FrontPage ApplyingCommunicationTheoryForProfessionalLife


1. Introduction to Communication Theory
2. Explaining Theories of Intrapersonal Communication
2.1. Intrapersonal Communication Defined
2.2. Message Design Logics
2.3. Attribution Theory
2.4. Uncertainty Reduction Theory
2.5. Expectancy Violations Theory
2.6. Chapter Summary
2.7. Case Study 2, Military Misunderstanding
3. Explaining Theories of Interpersonal Communication
3.1. Interpersonal Communication Defined
3.2. Systems Perspective
3.2.1. Assumptions of the System Perspective
3.3. Politeness Theory
3.3.1. Assumptions
3.3.2. Preserving face
3.4. Social Exchange Theory (SET)
3.4.1. Assumptions and Ideas
3.5. Dialectical Perspective
3.6. Chapter Summary
3.7. Case Study 3, Coworker Conflict
4. Explaining Theories of Culture
4.1. Culture Defined
4.2. Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions
4.3. Communication Accommodation Theory
4.4. Face-Negotiation Theory
4.5. Gender and Communication, A Two-Culture Perspective
4.6. Chapter Summary
4.7. Case Study 4, The Trouble With Tourists
5. Explaining Theories of Persuasion
5.1. Persuasion Defined
5.2. Social Judgment Theory
5.3. Elaboration Likelihood Model
5.4. Cognitive Dissonance Theory
5.5. Narrative Paradigm
5.6. Chapter Summary
5.7. Case Study 5, CONNECTion Problems
6. Explaining Theories of Leadership
7. Explaining Theories of Group Communication
8. Explaining Theories of Organizational Communication
9. Explaining Theories of Mediated Communication
9.1. Agenda Setting Theory
9.2. Cultivation Theory
9.3. Social Learning Theory
9.4. Uses and Gratifications Theory
9.5. Chapter Summary
9.6. Case Study 9, The Gay Agenda
10. So What Should a Communicator Do?

The book is composed of introduction, and discussion of various communication theories in everyday-life fields -- mainly intrapersonal, interpersonal, culture, persuasion, leadership, group communication, organizational communication, mediated communication.

The theories mentioned in these fields are: message design logics; attribution theory; uncertainty reduction theory, explectancy violations theory, politeness theory, social exchange theory, dialectical perspective, Hofstede's cultural dimensions, face-negotiation theory, social judgement theory, elaboration likelihood model, narrative paradigm, Likert's four system, transformational leadership, contingency model, leader-member exchange, symbolic convergence theory, functional group decision making, organizational culture, structuration theory, organizing theory, agenda-setting theory, cultivation theory, social learning theory, uses and gratification theory, etc.

There are more theories! The additional theories that could be worth to look at aqe listed in the Communication Theory page.

Throughout the semester, you will define these theories in terms of your own thoughts and your own words (based on your reading of the materials and the textbook), and exercising them by processing each in a real life situation.

About the Authors

1. Introduction to Communication Theory

What Is Communication?

What Is Theory?

The Theory-Research Link

What Is Research?

Research Methods in Communication

Social Science and the Humanities

Evaluating Theory

Chapter Summary

Case Study 1, Theory and Research in Communication Consulting

2. Explaining Theories of Intrapersonal Communication

2.1. Intrapersonal Communication Defined

2.2. Message Design Logics

2.3. Attribution Theory

2.4. Uncertainty Reduction Theory

2.5. Expectancy Violations Theory

2.6. Chapter Summary

2.7. Case Study 2, Military Misunderstanding

3. Explaining Theories of Interpersonal Communication

3.1. Interpersonal Communication Defined

Number of participants involved
IPC occurs between two individuals (Miler,1978) 1) when they are close in proximity, 2) able to provide immediate feedback, and 3) utilize multiple senses.
IPC includes communication that is personal and occurring between people who are more than acquaintances (Peters, 1974).
Goals approach
IPC includes communication used to define or achieve personal goals through interaction with others (Canary, Cody, & Manusov, 2003).
IPC includes the messages that occur between two, interdependent persons; These messages are offered to initiate, define, maintain, or further a relationship (Dainton & Zelley, 2003).

