Communication Accommodation Theory: Finding the Right Approach

Communication Accommodation Theory: Finding the Right Approach

James M. Goodwin (Georgetown University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4168-4.ch008

Abstract

A lack of face-to-face interactions affects society while digital influences on the world create and sustain communications characterized by limited feedback, incomplete information, tentative connections, and misunderstandings. Thousands of digital messages lack the full communication components—sender-receiver-feedback—creating barriers to communication completion. The ability to adapt to the receiver and the medium is enhanced in face-to-face communication, as defined within communication accommodation theory (CAT). CAT allows all parties to emphasize or minimize differences in verbal and non-verbal conversations.
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Convergence And Divergence

CAT contains the key factors of convergence and divergence. Convergence refers to individual strategies employed to adapt to another person’s communication behavior. Divergence is when people stress and manage speech and non-verbal differences between themselves and others.

In group settings, facilitators ensure a collective comprehension, making sure to remain flexible and willing to change phrases or terms used. There might be other needs for change that involve altering the tempo of the presentation, employing repetition to drive home a point, or changing the rate of their speech.

The accommodation suggested by the theory includes ways to emphasize or minimize verbal and non-verbal interaction differences with other people. Such accommodation is achieved through the use and adjustment of language, context, identity, and intergroup and interpersonal factors. When using convergence and divergence, social differences are reduced by changing the interactive environment, as well as the communication behaviors in the ways that best suit the parties involved (Ayoko, Härtel et al. 2002). Convergence is the way people adapt to communicative behaviors to reduce social differences. People highlight speech and non-verbal differences to arrive at ways to adjust for success. Senders should be careful when using convergence because too much accommodation can lead to a receiver interpreting the sender’s intended message to seem condescending. They should also avoid communication breakdowns by getting consensus on task processes and by managing discourse to make sure it is healthy and productive. A 2002 study on discourse management found that productive conflict was the result of increased use of discourse management strategies (Ayoko, Härtel et al.). These strategies were applied to achieve common ground and remove roadblocks to communication. Senders and receivers will be more effective when using the accommodation theory’s valuable resources.

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