The Effect of Communication Skills and Interpersonal Problem

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Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine communication skills, interpersonal problem solving skills, and social self-efficacy perception of adolescents and the predictive role of communication skills and interpersonal prob- lem solving skills on social self-efficacy. This study is a quantitative and relational study aimed at examining the relationships among communication skills, interpersonal problem solving skills, and social self-efficacy. The study group was comprised of 494 (226 females; 268 males) randomly selected high school students studying in different high schools in Mugla, Turkey. The data were collected using the Communication Skills Inventory, Interpersonal Problem Solving Inventory, and Social Self-Efficacy Expectation Scale for Adolescents. Pearson Product-Moment Correlation analysis was employed to search for relationships among communication skills, interpersonal problem solving skills, and social self-efficacy; multiple hierarchical regression analysis was also used for explaining social self-efficacy. The findings showed that the communication skills and interpersonal problem solving skills were found to be significantly correlated to social self-efficacy and communication skills and interpersonal problem solving skills important predictors of social self-efficacy. Key Words Communication Skills, Interpersonal Problem Solving Skills, Social Self-Efficacy, Adolescents. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice - 13(2) • Spring • 739-745 ©2013 Educational Consultancy and Research Center Atilgan EROZKAN a Mugla Sitki Kocman University The Effect of Communication Skills and Interpersonal Problem Solving Skills on Social Self-Efficacy Adolescence is the period and process of develop- ment from childhood to adulthood. It is a period demanding significant adjustment to the physio- logical, cognitive, psychological, and social changes which distinguish childhood behaviour from adult behaviour. These changes affect the personality and adjustment in later life. During adolescence, com- munication with other people is very important for adolescents (Muuss, 1996). Communication is one of the most basic elements of human functioning, because it is the cornerstone of strong, healthy in- terpersonal relationships. Interpersonal relation- ships begin and develop through communication. The quality of communication has a direct impact on the quality of the interpersonal relationships. And the quality of these interpersonal relationships often affects how they feel about themselves, it’s easy to understand why effective communication in a Atilgan EROZKAN, Ph.D., is currently an associate professor at the department of educational sciences, guidance and psychological counseling. His research interests include attachment styles, rejection sensi- tivity, anxiety sensitivity, social anxiety, perfectionism, and interpersonal problem solving skills. Correspon- dence: Mugla Sıtkı Kocman University, Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences, Mugla/ Turkey. E-mail: [email protected] Phone: +90 252 211 1832. interpersonal relationships is so important. The use of effective communication skills is an important interpersonal competency. Interpersonal compe- tence involves the development of communication skills. Interpersonal competence also involves the ability to engage effectively in complex interper- sonal interaction and to use and understand people effectively. People in an interpersonal relationship tend to influence each other, share their thoughts and feelings, and engage in activities together. Be- cause of this interdependence, most things that change or impact one member of the relationship will have some level of impact on the other mem- ber. A relationship is normally viewed as a con- nection between two individuals, such as intimate relationship, parent-child relationship, or a teach- er-student relationship. Without effective commu- nication, a message can turn into error, misunder- E D U C A T I O N A L S C I E N C E S : T H E O R Y & P R A C T I C E 740 standing, or frustration. And interpersonal rela- tionship problems arise when messages on either end are misunderstood (Cüceloğlu, 2004; Demirci, 2002; Korkut, 2004; Özerbaş, Bulut, & Usta, 2007; Özgüven, 2001; Şimşek, 2003; Yüksel-Şahin, 1997). In today’s world one of the most common problems that an individual experience is interpersonal rela- tionships. The problems that are faced in interper- sonal relationships affect individuals quite deeply and stand as one of the most important issues in their lives. Problem solving has been defined as the cognitive-affective-behavioral process by which people identify, discover, or invent effective or adaptive coping responses for specific problematic situations (Çilingir, 