Systems perspective
Politeness theory
Social exchange theory
Dialectical perspective

All four perspectives (theories) shed a light to see how and why people create, maintain, break relationships with others.

3.2. Systems Perspective

  • Not just a theory, but a collection of theories that share common assumptions and concepts, which is why it is named as "perspective" rather than "theory".
  • Its scope includes all kinds of communication such as interpersonal, group, organizational, and mass communication.
  • Developed heavily by the work of the Palo Alto Group.

3.2.1. Assumptions of the System Perspective

  • Communication is the means by which systems are created and sustained (Monge, 1973).

  • Systems include (1) system members; (2) sub-systems; and (3) supra-system. And System theory or System perspective studies the mutual influences and relationships among the three.
    • System members . . . A system is a group of individuals who inter-relate to form a whole -- e.g., a family, a work group, a sports team, etc.
    • Subsystem . . . Systems may be embedded in hierarchy. Subsystem is a smaller part of the group as a whole (system) -- e.g., parents in a family; defense line in a football team.
    • Supra-system . . . is the larger system within which systems and sub-systems operates and interact -- e.g., NFL (National Football League) is a supra-system for an individual football team.

  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Fisher, 1978). A system is not just a sum of individuals. It may exert more power than sum of its members' power.
    • e.g., A football team may not have significant football player. But, they do good in games because the team works as a team.
  • This kind of ability -- the team works as a team -- is called positive synergy. The other way may occur -- Negative synergy which means that the group may achieve less than the individual parts would suggest.

  • Nonsummativity occurs because of interdependency between members. Interdependency means that all system members are dependent on all other system members -- e.g., If one group members does not work his/her part, the whole group may not achieve its goal.

  • Homeostasis refers to the natural balance or equilibrium within groups. It is a tendency for a given system to maintain its stability in the face of change (outer stimuli).

  • Equifinality suggests that there are multiple way to achieve the same goal.
    • Increasing revenues by 10 percent can be achieved by
      • laying-out the workforces
      • selling more products
      • reducing manufacturing costs
      • developing a new product
      • etc.

3.3. Politeness Theory

  • This theory is a practical application of Goffman's thoughts on face work.
  • See WikiPedia:Erving_Goffman
    • His wrote about The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Interaction Ritual, and argued that human beings' social interaction is like acting in drama -- hence, his idea is called WikiPedia:dramaturgy.
      >> In dramaturgical sociology it is argued that human actions are dependent upon time, place, and audience. In other words, to Goffman, the self is a sense of who one is, a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate scene being presented.2 Goffman forms a theatrical metaphor in defining the method in which one human being presents itself to another based on cultural values, norms, and expectations.

Politeness theory (PT) explains how and why individuals try to promote, protect, or save face, especially when embarrassing or shameful situations arise unexpectedly.

Goffman's first essay, “On Face-work, focused on the concept of face, which is the positive image of self that individuals have when interacting with others. Goffman believed that face “as a sociological construct of interaction, is neither inherent in nor permanent aspect of the person”.5 Once an individual gives out a positive self image of themselves to others they then feel a need to keep or live up to that set image.

