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Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112

Research Report on West Quay shopping centre

Stephanie Harris Public relations and communications Interpersonal communication Word count: 2,230


Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112 "Interpersonal communication is the process of message transaction between two or more people, to create and sustain shared meaning." (West et al, 2011, pg 10) Interpersonal communication is used throughout our entire lives; it can be verbal or non verbal communication allowing us to express our opinions and emotions. For my research report I have focused on the observations and analysis of West Quay shopping centre, Southampton. In this report I will cover a number of different situations in which were observed during my research, I will then go on to link these observations with theories and begin to understand how and why they were taking place. I began the research standing outside the main entrance of West Quay as it was a weekend it was very busy and packed with a variety of people, the first observation made was on a group of young children, around 20-30 of them were all standing outside the centre in a group, interacting between themselves. The group were spaced out forming smaller more intimate groups within themselves. I then went on to analyse my findings by looking at different theories and how they would explain the actions that took place, I began by looking at the significance of numbers in social life, this was formed by Simmel (1908) who looks at the effects of the number of participants within a social group. This theory looks into the effects of adding more participants on to a social situation, for instance if there was a situation with only two people this would be known as a dyadic group. The dyadic group delegates a lot of responsibility onto each participant as the withdrawal of one would end the communication as a whole. Simmel (1908) goes onto talk about the effects of adding another participant, forming a triadic group, by adding a third member to the group you see less demand on each individual. This can be shown through my observation of the large groups of children who had divided themselves into smaller sized groups, by doing so they have allowed a greater involvement of its members. If the group was to stay as one larger group they would become societies of unequals, there would be less demand on its members and a higher change that they will only be involved with segments of the communication. As I began to walk through the shopping centre I began to look around at the people around me, some of whom were merely trying to get out of the shopping centre, some stopping and talking to people in the middle and some going into the different shops. One of the main factors that were noted in this time was the amount of non-verbal communication that was taking place, this ranged from a wave from a woman to someone across the shop, to a man slumped over sat in the waiting area for his wife to buy her clothes. Non-verbal communication is a very important factor of communication and allows emotion and opinion to be portrayed even if words are not being spoken. However an important part of non-verbal communication is the way in which a message is interpreted, this was looked into by De Saussure who formed the semiotics model which is based on how a sign is read. Signs are composed of a signifier which is the physical entity itself, this is what we can see or hear or touch and so on. The second part is the signified this is the idea or emotion that is formed as an effect of the signifier. (Hill et all, 2007, pg 31) A person will have control over the signifier however they cannot control the emotion that this may convey, for instance through my observation I found that a simple head nod from a man to a shop assistant may be taken in a number


Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112 of ways, it may be a sign of feedback or it may be an expression of emotion and attitude towards the other person. Argyle (1988) is another theorist who emphasized the important of non-verbal communication and the different meanings behind such simple observations. There are a number of different ways in which we as humans communicate without words however sometimes the meaning behind such gestures are overlooked. Morris (2002) broke down gestures into two main categories, primary, communicating with intent and incidental, when communicating was not intended but may still be interpreted by others as doing so. This theory would argue that the simple head nod from one woman to another could have a number of meanings, it may just be a simple regulation of social interaction or it may be to express emotion and attitude towards the other woman. Posture is another way in which people will portray their emotions without speaking, this man who is slumped over sitting down may be showing his emotional state in that he is bored or depressed waiting for his wife to finish. Non-verbal communication can aid a situation in a number of ways, however it must also be taken very carefully as actions may be taken in a number of ways, for instance in different cultures. When walking through the shopping centre my main observations were that of the appearance and presentation of those around me, as it was a weekend there was a variety of age groups, ethnicities and gender however I mostly found the most dominant features were found on the younger generation. The younger generation had a number of piercings, tattoos and more extreme hairstyles compared to those who were older. Appearance, dress and bodily adornment are very important within interpersonal communication, it is known as the 'standing features’ (Ellis and Beattie 1986). These standing features can help to send many messages about one's self for instance the status of the person, wearing expensive clothing and jewellery may give the impression of someone wealthy, age, gender, faith and so forth. However appearance may also be largely based on religion for instance there was a young girl with henna all up her arm, this would have been for religious reasons, and throughout the day there was a number of cultural differences regarding appearance noted, they would not be doing this in order to emphasize their personalities or status, it is simply for religion purposes. (Hill et al, 2007, pg 136-137) Moving up towards the food counter I decided to focus specifically on McDonald’s fast food restaurant, you get a wide variety of people visiting here and I noted down a few in particular. Firstly I cited a business women, quite young but dressed well, she was very confident in what she was doing, and spoke clearly and dominantly when ordering, she then pulled out a credit card and paid for her order. The second was a young family this again was very confident order from the mother and she decided what her children would have, however there was a bit more chaos as the children were shouting to her what they wanted and so on. Finally I noted a young man, he seemed in no rush to order, and was very unsure in what he wanted, finally after ordering he pulled out a large amount of coins from his pocket and gathered the money together to pay, this took a while as he sat and counted out the right amount. Eisenberg (2001) believes the way in which communication takes place is very much based on our identity, our interrelated differences are going on at the same time as our communication process for


Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112 instance our upbringing, mood, cultural background and so on. The forces within the surround or our environment influence both how we see ourselves, how we present ourselves towards others, and therefore how we communicate in general. "The surrounds mix of influences and pressures, determining how we see ourselves and activate ourselves in relation to others, runs counter to the idea of a fixed self" (Hill et al, 2007, pg 40). Eisenberg (2001) believes the degree of power we have on our lives is a key factor to communication so for instance the young man who was very fearful and stiff when ordering his food has a low power and therefore insecurities within his identity causing his communication to weaken, this approach seems realistic due to the man sitting counting out his money, his confidence seemed low and he was very unstable during the order, leading to his lack of communication with the staff. Another factor to this theory is that of the 'multiplicity of selves', this states that different social situations we encounter through our everyday lives will lead us to act, communicate and present ourselves differently, whether this be when faced with pressure, happiness, or a cultural change we constantly see a change in ourselves. Eisenberg (2001) for instance may argue in this situation observed in the food court, the business woman's confident approach to her order was due to the influence of the surround, there was little pressure being placed on her, she felt confident and comfortable and therefore there was no stress and communication flowed well. This may have been different if she was placed in a situation she was not comfortable with, and we may have seen different forms of interpersonal communication taking place. The sitting area of the food court was another main area where interpersonal communications were key; there were a variety of groups of people, some eating alone for lunch, some big groups of people, families and so on. I observed a large difference in spatial behaviour between these different types of groups, for instance the first table I observed was two men, they were both dressed smartly and looked as though they were on a lunch break, they were sat at opposite ends of the tables and were head on with quite a large distance between them, one man had his bag on the seat next to him, a third member came and joined them around 10 minutes later and sat next to one of the men. The second table I observed again was only two people however this time it was a young couple, they were sat on two chairs next to each other and were in a close proximity to each other constantly. Argyle (1988) says that spatial behaviour is formed of proximity, orientation and territorial behaviour of a situation. The space that is being used will help indicate the relationship between the participants, the status between them and the interaction that takes place. The main observation noted was the gain of an extra person to the business men's table, there was instant change in the mood and body language, as I saw the man who was being sat next to become much more distant, he did not involve himself in as much of the conversation, his eye contact was limited and was quick to finish his meal and leave. This theory believes that this would have been because of the invasion of his personal space; the man coming sitting next to him took away the amount of space he had prior and meant he did not feel comfortable in this situation any longer leading to the reduced communications. Hall (1966) talks about different zones within our lives, intimate, personal, social and public, they change based on relationships and situations that may be faced. In the case of the men eating lunch,


Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112 his zone or personal space was taken away, whereas the other man had placed his bag on the chair leading to a territorial marker being placed stopping anyone from sitting down and taking away his space. On the other hand the young couple were very relaxed within themselves, there was strong eye contact between them as they were in quite an intimate setting, and I could instantly understand the relationship between them based on the distance and interaction between the two. Hall (1966) would believe this to be an intimate situation, this is for those with close relationships, there is not awkwardness to the situation and you can sense that they are both comfortable and happy with the proximity of the situation. Throughout this report there have been strong findings highlighting the importance and key role of interpersonal communication within our societies and cultures. There are a number of factors each in turn having different effects on social situations, this may be externally and the situations we are faced with or internally such as our own personal beliefs and insecurities. Although our communication between us can often be strong, we have also seen a large amount of avoidance, where people will go out there way to avoid certain social situations which they do not want to find themselves involved in, this however is not the case for everyone and there are a number of factors that will affect the way a social situation turns out. As shown there are a number of different beliefs to why we react in certain ways and avoid certain situations, it is key to understand the importance of interpersonal communication and without realising how often it is used and overlooked in everyday life. Communication can be seen in a number of forms whether this is spoken, body language, or touch, the importance of this however is how we use these techniques, the meanings we take from what we see and how others around you interpret their significance.


Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112 References Interpersonal Communication Skills

2011-2013, Interpersonal Communication Skills. [online] Available at: http://www.skillsyouneed.co.uk/IPS/Interpersonal_Communication.html [Accessed: 5 Mar 2013].

Hill, Anne, 1952 Key themes in interpersonal communication culture, identities and performance

Hill, A. (2007). Key themes in interpersonal communication culture, identities and performance. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Simmel, Georg, 1858-1918. The sociology of Georg Simmel

Simmel, G., & Wolff, K. H. (1950). The sociology of Georg Simmel. Glencoe, Ill, Free Press.

West, R. and Turner, L. understanding interpersonal communication

West, R. and Turner, L. (2011) understanding interpersonal communication . [e-book] USA: Lyn Uhl, p.10.


Stephanie Harris / Q10114513 / CCA112 Appendix I began my observations by standing outside West Quay shopping centre my first observation was on a large group of teenagers, they were standing in a massive group outside the centre and were interacting between themselves, this was surprising as it was in the middle of a busy shopping area and they were very much in the way, they did not pay attention to anyone apart from their social group however. Due to this if also noticed many other individuals getting angry towards the young children as they were in the way causing queues and congestion, many were tutting and frowning showing many gestures that they were not happy with what was taking place. When I began to walk through the shopping centre, again it was very busy and congested, people had formed almost a system where those walking out would go on one side and those walking in were on the other, however there were a few individuals who went against this system. There was a wide variety of people in the shopping centre each looking completely different those who stood out for me was a young teenager who was wearing very suggestive clothing; you could tell she was young and confident within herself, another was a Muslim woman who wore clothing based on her religion. There was not a lot of interaction when walking through the shopping centre as people were much more interested in getting to their destination. When reaching the food court it was lunch time there were again a lot of people, I noticed the different groups located on the tables, some were young teenagers who were all sat together having a social interaction, some were work colleagues who were a lot more distant compared to others and had little eye contact and interaction and finally a young couple who were very intimate and in each other's space. Towards the end of my day observing in West Quay shopping centre, I headed towards the entrance where I began, there was a young group of mixed teenagers standing outside the doors, I noticed that two of the members were smoking, the third was not. After a few minutes one of the girls asked the member who was not smoking to have hers, she shaked her head indicating to me she was not interested. However when I proceeded to watch the group a few minutes later the girl was offered the cigarette again this time the cigarette was pushed towards the member not smoking's face as a sign to take it and smoke, there was a lot of hesitation however they finally took the cigarette and began to smoke, still socialising within the group.

Research report on west quay shopping centre  
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