2006; Dökmen, 1997; D’Zuril- la & Nezu, 1982, 1990; D’Zurilla, Maydeu-Oliva- res, & Kant, 1998; Goffin & Tull, 1985; Heppner & Krauskopf, 1987; Horowitz, Rosenberg, & Bar- tholomew, 1993; Kruger, 1997; Maydeu-Olivares, & D’zurilla, 1996; Maydeu-Olivares, Rodriguez-For- nells, Gomez-Benito, & D’Zurilla, 2000; Öğülmüş, 2006; Pellegrini & Urbain, 1986; Yüksel, 2008). Problem solving is thus the ability to plan, organise, take action, evaluate, adopt and summarise. Being proficient at problem solving can have an important influence on life success (Aksu, 1989; Belzer, D’Zu- rilla, & Maydeu-Olivares, 2002; D’Zurilla, Nezu, & Maydeu-Olivares, 2004). Interpersonal self-percep- tions may influence interaction frequency and oth- er social behaviors. Interpersonal problem solving has been defined as the general coping strategy by which a person attempts to identify effective coping responses for specific problematic situations (D’Zu- rilla & Nezu, 1999). Interpersonal problem solving is important for psychological adjustment because it influences adaptive functioning across a wide range of stressful situations. Successful interper- sonal problem solving requires the capacity to de- fine an interpersonal problem, to generate possible solutions, and to make a rationally founded choice among solutions that lead to the desired goal. Inter- personal problem solving is one area of functioning that is thought to impact on coping, and moderate the deleterious effects of stressful life-events (D’Zu- rilla & Chang, 1995). Interpersonal problem solv- ing skills affect people’s self-efficacy expectations. Self-efficacy is one’s belief about one’s skills in orga- nizing and changing them into behaviors (Bandura, 1986, 1989). Perceived self-efficacy, is not related to one’s own skills, but to one’s own belief about one’s probable achievements in different conditions. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s perceived capability, as distinct from functional ability, to perform a par- ticular action or course of action. An individual’s thoughts, emotions, and actions before and during a particular event are influenced by the person’s judgement of his or her abilities, whether or not that judgement is correct. A strong sense of self-ef- ficacy also influence the amount of energy that in- dividuals are willing to invest in overcoming certain obstacles. Bandura (1993; 1997) claimed that even the perception of self-efficacy affects problem solv- ing skills. People with high social self-efficacy use more effective ways to solve problems because they have self-confidence about their ability to handle chaotic situations. Thus, problem solving skills can be related to enactive mastery experience. Innes and Thomas (1989) stated that students who have no problem solving behaviors show avoidance and have a low level of social self-efficacy. Social self-ef- ficacy includes such skills as social boldness, partic- ipation in a social group or activity, friendly behav- iors, and getting and giving help (Connolly, 1989). The level of social self-efficacy plays a determinant role in the adolescent’s interpersonal relationships and interaction (Akkök, 1999; Bilgin, 1996, 1999; Coleman, 2003; Matsushima & Shiomi, 2003). Method Model This study was a quantitative and relational study aimed at examining the relationships among com- munication skills, interpersonal problem solving skills, and social self-efficacy. The data were col- lected by Communication Skills Inventory, Inter- personal Problem Solving Inventory, and Social Self-Efficacy Expectation Scale for Adolescents. Participants In the study, the data were collected by randomly selecting one 1st, one 2nd, one 3rd and one 4th grade classes from each high school of diff erent type in Mugla. The research was carried out with the data gathered from 226 female (46%) and 268 male (54%) high school students. Students were in 15-18 age range and, the average age was 16.49 with a standard deviation of 1.41. 26.8 % of the partici- pants were 1st grade students, 22.7% 2nd grade stu- dents, 25.6% 3rd grade students, and 24.9% of them were 4th grade students. Instruments In the study, in order to determine the social self-ef- ficacy expectancy of high school students Social EROZKAN / The Effect of Communication Skills and Interpersonal Problem Solving Skills on Social Self-Efficacy 741 Self-Efficacy Expectation Scale for Adolescents (SSES-A) was used which was developed by Bilgin (1999). This scale is a five-point Likert scale con- sisting of 40 statements. The participants indicated their responses as Always, Usually, Often, Some- times, Never (For example: “I can help my friends to prepare their assignments”). For the convergent validity of the SSES-A, the correlation between SSES-A and the Self-Acceptance Inventory (SAI; Temuge, 1987) was .18. The factor analysis revealed that the total factor load of 40 items ranged from .31 