3.3.1. Assumptions

  1. Face
    • All individuals are concerned with maintaining face (Brown & Levinson, 1978, 1987).
    • Face refers to the desired self-image that an individual wishes to present to others; face also includes the recognition that one's interactional partners have face-needs of their own.
  2. Positive and negative face
    • Positive face are a person's need to be liked, appreciated, and admired by selected persons. Therefore, maintaining positive face may include one's efforts to ensure that the significant others continue to view him/her in an affirming fashion.
    • Negative face assumes a person's desire to act freely, without constraints or imposition from others.
    It is difficult to achieve (hold, maintain) both faces at the same time.
  3. Rational and goal oriented nature of human being
    • Human beings are rational and goal oriented with respect to achieving face needs (Brown & Levinson, 1978, 1987). Everyone's face depends upon everyone else's face being maintained. Therefore, one's decision in interactions with others often uphold this mutual construction of face.
  4. Face threatening acts
    • Human being's rationale guide them to interact with others for mutual respects (face-saving), some behaviors are fundamentally face threatening. These face-threatening acts include common behaviors such as apologies, compliments, criticisms, requests, and threats (Craig, Tracy, & Spisak, 1993).

3.3.2. Preserving face

To create and maintain face, ones use facework -- specific messages that thwart or minimize face-threatening acts (FTAs).
  1. Preventive facework
    • Preventive facework means one's acts to avert, avoid FTAs.
    • e.g., Avoiding certain topics, changing the subject, or pretending not to notice the occurrence of an FTA, etc.
  2. Corrective facework
    • Messages of which intention is to restore one's own or others' facework.
    • e.g., Use of strategies such as humor, apologies, accounts or explanation of inappropriate actions and behaviors, and physical remediation for the damage of FTAs.
  3. Conflict between positive and negative facework
    • When your desire to appear unencumbered (having a sort of non-attractive charisma) outweighs your desire to be liked, you might need to engage in a face-threatening act.
  4. Use of five strategies in one's facework
    • Avoidance: people may choose not to communicate in order to save their or their communication partner's face.
    • Going off record: One may subtly hint or indirectly mention the face-threatening topic or situation. Such strategy (hints and indirect mention) leave the message open to interpretation; hence, minimizing face threat (while achieving what the person wants).
    • Negative politeness: Speakers makes an effort to recognize the other's negative face needs -- the receiver's need of freedom and lack of restraint.
      I am so sorry to ask, but I need a huge favor. I know this is last minute, and I really hate to be such a pain, but could you cover my shift this weekend? I know this is really inconvenient and I wouldn't ask if it weren't really important. . . .
    • This statement is my acknowledging the other's discomfort and potentiol restriction while still mangaging a sort of face-threatening act.
    • Positive politeness: The speaker emphasizes the receiver's need for positive face -- the need to be liked. Usually flattery and compliments are involved in the communication. One is camouflage one's face-threatening behavior with flattery and compliments.
      Bill, you are such a reliable colleague, and os well-respected. I feel like I can really count on you. Would you cover my weekend shift?
    • Bald on record: The speaker has no concern for others' face; simply commits the FTA in order to achieve his/her goal.
      Bill, cover my weekend shift.

According to PT, people use the above strategies tactically.
Consideration Prediction
Social distance If someone has more prestige than you (someone with an impressive title or a great deal of money), you will be more polite; if someone hold little or no prestige over you, you need not be so polite.
Power If someone has power over you (your boss, or even your auto mechanic if your car broke down), you will be more polite.
Risk If what you are going to say has a high chance of hurting someone, you will be more polite.
In addition to the above four, choosing FTAs with a different approaches may involve many factors: 1) understanding both positive and negative face, 2) understanding cultural differences or subtlety, 3) understanding the nature of relationship, and 4) understanding the communication partner's characteristics.

3.4. Social Exchange Theory (SET)

3.4.1. Assumptions and Ideas

  1. Minimax principle: People want to make the the most o the benefits while lessening the costs
  2. Personal relationships are function of comparing costs and benefits of managing and maintaining relationships -- social relationships bring both costs and rewards. In a simple term, it can be presented as:
    (perceived) Rewards
    - (perceived) Costs
    = Outcome (behavioral decisions = what to do)
    Perceived Rewards (companionship, affection, sharing a joint savings account, etc.)
    - Perceived Costs (negotiating holiday visits between in-laws, loss of social independence, having to put grad school on hold because of family obligations, etc.)
    = Outcome
  3. Rewards and Costs may vary among individuals.
  4. Comparison level (CL)
    Expected rewards or reward expectations
Expectations comes from
relationship model (such as parents, friends)
and one's experiences with relationships
and television and other media representations of relationships, etc.
People compare the current outcome value with CL value; and use it for future actions.
  1. Comparison level of alternatives
    People also think of Comparison Level of Alternatives.
    CLalt = What are your alternatives to staying in the relationship? -- i.e, expectation of outcomes to do otherwise.

