept of relationships as a huge part of communication as a whole while remaining ethical. It allows me to openly communicate with others as I deem fit. I believe this application is universal because communication builds relationships – both personal and professional – and reminds us all to choose openness in our communication.

Communication as dialogue sets communication as the true concern for the welfare and fulfillment of others. It also emphasizes choice making in response to the demands of specific situations. It requires sensitivity to “role responsibilities of such relationships as teacher-pupil, doctor-patient,” etc. This highlights specific communication responsibilities which may be unclear in other situations because it requires everyone to be equally enabled to fully participate. The communication as dialogue view influences how I treat others because it sets forth the idea of concern for the welfare of other instead of just the idea of self-fulfillment, while also setting precedents for various types of communication relationships with full engagement. I believe this application is once again situational, because people are sometimes more concerned with themselves than others, though it does provide situational clarity.

The ethics of caring stems from feminist ethics but separates itself from feminism in a few ways. Generally, the ethics of care rejects oppression, questions rationality over emotion, of detachment over engagement, of the public sphere over the private sphere, and of individuals over relationships. The ethic of care goes against the dispassionate approaches and has relevance to all types of communication ethics, especially interpersonal ethics. The ethics of caring view influences how I treat others because it truly excels in denying oppression, and covers communication as a bilateral process as opposed to a unilateral process, and is especially relevant for interpersonal relationships. I believe this application is universal because we should always strive to create caring communication both personally and professionally.

As I am including more than one position, I will discuss how the human nature view, social contract view, and dialogue view interact. The human nature view reminds us to uphold the importance of human reason to ethics, and the social contract and dialogue view can be merged to remind us that there is always self-interest as well as concern for others mingled into communication ethics.

From my own experience, I remember that after my father passed I became so close to my therapist as a child that I often considered her part of my family, and communicated with her as such. She had lost a parent as well and we were both able to openly communicate about our experiences. I believe that I used the communication as a relationship view because I was comfortable enough with my therapist to communicate honestly with her. The outcome of using this ethic was a professional relationship of mutual respect and concern. Another experience for me was trying to befriend someone who lived in a higher socioeconomic status than I did. She was kind but didn’t want to be friends because it would look odd to her other affluent friends. After hanging out a few times, she came to realize that it didn’t matter what others thought, or what the norm was, and we have been best friends ever since. I believe in this case I used the ethics of caring view in cementing my friendship because we were both able to look past societal norms. Luckily, the outcome of this is a lifelong friendship with a very genuine person.

The implications of my interpersonal ethos for your professional ethics is that I am much more likely to follow a code which is universal, inclusive of others, and concerned with the emotions and connections involved in communicating with others. Both of my ethos relate to my personal goals because I wish to be able to passionately present my viewpoints and information in communication, but I must also remember not to rely solely on emotion in my professional career – there is a time for emotion but there is also time for pure logic.


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