to .70, based on 5 factors (Bilgin, 1999). In two different studies, as a result of using the split-half method, the reliability coefficients were .86, and .90. The internal consistency coefficients for the whole scale were .93, and .82 regarding the Cronbach al- pha equivalence. The item-total score correlations of the scale ranged from .43 to .56, and .23 and .55 (Akkapulu, 2005; Bilgin, 1999). In this study, Cron- bach’s alpha for the scale was calculated .89. In the study, in order to determine the communi- cation skills Communication Skills Inventory (CSI) was used which was developed by Balcı and Ersanlı (1998). The CSI, which consists of 45 statements, was developed to evaluate communication skills of adolescents. It is a 5-item Likert-type scale which examines the general attitude of an individual in re- lationships. The CSI has three subscales, and these subscales are called cognitive, affective, and behav- ioral in terms of their item content. It measures the cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of communication. There are 15 items that evaluates each subscales. As a result of reliability analyses via test retest method, Cronbach alfpha coefficient was found .68 and Cronbach alpha coefficient was .64 in the study via half split test. For the convergent validity of the CSI, the correlation between CSI and the Communication Skills Assessment Scale (CSAS; Korkut, 1996) was .70. Higher scores on each subscale or higher total scores indicate that the individuals consider themselves to be successful in communication. The total score ranges from 45 to 225. In this study, Cronbach’s alphas for the sub- scale of the inventory were cognitive, .77, affective .79, and behavioral .75. In the study, in order to determine the interper- sonal problem solving skills Interpersonal Prob- lem Solving Inventory (IPSI) was used which was developed by Çam and Tümkaya (2008). The IPSI consists of five subscales and a total of 50 items. The item ratings vary between 1 (strongly disagree) and 5 (strongly agree). Higher scores obtained for each subscale indicates that the characteristic about interpersonal problem solving is higher. In factor analysis study of the inventory, a total of five factors which explained a total of 38.38% of the variance related with interpersonal problem solving were ob- tained. These factors were approaching problems in a negative way, constructive problem solving, lack of self-confidence, unwillingness to take responsibili- ty, and insistent-persevering approach. The num- ber of items in each subscale was 16, 16, 7, 5 and 6 respectively. The correlation coefficient calculated with total scores of the subscales varied between .22 and .74. For the convergent validity of the IPSI, the correlation between IPSI and the Problem Solving Inventory (PSI; Heppner & Petersen, 1982); and Trait Anxiety Inventory (TAI; Spielberger, Gor- such, & Lushene, 1970) was meaningful. Internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) coefficients of the subscale scores of the inventory were approach- ing problems in a negative way r=.90, constructive problem solving r=.88, lack of self-confidence r=.68, unwillingness to take responsibility r=.74, and in- sistent-persevering approach r=.67. Test re-test cor- relation values on 60 students in a four week interval showed .89, .82, .69, .76, and .70 for the subscales, respectively. In this study, Cronbach’s alpha for the subscales were calculated .87, .86, .62, .68, and .71. Procedures A permit for data collection was obtained from the Mugla Provincial Directorate of National Educa- tion, and the data were gathered in the randomly selected schools and classes by researcher. Data collection procedure was carried out by providing students with the appro priate environment and suf- ficient time for answer ing the questions in groups in the classroom. Data Analysis In this study, the analysis of relationships among communication skills, interpersonal problem solv- ing skills, and social self-efficacy was performed by Pearson product-moment correlation analysis and multiple regression analysis. The data were investigated from the point of erroneous or miss- ing values, outlier values, and multicollinearity in data analysis. The values considered to be entered erroneously were corrected in the erroneous values analysis. In the missing values analysis, randomly remaining few blank items were assigned values by Expectation-Maximization algorithm (Green & Salkind, 2008; Meyers, Gamst, & Guarino, 2006). In the outlier analysis, 14 observations, which have E D U C A T I O N A L S C I E N C E S : T H E O R Y & P R A C T I C E 742 Mahalanobis (1936) distance value greater than the χ2 11;.001=31.26 table value, were excluded from the data set. The low level bivariate correlation values show that there is no multicollinearity among the independent variables. It has been seen that Vari- ance