  2. Predictions Mede by Social Exchane Theory
    Outcomes > CL = Satisfied
    Outcomes < CL = Dissatisfied
    Outcomes > CLalt = Stay
    Outcomes < CLalt = Terminate

3.5. Dialectical Perspective

The perspective assumes that relationships are the constant fluctuation of managing opposing tensions or contradictions. It denies relationships are not result of mathematical calculation. Four important assumptions are:
  1. Praxis
  2. Change
  3. Contradictions
  4. Totality

Praxis suggests that relationships trajectories are not linear (always moving foward) nor repetitive (cycling through the same things again and again). Dialectical perspective assumes that relationships can be more intimate sometimes; less inimate the other time. Partners in relationship move forward and backwards in times.

Dialectical perspective assumes that relationship keeps changing. Relationships are not maintained, rather they are sustained in the changing status.

Communication partners in every relationship has opposing needs (contradictions). Because these needs conteract each other people cannot achieve both needs at the same time. Therefore, there are always tensions in any kinds of realtionships.
e.g., Spouse need to spend time together to sustain their marriage; on the other hand, both partners need to have some time to themselves, away from their partners. Both togetherness and independence are needed for marriage to be sustained. But, both cannot achieved at the same time.

Totality refers to the inter-dependent nature of relationships.

Internal tensions :: Relationships are formed and sustained by the above four ideas. Tensions are always occur between partners. The three central tensions that individuals experience are:
  1. autonomy-connection dialectic
  2. openness-closedness dialectic
  3. predictability-novelty dialectic

    dialectic refers to the tension between the desire to be independence and that to be connected.
    dialectic refers to the tension bewteen wanting to open-up or self-disclosure and wanting to remain private.
    dialectic refers to the tension between wanting stability or steadiness while also wanting opportunities for spontaneity.

External tensions :: . . . Communication partners are constantly vacillate between each of these three communicative poles. Also, three central tensions are thought to exist. Each of these tensions is a unit of the relationship (communication partners).
  1. inclusion-seclusion
  2. revelation-concealment
  3. conventionality-uniqueness

    dialectic refers to the tension partners experience when they want to spend time with friends, family, or coworkers versus wanting to spend their time alone together.
    dialectic refers to tension between desire to reveal the aspects of their relationship to the world and that to hide to themselves.
    refers to tension between wanting to be like others and wanting to be unique.

Individuals and partners as a unit should manage these tensions across the poles. Four strategies to handle the internal and external tensions:
  1. Selection
  2. Cyclic alteration
  3. Segmentation
  4. Integration

    Choosing one pole (side) over the other, which may end the relationship.
    Cyclic alteration
    Choosing one pole at this time; and will do the other at the other time. Creating back-and-forth and back-and-forth strategy to cope with the relationship.
    Setting aside something (particular) that conflicts each other. Choosing some topics for openness; the other for closedness.
    Choosing several variations to create a more fulfilling experience. A couple may choose to use predictability and novelty to escalate their relationship by setting an agreement that Friday is date night (predictability) and that they try out a different restaurant every week (novelty).

