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Reflective Communication Management, a Public View on Public Relations
Unformatted Document Text:  19 The premise that human beings reflect themselves, the other, and social reality in a constant process of de- and re-construction is not new. Mead may have been the first to call the attention of the social sciences to the concept of “reflexivity”. 1 “The general mechanism for the development of the self is reflexivity,” as Ritzer (2000:398) writes, “or the ability to put ourselves unconsciously into others’ places and to act as they act. As a result, people are able to examine themselves as others would examine them. As Mead says: “It is by the means of reflexiveness – the turning back of the experience of the individual upon himself – that the whole social process is thus brought into the experience of the individuals involved in it; it is by such means, which enable the individual to take the attitude of the other toward himself, that the individual is able consciously to adjust himself to that process, and to modify the resultant process in any given social act in terms of his adjustment to it” (Mead, 1934/1962:134, cited by Ritzer, 2000). The self allows people to take part in their conversations with others. That is, an individual is aware of what he/she is saying, and as a result is able to monitor what is being said and to determine what is going to be said next. But people cannot experience themselves directly. They can do so only indirectly by putting themselves in someone else's place and viewing themselves from that standpoint. The standpoint that a person views him or herself from can be that of a particular individual or the social group as a whole. As Mead puts it, most generally, “It is only by taking the roles of others that we have been able to come back to ourselves” (Mead, 1959:184-185, cited by Ritzer, 2000).” For Mead, thinking is a silent speaking with oneself (Zijderveld, 2000:54). Reflectivity is the counterpart of causality: it is an ongoing, interactive process and not a discrete, linear one. Along these lines reflectivity must be seen as the core concept of social interaction because it provides a better explanation for what happens than causality does. While human beings reflect themselves in relation to the other and the social group as a whole, their knowing is reflective knowing. Plessman (Zijderveld, 2000) referred to human beings as a double, a homo duplex: a human being has a private as well as a public life and plays all kinds of social roles in life. The concept of reflectivity gives mankind the possibility to develop these roles. Roles are defined by society and in playing certain roles, people develop society. 4.1. Enactment, sense making and framing in communication management Heath (1994) describes communication management as an enactment process. The meaning managers have of their company, market, environment, customers, themselves, and their jobs affects their job performance. “They enact their jobs as actors enact the scripts in plays”(p.vii). The focal points of 1 note: like Holmström, we use reflectivity because of the psychological behavioral connotations of the word "reflexivity" (which suggests "reflex"), while here we refer to reflection as a conscious cognitive process

Authors: Van Ruler, A. A. Betteke. and Vercic, Dejan.
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19
The premise that human beings reflect themselves, the other, and social reality in a constant process of
de- and re-construction is not new. Mead may have been the first to call the attention of the social
sciences to the concept of “reflexivity”.
1
“The general mechanism for the development of the self is
reflexivity,” as Ritzer (2000:398) writes, “or the ability to put ourselves unconsciously into others’ places
and to act as they act. As a result, people are able to examine themselves as others would examine them.
As Mead says: “It is by the means of reflexiveness – the turning back of the experience of the individual
upon himself – that the whole social process is thus brought into the experience of the individuals
involved in it; it is by such means, which enable the individual to take the attitude of the other toward
himself, that the individual is able consciously to adjust himself to that process, and to modify the
resultant process in any given social act in terms of his adjustment to it” (Mead, 1934/1962:134, cited by
Ritzer, 2000).
The self allows people to take part in their conversations with others. That is, an individual is aware of
what he/she is saying, and as a result is able to monitor what is being said and to determine what is going
to be said next. But people cannot experience themselves directly. They can do so only indirectly by
putting themselves in someone else's place and viewing themselves from that standpoint. The standpoint
that a person views him or herself from can be that of a particular individual or the social group as a
whole. As Mead puts it, most generally, “It is only by taking the roles of others that we have been able to
come back to ourselves” (Mead, 1959:184-185, cited by Ritzer, 2000).” For Mead, thinking is a silent
speaking with oneself (Zijderveld, 2000:54).
Reflectivity is the counterpart of causality: it is an ongoing, interactive process and not a discrete, linear
one. Along these lines reflectivity must be seen as the core concept of social interaction because it
provides a better explanation for what happens than causality does. While human beings reflect
themselves in relation to the other and the social group as a whole, their knowing is reflective knowing.
Plessman (Zijderveld, 2000) referred to human beings as a double, a homo duplex: a human being has a
private as well as a public life and plays all kinds of social roles in life. The concept of reflectivity gives
mankind the possibility to develop these roles. Roles are defined by society and in playing certain roles,
people develop society.
4.1. Enactment, sense making and framing in communication management
Heath (1994) describes communication management as an enactment process. The meaning managers
have of their company, market, environment, customers, themselves, and their jobs affects their job
performance. “They enact their jobs as actors enact the scripts in plays”(p.vii). The focal points of
1
note: like Holmström, we use reflectivity because of the psychological behavioral connotations of the word
"reflexivity" (which suggests "reflex"), while here we refer to reflection as a conscious cognitive process


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