Professor's book offers new look at interpersonal communications

Kristen EichhornWhen co-authoring the new book “Interpersonal Communication: Building Rewarding Relationships,” Kristen Campbell Eichhorn of SUNY Oswego’s communication studies faculty looked to create something more modern, engaging and relevant than other texts in the field.

“Interpersonal communication is a course many students from other majors take, and we wanted a book that incorporated theory within the field and provided depth as well as breadth,” she said. “For communication majors, this book gives an overview of other courses they might be taking.”

The project started when Eichhorn, chair of the Eastern Communication Association’s Interpersonal Interest Group, received a call from publishers Kendall Hunt, asking her to re-envision the way communication textbooks are created. While she ultimately was asked to include plenty of traditional material, Eichhorn especially enjoyed the opportunity to roll in elements that would help it better connect with students and topics.

Writing with mentor Melissa Wanzer from Canisius College and Candice Thomas Maddox, Eichhorn sought to include three threads—popular culture, computer-mediated communication and intercultural communications—through 14 chapters for currency and continuity.

They divided the book into three sections on interpersonal communications: the basics, the dynamics and explorations of different relevant contexts.

The first section covers the foundation and history of interpersonal communication, verbal and nonverbal communication, development of self, and how individuals develop differently.

The second section, focusing on relationships, incorporates topics including initiating and sustaining relationships, as well as the “dark side” of relationships—such as jealousy, deception and obsession—and even knowing when to end relationships.

“The part about sustaining relationships is something we really wanted to do a chapter on because we feel like other books gloss over it and we thought it’s an important thing for our society,” said Eichhorn, who joined Oswego’s faculty last autumn.

The final section allowed the exploration of topics such as intercultural communication, interfamily relationships and various aspects of organizational communication, as well as two emerging areas: health communications and online relationships.

“One of the most talked-about areas is health communications, especially when I survey my undergraduates,” Eichhorn said. The chapter includes sections on death, dying and grieving; communicating with people who have disabilities; and doctor-patient relationships.

The final chapter, “From Face-to-Face to Cyberspace,” looks at how the Internet has reshaped communication, through positive means like social networks and relationship building and negatively through online deception, Internet addiction and cyberbullying.

Among the encouraging feedback from undergraduates, Eichhorn noted especially the ability of pop-culture examples to convey lessons. “Sometimes students understand theoretical concepts better when you’re using Rachel and Ross from ‘Friends,’” she said.

- END -

(Posted: Feb 06, 2008)