3.6. Chapter Summary

3.7. Case Study 3, Coworker Conflict

4. Explaining Theories of Culture

4.1. Culture Defined

4.2. Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions

4.3. Communication Accommodation Theory

4.4. Face-Negotiation Theory

4.5. Gender and Communication, A Two-Culture Perspective

4.6. Chapter Summary

4.7. Case Study 4, The Trouble With Tourists

5. Explaining Theories of Persuasion

Dale Carnegie (1888 - 1955)
Dale Carnegie [JPG image (7.69 KB)]


Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  1. Smile.
  1. Remember that a man's Name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  1. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  1. Talk in the terms of the other man's interest.
  1. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. Avoid arguments.
  1. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
  1. If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  1. Begin in a friendly way.
  1. Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.
  1. Let the other person do the talking.
  1. Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
  1. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of
  1. Sympathize with the other person.
  1. Appeal to noble motives.
  1. Dramatize your ideas.
  1. Throw down a challenge & don't talk negative when the person is absent, talk about only positive..

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  1. Call attention to other people's mistakes indirectly.
  1. Talk about your own mistakes first.
  1. Ask questions instead of directly giving orders.
  1. Let the other person save face.
  1. Praise every improvement.
  1. Give them a fine reputation to live up to.
  1. Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.
  1. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident. ~ Dale Carnegie
Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do. ~ Dale Carnegie

The average American is exposed to at least three thousand ads every day and will spend three years of his or her life watching television commercials (Kilbourne, 1999, p.58).

5.1. Persuasion Defined

Human communication that is designed to influence others by modifying their beliefs, values, or attitudes (Simon, 1976, p.21).

Requirement for sender, the means, and the recipient for something to be persuasive
  1. Sender has a goal -- Persuasion involves in a goal or the intent to achieve that goal on the part of the message sender.
  2. Communication is the means for that goal to be achieved.
  3. Recipient must have free will for the message to be persuasive.
Persuasion is neither coercive (3) nor accidental (1).

An attitude is a "relatively enduring predisposition to respond favorable or unfavorable" toward something (Simons, 1976, p.80).
  1. Attitudes are not based on whims or fleeting.
  2. Attitudes are learned evaluations -- they are not something that people are born with.
  3. Attitudes influence behavior. Persuasion involves in behavior change (eventually). Scholars argue that attitudes change will lead to behavior changes.

Four theories
  1. Social Judgment theory
  2. Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
  3. Cognitive Dissonance Theory
  4. Narrative Paradigm

5.5. Narrative Paradigm

5.6. Chapter Summary

5.7. Case Study 5, CONNECTion Problems

6. Explaining Theories of Leadership

Leadership Defined

Likert's Four Systems

Transformational Leadership

Contingency Model

Leader-Member Exchange

Chapter Summary

Case Study 6, Saving Holmes Hospitality

7. Explaining Theories of Group Communication

Group Communication Defined

Interaction Process Analysis/SYMLOG

Symbolic Convergence Theory

Functional Group Decision Making


Chapter Summary

Case Study 7, The Gifted Group

8. Explaining Theories of Organizational Communication

Organizational Communication Defined

Organizational Identification and Control

Organizational Culture

Structuration Theory

Organizing Theory

Chapter Summary

Case Study 8, A Time of Transition

9. Explaining Theories of Mediated Communication

Mediated communication
refers to any communication
in which something exists
between the source and the receiver.
usually refers to technologies
but can be others such as human beings (interpreter, sign-language interpreter)
Mass Communication
is a form of mediated communication
in which the medium (a technology or an organization) links
between the source and a large number of audience (unknown to the source -- the public or mass).
  • The mass (unknown to the sender or source)
    Senders do not necessarily know
    the audiences' motivations, biases, interpretations, etc.
  • Also the oppotunity for the audience to provide feedback is limited and slow
  • All mass communication is mediated; but not all mediated communication is mass.
    e.g., email and the telephone is a point-to-point mediauted medium, but, not mass-medium.

9.5. Chapter Summary

9.6. Case Study 9, The Gay Agenda

10. So What Should a Communicator Do?

Communication Competence

Conclusions About Communication

Conclusions About Influences/Effects

Returning to Communication Competence

Chapter Summary

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