Theory of Communication

Theories of communication A theory is a set of ideas that can be used to understand, explain and make predictions about something. Theories of communication provide ways of analysing communication between people and give care practitioners an insight into what works and why. Michael Argyle (1925–2002) was a social psychologist who researched and developed theories about human communication and interpersonal interaction. He focused on both verbal and non-verbal communication, carrying out experimental research to test and develop his theoretical ideas (see Argyle, 1967, 1969 and 1975).
Argyle’s ‘communication cycle’ theory sets out to understand, explain and predict how communication occurs between people in one-to-one situations. In The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour (1967), Argyle proposed that communication is a skill that needs to be learnt and practised like any other skill. Argyle’s (1967) claim was that human communication is essentially a two-way process that involves people sending, receiving and responding to each other’s verbal and non-verbal messages.
The receiver of the message keeps the communication going by responding to or by giving feedback to the original message. This process then repeats and builds into a communication cycle. Care practitioners need to have an understanding of group processes and patterns of group behaviour in order to interact and communicate well in the various group situations that they experience. Understanding how groups form and then develop is an important part of this. Bruce Tuck man (1965) outlined a model of group development based around a number of stages, or a sequence, of group activity.

Tuck man’s (1965) theory suggests that groups must go through these stages to be effective and that the pattern of communication in each of the four stages is different 1. Forming involves group members coming together and asking basic questions about the purpose and aims of the group, each member’s role within it and commitment to it. In this first stage of group development, members tend to feel quite anxious, often prioritise their own interests and may feel ‘disorientated’ in their interactions with others. A leader usually emerges in this early stage. . Storming, the second stage, is a period of conflict within the group. Members may argue over the purpose of the group, may contest its aims and sometimes resist the authority and role of the leader. In this stage, power and control are the main issues. Eventually, the purpose of the group and the roles within it become clearer as power and control battles are won and lost. Without tolerance and patience at this stage, the team will fail. Co-operation between members should begin to develop towards the end of this phase. . Norming is the stage when the group’s identity develops. A strong set of shared values, norms of behaviour and a group ‘culture’ emerge. The group arrives at one goal and agrees a shared plan to achieve it. The group becomes more cohesive and group members tend to work together to resolve conflicts. 4. Performing is the stage when the group finally matures and gets down to working effectively. Members tend to focus more on the overall goal rather than on relationships between themselves.
Relationships have, by this stage, become more comfortable and are based on trust and mutual support. Reflect A group may or may not reach the performing stage: effective, high performing teams do but other less effective groups may get stuck at one of the earlier stages, particularly if they are unable to resolve the challenges or crises associated with that stage of group development. Effective communication within a group situation is a key influence on whether a group reaches the performing stag

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