Communicating Hope and Resilience Across the Lifespan

by Gary A. Beck (Volume editor) Thomas Socha (Volume editor)
©2015 Textbook VI, 286 Pages
Series: Lifespan Communication, Volume 4


From serious illness to natural disasters, humans turn to communication as a major source of strength to help us bounce back and to keep growing and thriving.
Communicating Hope and Resilience Across the Lifespan addresses the various ways in which communication plays an important role in fostering hope and resilience. Adopting a lifespan approach and offering a new framework to expand our understanding of the concepts of «hope» and «resilience» from a communication perspective, contributors highlight the variety of «stressors» that people may encounter in their lives. They examine connections between the cognitive dimensions of hope such as self-worth, self-efficacy, and creative problem solving. They look at the variety of messages that can facilitate or inhibit experiencing hope in relationships, groups, and organizations. Other contributors look at how communication that can build strengths, enhance preparation, and model successful adaptation to change has the potential to lessen the negative impact of stress, demonstrating resilience.
As an important counterpoint to recent work focusing on what goes wrong in interpersonal relationships, communication that has the potential to uplift and facilitate responses to stressful circumstances is emphasized throughout this volume. By offering a detailed examination of how to communicate hope and resilience, this book presents practical lessons for individuals, marriages, families, relationship experts, as well as a variety of other practitioners.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Series Editor’s Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Conceptualizing Hope and Resilience
  • The Current Volume
  • References
  • Chapter One. Embracing the Insights of “Murphy”: New Frontiers of Communication, Hope, and Resilience Across the Lifespan
  • Foundational Assumptions
  • Bad Things Happen
  • Value of Connection and Communication
  • Resilience as “Magic,” Hope as “Transformational”
  • Foundational Theoretical Perspectives
  • Communication and Resilience Theory
  • Communication and Hope Theory
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Section I:Contributing Processes
  • Chapter Two. On Being (and Becoming) Mindful: One Pathway to Greater Resilience
  • Mindfulness as a Concept and a Practice
  • Mindfulness and Its Associations in Research
  • Mindfulness and Health
  • Mindfulness and Relationships
  • Measuring Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness Interventions
  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
  • Mindfulness-Based Relationship Enhancement
  • Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Program
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Three. “We Could Sure Use a Laugh”: Building Hope and Resilience Through Humorous Communication
  • Defining and Theorizing Humorous Communication
  • Positive Emotion and Humor: Fostering Hope and Resilience
  • Contextualizing Research on Humor, Hope, and Resilience Across the Lifespan
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Four. Fostering Hope in a Hurtful World: The Role of Communication in Promoting Hope and Resilience in the Face of Difficult Experiences
  • Hurt: Definitions and Functions
  • Individual and Relational Factors that Protect Against the Negative Impact of Hurt
  • Minimizing Hurt: Applying Politeness Theory
  • Feedback as a Site of Hurt Feelings
  • Promoting Feelings of Hope During Hurtful Feedback
  • Relational Repair Following Hurtful Messages
  • Communicative Responses to Hurt
  • Social Support Following Hurtful Messages
  • Final Thoughts
  • References
  • Chapter Five. Unfolding the Transgression Scene: From Distress to Hope and Resilience
  • Transgressions: Let the Scene Begin
  • Transgressions in Close Relationships: Romantic Partners and Friends
  • Transgressions in the Family
  • The Role of Communication in Managing Transgressions
  • Forgiveness: Exit Scene, Stage Left
  • And the Play Moves On: Transforming the Transgression Scene to One of Hope and Resilience
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Section II: Contexts
  • Chapter Six. (Re)Envisioning Hope & Resilience in U.S. and Norwegian Prisons
  • Setting the Scene
  • Hope and Resilience in Prison
  • (Re)Envisioning Hope and Resilience
  • U. S. Prisons’ Hope and Resilience
  • Norwegian Prisons’ Hope and Resilience
  • Sensemaking the Scene
  • Material
  • Social
  • Future Research: From Dramatism to Dramaturgy
  • Hope for a Resilient Future
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Seven. Employment Transitions in the Aftermath of Economic Collapse: Emerging and Older Adults
  • Utilizing a Resilience and Hope Framework
  • Emerging Adults Transition to Uncertain Employment
  • Older Adults’ Later Career Transitions
  • The New Face of Retirees
  • Age Discrimination
  • Technology and Educational Training
  • Social Isolation
  • Practical Recommendations
  • References
  • Chapter Eight. Resilience, Work, and Family Communication Across the Lifespan
  • Intersections of Resilience and Work-Family Communication
  • How Work-Family and Resilience Are Constituted Communicatively
  • How Work-Family Scholarship Portrays Resilience Across the Lifespan
  • Agenda for Resilience and Work-Family Communication Across the Lifespan
  • Human Resilience Processes in Work-Family Contexts
  • Communication Research Agenda for Work-Family Resilience
  • How People Engage in Ambiguous and Contradictory Resilience Coproduction
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Nine. Fear of the Unknown, Hope for the Unseen: Resilience of Child Soldiers in Uganda, East Africa
  • Overview
  • The Setting
  • Community/Cultural View of Justice
  • Community/Cultural View of Restoration
  • Theoretical Lens
  • Lifespan Development
  • Interpretive Social Science
  • Telling Stories
  • Agents and Agency of Hope and Resilience
  • Hope and Resilience While With the LRA
  • Hope and Resilience Upon Return to Village
  • Rituals
  • Hope for the Unseen
  • I/Thou Perspective
  • Communication Scholars as Agents of Hope
  • References
  • Chapter Ten. When All Seems Lost: Building Hope Through Communication After Natural Disasters
  • Natural Disasters and Contemporary Life
  • The Effects of Disasters on Individuals, Families, and Communities
  • Coping and Resilience in the Aftermath of Disasters
  • Disasters and Hope
  • The Effects on Disasters on Hope and Hope’s Consequences for Disaster Responses
  • Messages of Hope
  • The Benefits of Hope and Hopeful Communication Surrounding Disaster Events
  • Hope Mitigates the Onslaught of Stressors
  • Hope Shapes Immediate and Long-Term Post-Disaster Goal Pursuits
  • Hope Promotes Adaptive Recollections of Traumatic Events
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven. The State of Cancer Care Communication Across the Lifespan:The Role of Resilience, Hope, and Decision-making
  • Cancer Communication and the Family
  • Communicating Resilience
  • Communicating Hope
  • Family Decision-making
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Section III: Imparting Hope and Resilience
  • Chapter Twelve. Life’s “War Stories”: Accounts of Resilience and Hope
  • Studies of War Stories Per Se
  • Summary
  • Dramatistic Analysis and Positioning Theory
  • Acts
  • Scenes
  • Agents
  • Agency
  • Purpose
  • Conclusions and Implications for Future Inquiry
  • References
  • Chapter Thirteen. Fostering Civic Resilience and Hope Through Communication Activism Education
  • Communication Activism Pedagogy
  • Communication Activism Pedagogy Processes to Promote Resilience and Hope
  • Communication Activism Pedagogy and Creating Shared Community
  • Communication Activism Pedagogy and Mobilizing Social Support
  • Communication Activism Pedagogy and Making Decisions to Manage Problems
  • Effects of Communication Activism Pedagogy on Resilience and Hope
  • Conclusion: Communication Activism Pedagogy and the Promotion of Adaptive and Transformative Social Justice Resilience and Hope
  • References
  • About the Editors and Contributors
  • Editors
  • Contributors
  • Author Index
  • Subject Index
  • Series Index

