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One of the important factors of successful interpersonal communication is the emotional state of a communicator. If the person is in the enthusiastic mood and has positive attitude, interpersonal communication proves to be very successful. In that case, the communicator is full of ideas and the level of willingness to communicate is high. On the contrary, a bad mood may affect one’s desire to socialize and hinder productive communication. Therefore, depression as the source of poor emotional state has a profound impact on intercommunication. In order to learn how to alleviate the detrimental impact of depression on communication, it is crucial to research this issue. One should realize how depression relates to interpersonal communication and determine which factors increase or decrease it.
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According to statistics, women suffer from depression much more often than men do (Marano, 2003). For that reason, coping with depression in women is a topic of great interest to me. Moreover, I am interested in this social group because I am a woman myself. I suffer from depression myself, and I noticed that it influences my ability and desire to communicate with other people. I decided to research this topic because I would like to know how depression develops, what can alleviate it and how one can handle depression in other women. What is more, I would like to know what deepens depression because this condition affects not only interpersonal communication but also many aspects of individual’s life. Several communication terms would be especially useful in answering these questions, namely mindful listening, empathy, emotional contagion and self-esteem. In fact, these are expected to contribute to understanding depression and its influence on women as a social group and their communication.
As successful communication is mindful communication, including speaking and listening, the first communication term is mindful listening. In fact, this communication term comprises active listening, paying attention, keeping eye contact, and displaying interest in what another person says. The purpose of mindful listening is to make every effort to grasp the meaning of the message one transmitted. Apparently, this type o listening can be helpful in many interpersonal situations, ranging from family relationships to co-worker interactions. Mindful listening is very useful to women in depression. In case women understand that their interlocutor listens to them, they feel appreciated, understood and fully alive. The research of the postnatal depression by Turner, Chew-Graham, Folkes, and Sharp (2009) confirmed positive effect of mindful listening. According to this study, women experienced the alleviation of their depression when the health visitor attended them and listened to them sharing problems (Turner et al., 2009). Though postnatal depression occurs few times in the life of a woman, mindful listening is favorable for women in situational depression as well. I can confirm it from my own experience. Different stress situations can make me feel depressed, but I noticed that sharing my bad feelings with the friends makes depression easier to bear. Therefore, I consider mindful listening a contributing factor in decreasing depression in women.
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Sometimes, people, especially women, cannot cope with their depression under the influence of the environment. The phenomenon called emotional contagion usually takes place in that case. Emotional contagion is the tendency to feel certain emotions under the influence of emotions of other people. It usually occurs via synchronization of one’s expressions, postures, and emotional conversion. People who experience emotional contagion insist that they cannot resist “catching” the emotions like anxiety, and depression, among others. Furthermore, scholars have found that depression, sleep problems, smoking and illegal drug use are contagious (Hill, Rand, Nowak, & Christakis, 2010). According to this research, such long-term emotional states like happiness or depression can spread among people who are socially connected because emotions are acting like infectious agents. The study of Hill et al. (2010) showed that emotions characteristic of particular social environment are likely to spread within the time “infecting” its members. As for my experience of emotional contagion, it is true as well. When I am depressed, some of my friends cannot spend much time with me saying my mood discourages them. I have noticed this tendeency few years ago. However, the opposite is true as well. Hereby, when I am depressed, I would rather go for a walk with my friend Steve who is an optimist by nature. Sometimes, an hour spent with Steve changes my attitude for a whole day. Hence, there is a direct correlation between depression and emotional contagion.
Moreover, there is a unique connection between empathy and depression. Empathy is the understanding of those feelings, thoughts and experience of other person, which are not communicated explicitly. In fact, empathy means shifting focus from oneself to others; however, depressed people find it difficult to do. Those who suffer from depression lose their ability to recognize subtle cues. The fact is that depressed women tend to abandon their surroundings and refuse social support that could alleviate their sufferings (Uche, 2010). On the contrary, depressed women concentrate on themselves and their sufferings and become pessimistic about their future. On the other hand, women suffering from depression need compassion and empathetic attitude. Thus, secrecy triggers the aggravation of depression, while empathy makes it disappear. Empathetic attitude had helped me once as well. Two years ago, I was suffering from a recurrent period of depression, but my friend helped me. She told me she could not help me but she loved me anyway. Her words meant a lot to me at that time, and her empathy made me feel safe; hereby, I went to the psychologist for help. That is why, empathy is something depressed women cannot experience themselves but
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To conclude, depression has a negative influence on interpersonal communication. Coping with depression in woman becomes easier when one knows how depression develops, what factors increase it and what factors have the opposite effect. The research shows that depression affects women’s self-esteem and distorts their interpretation of events. Mindful listening and empathy usually decrease depression and improve communication accordingly. At the same time, emotional contagion may have different influence on the depressed women, depending on the environment. With this knowledge in mind, one can improve interpersonal communication, avoiding negative factors and concentrating on the positive ones.
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