Inflation Factor value is less than 5, the toler- ance value is greater than .20, the condition index is less than 30, and consequently 494 observations remain in the data set. Results According to the results of this research commu- nication skills and interpersonal problem solving skills were found to be significantly correlated to social self-efficacy and communication skills and interpersonal problem solving skills important predictors of social self-efficacy for high school students. Results showed that social self-efficacy is positively related to cognitive, affective, and behav- ioral communication skills. And social self-efficacy is positively related to constructive problem solv- ing and insistent-persevering approach; negative- ly related to approaching problems in a negative way, lack of self-confidence, and unwillingness to take responsibility interpersonal problem solving skills. Results also showed that the cognitive, affec- tive, and behavioral subscales of communication skills significantly predict social self-efficacy. Social self-efficacy is significantly explained by the com- munication skills (R=.43, R2=.18, F=27.83, p<.001). Three communication skills -cognitive, affective, and behavioral- significantly explained 18% of the total variance in social self-efficacy. And approach- ing problems in a negative way, constructive prob- lem solving, lack of self-confidence, unwillingness to take responsibility, and insistent-persevering ap- proach subscales of interpersonal problem solving skills important predictors of social self-efficacy. Social self-efficacy is significantly explained by the interpersonal problem solving skills (R=.47, R2=.22, F=29.97, p<.001). Five interpersonal problem solv- ing skills -approaching problems in a negative way, constructive problem solving, lack of self-confi- dence, unwillingness to take responsibility, and insistent-persevering approach- significantly ex- plained 22% of the total variance in social self-effi- cacy. The results of the research are thought to give important information about the formation of so- cial self-efficacy expectancy in adolescence period. Discussion It was found that there were significant relation- ships among communication skills, interpersonal problem solving skills, and social self-efficacy. The results of the study indicated that there was a pos- itive relationship among cognitive, affective, and behavioral communication skills and social self-ef- ficacy. The results also indicated that there was a positive relationship among constructive problem solving skills, insistent-persevering problem solv- ing skills and social self-efficacy; while there was a negative relationship among approaching problems in a negative way, lack of self-confidence, and un- willingness to take responsibility problem solving skills and social self-efficacy. These results indicated that effective communication skills, such as cogni- tive, affective, and behavioral communication skills increased, social self-efficacy increased as well. And effective interpersonal problem solving skills, such as constructive problem solving and insistent-per- severing problem solving skills increased, social self-efficacy increased as well. On the other hand, approaching problems in a negative way, lack of self-confidence, and unwillingness to take respon- sibility problem solving skills increased, social self-efficacy decreased. It can be concluded from the research findings that adolescents’ communication skills and interpersonal problem solving skills may be an antecedent to social self-efficacy expectancy. Communication skills play a very important role in interpersonal relationships. Communication is the basis of personal relationships and effective communication happens when the message that is sent is the same message that is received. The mu- tual understanding of needs and figuring out the message by both sender and recipient contributes to communication. Appropriate problem solving is achieved by effective communication, which is the common feature of all problem solving approaches. The problems people have to solve emerge in inter- personal communication networks, and problem solving requires an effective use of communication skills. Therefore, it is necessary for each person to pay attention to the other’s problems and use a con- structive way of problem-solving, to be support- ive, accepting, and to initiate and maintain good communication. Individuals who are successful in communication generally have self-confidence and are respectful and open to sharing and cooperation (Bilen, 2004). Individuals who lack confidence, are fearful, and fail to empathize experience problems in communication (Berscheid, 1994 as cited in Erözkan, 2009). It has been found that individuals who perceive themselves as competent in problem solving are more extraverted, positive, and have a more positive