| vii →

Series Editor’s Preface

This latest volume in the Lifespan Communication: Children, Families, and Aging series focuses on a highly significant topic that faces everyone across the lifespan—using messages to manage life’s myriad adversities. From serious illness, to natual disasters, to wars, and more, humans turn to communication as a major source of strength to help us to bounce back and to keep on growing and thriving. Dr. Gary Beck, a leading communication resilience researcher, has assembled a stellar group of communication scholars who collectively begin to shed light on communication pathways to resilience and hope.

Like all of the volumes in the Lifespan Communication series, I sincerely desire this volume to spur much discussion, motivate research, and inspire teachers and educators to create communication lessons and applications with an eye to using communication as a source of lifespan empowerment.

—Thomas J. Socha

| ix →


There are many people that I recognize as important contributors to my own resilience process and sources of hope:My wife Tori, family, and my close collegues who I am lucky to consider true friends. In particular, my co-editor Tom Socha has been an endless advocate for strength-based communication practices cast across the lifespan, and his encouraging dialogue and provocative questions helped fuel many of the important contributions this volume strives to emphasize within the field. I would also like to acknowledge Anita Vangelisti for her ongoing mentorship, thoughtful feedback, and enduring patience with a young scholar throughout the development and exploration of this subject area. Finally, a special thanks to all of the chapter contributors for going above and beyond, and especially those who reached out with additional curiousities and ideas for future projects as we continue to explore these promising areas of research.


