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Basic Principles of Symbolic Interactionism

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Selected Theory: Symbolic interactionism by George Herbert Mead says that interaction creates meanings for people. George Mead states that symbolic interaction is “the ongoing use of language and gestures in anticipation of how the other will react; a conversation (p.53).” Symbolic interactionism uses three core principles: meaning, language, and thought. With these core principles, we can learn about a person’s self and socialization into a larger group and where. The premise of meaning is that we act towards things according to meanings we apply them to. The premise of language is that we negotiate to mean through symbols. The last premise is thinking or minding. Minding is when we are thinking or talking before we respond. With these three concepts of symbolic interactionism, we can use another concept that enables us to use the “looking-self glass.” Looking-glass self is when we imagine how we seem to others and how we imagine their judgment of our appearance. Symbolic interactionism can be applied to any situation that evaluates human interaction.

Communication Selection: Application of the Theory: During my freshman year I worked for UPS to earn some extra money. I was so excited to start working. I thought my new co-workers would like my work-ethic, punctuality, and sense of humor. Since my previous job my co-workers told me that’s what they liked about me. On my first day, I went through training where I learned the basics. In addition, the trainer told me and the trainees a superstition the workers have. If you missed a day even if it was excused, you get three times the load of packages you’d normally get. One day I didn’t sleep until midnight and slept through my alarm clock. I woke up ten minutes before my 4:00 a.m. shift. I made a call to my employers telling them I wouldn’t be able to make it because my car battery died on my way to work. While calling them they told me they wished me the best of luck the next day.

The next day, I walked in and noticed that my co-workers were glaring at me. Some were even laughing which made me even more nervous. I thought I was in trouble because my employers knew I was lying about my car battery. I walked into my employer’s office to get the add-cut and pre-load sheets. Normally, I get around two hundred packages, but that day I got over six-hundred packages. While loading the packages and struggling, I kept thinking I was a lazy and terrible employee. Especially when my supervisors kept yelling at me to hurry up.

Application of the Theory: My situation is an example of symbolic interactionism. The superstition makes the co-workers behave differently to whoever they believe it affects. My situation displayed the three principles: meaning, language, and thinking. Some of my co-workers were acting differently around me. They either glared at me or laughed at me while wishing me good luck because they believed in the superstition of missing a day gets you more workload. I (meaning). I knew about the superstition because the trainers told me and the other trainees about the superstition. (language). The day after I called off work I thought my employers were going to yell at me for sleeping in, so I decided to lie to lie to avoid that situation(thinking). The thought of how my co-workers perceive me as a terrible worker made me feel terrible because I my previous jobs my former co-workers told me my work ethic was great and I’m very punctual (Looking-glass self).

Social interactionism helps us understand how people interact with each other by showing their concept of self in social constructs. It also allows us to understand that society influences these social constructs, however, they don’t dictate them. This allows other to gain a new appreciation of human diversity.

While symbolic interactionism is a great theory, it has its limitations. One of its limitations is that it doesn’t meet the conditions of the two criteria for an interpretive theory. It tells very little information about the domination, power, or emotions that most community organizers have to deal with every day. The second thing this theory lacks is a lack of clarity. The theory has some vague concepts, fluid boundaries, and undisciplined approaches. Finally, the symbolic interactionism highly suffers from overstatement. However, there are advantages to this theory as well. One advantage of Symbolic interactionism is that it attempts to comprehend how people understand different behaviors and situations. Another advantage is it accepts everyone’s way of thinking and communicating.

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