self-perception in interpersonal re- EROZKAN / The Effect of Communication Skills and Interpersonal Problem Solving Skills on Social Self-Efficacy 743 lationships (Çam & Tümkaya, 2007; D’Zurilla & Nezu, 1999, 2007) and results of some studies have indicated that having effective problem solving skills improved communication skills. The findings of these studies support the results of current study. The adolescents’ belief in their ability to effectively deal with problems and harness control over the problem’s resolution may be as important as its use. When adolescents have confidence in their ability to solve problems they are more likely to view problems as challenges to be tackled than as stressors to be avoided. Theories of social problem solving propose that social problem solving ability is associated with adjustment, such as behavioral competence, psychological functioning and nega- tive emotionality (D’Zurilla & Nezu 2007). In this manner, social self-efficacy can be defined as one’s own perception about one’s competent responses in one’s interpersonal relationships (Bandura, 1997). Social self-efficacy, which can also be defined as a person’s confidence in his or her ability to initiate and sustain social interactions, is important not only in its possible relationship to effective social behavior but also in its linkages to other indices of mentally healthy functioning. For example, it has been consistently shown to be related to high- er levels of global self-esteem (Connolly, 1989; Di Tomasso, Brannen-McNulty, Ross, & Burges, 2003; Hermann & Betz, 2004; Rice, FitzGerald, Whaley, & Gibbs, 1995; Schwarzer, Hahn, & Schröder, 1994; Solberg, O’Brien, Villareal, Kennel, & Davis, 1993). Bandura (1977) proposed self-efficacy theory as a model for explaining the cognitive processes in producing change in psychological treatment set- tings. The basis of this theory is that an individual’s perceived level of self-confidence, or self-efficacy, in a particular domain influences the individual’s change producing behavior. In social situations, in- dividuals have varying perceptions of their ability to successfully interact with others. In other words, their self-efficacy beliefs reflect their level of social confidence (Galanaki & Anastasia, 1999; Hermann & Betz, 2004; Kashani, Canfield, Borduin, Soltys, & Reid, 1994; Malecki & Demary 2002; Wenz-Gross & Siperstein, 1997). The relationship between so- cial self-efficacy and psychological adjustment has implications for the treatment of mental health is- sues because it suggests that an increase in social self-efficacy can increase levels of self-esteem and reduce levels of anxiety and loneliness (Akkapulu, 2005; Dekovic & Meeus, 1997; Fırıncıoğlu, 2005; Karahan, Sardoğan, Özkamalı, & Menteş, 2006; Payne & Jahoda, 2004; Torres & Solberg, 2001). These authors were interested in the role of social self-efficacy in the ability to cope with interpersonal problems, and found that social self-efficacy did in fact predict decreased interpersonal problems and increased coping skills for these problems. It is thought that the way of an individual’s percep- tion of communication and problem solving skills affect his or her approach to solve problems and cope with them, and expectancy of social self-ef- ficacy. According to the research results, there is a significant relationship among adolescents’ percep- tion of social self-efficacy, communication skills, and interpersonal problem solving skills. Accord- ing to these results, it is important that adolescents need to have communication and interpersonal problem solving skills in order to perceive them- selves as socially self-efficacious. Therefore it can be considered that it is appropriate to organise psycho- logical counselling and guidance services at schools to help children gain effective communication and interpersonal problem solving skills starting from pre-school stage to adolescence. In this respect, some studies can be carried out in order to help adolescents to take “Communication Skills Training” to develop communication and so- cial skills such as sharing, cooperation, empathy, establishing positive relations with others, which are important for interpersonal problem solving, by preparing psycho-educational group work pro- grams. It is assumed that these kinds of activities and studies help individuals, in also their later peri- ods of life, to trust themselves and their skills, and have intrapersonal/interpersonal communication skills, high life satisfaction, and mentally healthy against the problems they encounter. This study should be evaluated with two important limitations. First, the study group consists of adoles- cents in a city centre and is small. Therefore, it hin- ders extensive evaluation and generalization. Sec- ond, the study is conducted with adolescents from high schools. 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