First, the lion’s share of accolades for this volume go to Dr. Gary Beck. He is an incredibly bright, rising communication star who cares deeply that his work matters not just to advancing the scholarly literature, but more importantly that it can help all who need a communication boost. He is exceedingly hard-working and always willing to go the extra distance; a pure joy to count as my colleague and friend. Second, my thanks to the many authors who answered Gary Beck’s clarion call for research on this most important and essential front of positive lifespan communication. It is further testament to Gary Beck’s key leadership on this topic that many of those whose work appears in this volume are counted among the who’s who of the communication field. Finally, I want to thank Mary Savigar and all of the good folks at Peter Lang International Publishers for supporting this volume as well as the Lifespan Communication: Children, Families, and Aging book series.


| xi →


Communication, Hope, and Resilience: Challenges and Promises

Anita L. Vangelisti
University of Texas at Austin

What enables some people to endure, and even thrive, as they walk through difficult or traumatic experiences while others stumble and fall? This question has been asked by theorists, practitioners, and laypeople. It has generated volumes of research, spawned therapeutic programs, and plagued those who manage to flourish while they watch their friends, neighbors, or siblings languish. On the surface, the answer is easy: Some people are more resilient and more hopeful than others. Dig a little deeper, though, and the answer becomes quite complex.

Conceptualizing Hope and Resilience

Hope and resilience are not easy concepts to master. As evidenced by the chapters that make up Communicating Hope and Resilience Across the Lifespan, they can be conceived in a number of different ways. The majority of the literature on hope and resilience examines the concepts at the level of individuals. In other words, most research looks at hope and resilience as traits or qualities that people possess—either temporarily or on an ongoing basis. Snyder’s (2000) hope theory is a case in point. Snyder defines hope as individuals’ belief that they can find pathways to achieve their goals and that they have the motivation to use those pathways. Similarly, Bonnano’s (2004, 2006) work on resilience describes the concept in terms of people’s ability to maintain a relatively stable trajectory of healthy functioning after they experience a traumatic event. Both bodies of work characterize hope and resilience as dynamic and suggest that they reside with, or are enacted by, individuals.

Another way to study hope and resilience is at the level of dyads or relationships. Partners in friendships, romantic associations, or work relationships can ← xi | xii → be hopeful or resilient together, as a unit. Acknowledging that relational partners are interdependent (see Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006), this view conceptualizes each partner’s hope or resilience as influencing that of the other partner. The effect of dyadic or relational hope or resilience, thus, can be assessed separate from, and might be greater or less than, the hope or resilience of the individuals who make up the dyad. Jordan (2006) offers a compelling rationale for looking at dyadic or relational resilience from the perspective of a therapist, arguing that relational resilience is essential to individuals’ psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. If dyads can be hopeful or resilient, then so can groups. Families, groups of friends, and even societies can be seen as more or less hopeful or resilient. Like relational hope or resilience, the hope or resilience of a group or system involves the mutual influence of the individuals who are members of the group. It also involves the interplay of the group’s subsystems. Because systemic hope or resilience is defined by numerous interdependent relationships, studying these two concepts at the group level is particularly complex. Indeed, nearly two decades ago, Walsh (1996) commented on this complexity and called for researchers and practitioners to confront the challenges involved in studying family resilience. She noted two reasons why researchers and practitioners need to take on these challenges: “(a) to identify potential relationship resources within and beyond the immediate household, throughout the kinship network and community; and (b) to attend to the temporal congruence of experiences over the life cycle and across generations” (p. 4). The reasons articulated by Walsh clearly apply to the study of resilience in a broad range of groups. Examining the resilience of group systems generates important information about relational resources within and outside the groups, how the groups go about attaining those resources, and how the experiences of group members change and are sustained over the life course.

Whether defined in terms of individuals, dyads, or groups, hope and resilience can be studied as antecedents, processes, or outcomes. Much of the literature examines hope and resilience as antecedents of—or precursors to—other variables. For instance, researchers might identify individuals, couples, or families who have been through a traumatic event and compare the ways those who are more and less resilient cope with the stress they have experienced. These studies position hope and resilience as characteristics or sets of skills that individuals, relationships, or groups possess prior to the onset of a stressor. The personality trait of hardiness (Kobasa, Maddi, & Kahn, 1982) is an example of such a characteristic. Individuals who are hardy tend to be more confident and better able to use social support to deal with stress than are those who are less hardy (Florian, Mikulincer, & Taubman, 1995). ← xii | xiii →

Alternatively, hope and resilience can be conceived as processes. Scholars who conceptualize hope and resilience as processes define the concepts as qualities that are enacted by individuals, relational partners, or group members—often in the face of a traumatic event. The lead editor of this volume, Gary Beck, has described resilience in this way. Beck (2010) examined the resilience of romantic couples who experienced job loss. He developed a measure of interpersonal resilience that assesses the ways partners interact to generate resilience in their relationship and found that certain aspects of partners’ communication mediated the association between job loss and relational qualities. Beck’s participants, in short, jointly created resilience through their social interactions.

Yet another way to study hope and resilience is as outcomes. Because hope and resilience typically are seen as desirable, researchers and practitioners have set out to identify their predictors. What are the qualities, experiences, and processes that engender hope and resilience? Scholars have examined versions of this question using a variety of samples ranging from members of mental health agencies (Hodges, Hardiman, & Segal, 2003), to sexually abused adolescents (Williams & Nelson-Gardell, 2002) to disaster survivors (Bonanno, Galea, Bucciarelli, & Vlahov, 2007). Although communication processes are not included in these studies as often as demographic and social-structural variables, when they are included they are almost always key predictors of resilience. The social support people receive, the positive interactions they engage in, and the ability of individuals to express their thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event serve as resources or coping mechanisms that people employ to foster hope and resilience.

As suggested by the title of the current volume, the questions researchers ask about communicating hope and resilience and the findings generated by these questions are likely to be influenced by lifespan variables. Children certainly have different hopes than do adults and the processes that influence children’s ability to hope may differ from those that influence the ability in adults. In a similar vein, the variables that encourage or discourage resilience in children and adolescents may differ from those that affect resilience in their adult parents. Furthermore, the ways relational partners and group members enact hope and resilience probably are affected by their age, the length of their relationship, and their stage in the life cycle. All of these variations, and others, are an indication of the complexity researchers must grapple with in studying hope and resilience. Decisions about whether to examine hope or resilience at the individual, dyadic, or group level—and whether to study hope and resilience as antecedents, processes, or outcomes—are likely to depend, in part, on the stage of the lifespan that researchers are investigating. ← xiii | xiv →

The Current Volume

The collection of chapters that Gary Beck and Thomas Socha have put together for the current volume reflect the complexity—and the promise—of scholarship on the communication of hope and resilience.

Beck and Socha open the volume with a chapter that frames research and theory on hope, resilience, and communication. In this first chapter, the volume editors use Murphy’s Law (“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”) as a springboard to explain their rationale for the book. They then carefully describe three assumptions that are foundational to theory on hope and resilience. Beck and Socha close their chapter by showing how existing theoretical work on hope and resilience can be used to highlight the role of communication in people’s ability to function and manage stress.

Chapters Two through Five take many of the conceptual issues outlined by Beck and Socha and apply them to several different cognitive and affective processes related to hope and resilience. For instance, in Chapter Two, Manusov and Harvey-Knowles discuss how mindfulness promotes resilience. The authors begin by describing the ways mindfulness has been conceptualized by researchers and practitioners. They then examine research on mindfulness and show how the practice of mindfulness can positively influence health as well as relationship outcomes. Manusov and Harvey-Knowles round out their chapter with a description of various methods employed to assess mindfulness and then conclude with a discussion of some of the most well-known mindfulness training programs.

In Chapter Three, DiCioccio approaches hope and resilience through humorous communication. While the link between humor and both hope and resilience seems intuitive, DiCioccio acknowledges that humor can be used in positive and negative ways. She introduces several theories and models that are employed to explain how humor functions and shows how humor theory is associated with individuals’ hope and resilience. DiCioccio also reviews research demonstrating that humor can function to create or encourage hope and resilience by promoting positive affect. This positive affect serves as a resource for individuals as well as a means for affiliating with others across the lifespan.

While Chapter Three emphasizes the association between positive affect and both hope and resilience, Chapter Four takes a very different approach. Specifically, the authors of Chapter Four, McLaren and Pederson, focus on hurt feelings. They review research on hurt and explore how hurt feelings can encourage hope, resilience, and personal growth. The authors discuss the challenges that people face in fostering hope and resilience after they have been hurt and after they have hurt others. They note the complexities associated ← xiv | xv → with these challenges, discuss individual and relational variables that protect people from the impact of hurt, and describe strategies that individuals might use to repair their relationship following a hurtful episode.

The issues raised in Chapter Five follow nicely from those raised in Chapter Four. In Chapter Five, Metts and Ashbury discuss interpersonal transgressions. They provide a detailed description of transgressions and how transgressions are managed in close relationships through communication. The authors then turn to the literature on forgiveness. They define forgiveness and explain the ways forgiveness can function to modify the effects of transgressions. Metts and Ashbury tie their chapter together by showing how forgiveness, hope, and resilience can operate to help couples when they experience relationship transgressions.

Chapters Six through Eleven shift from concentrating on cognitive and affective processes associated with hope and resilience to focusing on different contexts in which hope and resilience may occur. Some of these settings are likely to be familiar to readers (e.g., the intersection of work and family life), whereas others are likely to be quite foreign (e.g., prison). What is common to these contexts is that all of them are influenced by, and constituted through, communication. As such, the authors argue that hope and resilience in each of these very different settings are accomplished through social interaction.

For instance, in Chapter Six, Peterson and McKenna describe hope and resilience in U.S. and Norwegian prisons. They introduce their chapter by providing background information on prisons and prisoners and by discussing how hope might be enacted in prison settings. The authors then juxtapose the ways hope and resilience manifest in U.S. and Norwegian prisons. The contrast they provide is striking. Peterson and McKenna use a very rich data set to show how the material and social aspects of prisons function to encourage (or discourage) hope and resilience in these two different social systems.

In Chapter Seven, Beck, Poole, and Ponche turn to a more familiar setting—the U.S. workforce—but deal with a situation that most people see as both unfamiliar and stressful. Specifically, the authors examine the employment transitions experienced by emerging adults and older adults in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse. They use theory on hope and resilience to explore the challenges faced by these two groups as well as the strategies they might employ to deal with those challenges. Beck and his coauthors also examine the unique qualities of each group that likely affect the way they navigate their employment transitions.

Buzzanell and Shenoy-Packer also look at individuals and work, but take a step back and more generally analyze work-family processes and resilience across the lifespan. They argue that work-family communication is a “key site” ← xv | xvi → for the development and maintenance of resilience. These authors define resilience as a process that is constituted through communication and show how work-family processes demonstrate family members’ resilience. Buzzanell and Shenoy-Packer outline five processes that can characterize resilience and offer a fascinating agenda for future research that includes examining power and authority in resilience processes as well as the co-production of resilience linked to work-family communication.

In Chapter Nine, Green examines power in a very different setting and with a very different group of people. He describes the stories of 22 individuals who were abducted as children from villages in Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Green’s goal in telling these stories is to illuminate the hope and resilience of those who were abducted both in terms of their experiences as abducted child soldiers and as free people who had returned to their villages. On his way to accomplishing this goal, the author provides a clear rationale for his method and carefully defines his role as a researcher and as a representative of—and for—his participants.

Merolla, like Green, analyzes hope and resilience associated with human trauma. The trauma described by Merolla, however, is caused by natural disasters. Merolla starts his chapter by examining research on the influence of natural disasters on individuals, families, and communities. He then shows how hope is created through communication and describes how it facilities coping and resilience. This author argues that individuals’ hope—both before and after a natural disaster—buffers stressors, shapes goals, and promotes constructive recollections of traumatic events associated with the disaster.

In Chapter Eleven, Sparks, Hefner, and Rogeness turn readers’ attention to healthcare settings as they analyze the role of hope and resilience in communication related to cancer. The authors review research on a broad range of variables that are likely to affect communication with cancer patients across the lifespan. They also examine how these variables may influence family members who are related to cancer patients. Sparks and her colleagues show how an understanding of the barriers to communication experienced by patients may enable researchers and practitioners to construct messages of hope and resilience that improve patients’ well-being at every stage of life.

The “battles” engaged by people who have cancer are one of many types of war stories described by Socha and Torres in Chapter Twelve. These authors offer readers a characterization of war stories that addresses war in the traditional sense of the word (e.g., World War II, Vietnam), as well as the personal wars and battles that people wage in their everyday lives (e.g., with cancer, severe weather, or crime). Socha and Torres use Burke’s (1969) dramatic pentad to analyze how accounts of resilience during war can serve as a means to promote ← xvi | xvii → hope. They argue that war stories are a form of communication that is employed across the lifespan to facilitate hope and resilience and, as such, that the stories represent an important area for future research.


VI, 286
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
Communication Emergeny Disaster Cope Reaction
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VI, 286 pp.

Biographical notes

Gary A. Beck (Volume editor) Thomas Socha (Volume editor)

Gary A. Beck (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is Assistant Professor of Communication and Theatre Arts at Old Dominion University. His work has been published in Communication Monographs, Personal Relationships, and Journal of Social Psychology. Thomas J. Socha (PhD, University of Iowa) is Professor of Communication at Old Dominion University. He was founding editor of the Journal of Family Communication and was the recipient of the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Bernard J. Brommel Award for Outstanding Family Communication Scholarship.


Title: Communicating Hope and Resilience Across the Lifespan
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