In today’s world, we are inundated with information. The internet has created a virtual library of knowledge at our fingertips, and it can be difficult to know how to sort through it all. We spend hours upon hours scrolling through social media, reading articles online, and watching videos on YouTube. It seems like the more we try to do research, the less time there is for actual conversations in person or over the phone – but this doesn’t have to be the case! Communication is just as important now as ever before, whether you’re trying to get your point across during an argument or send a message about an emergency situation. The theory of communication that we use is the sender/receiver model. Let’s talk about what this looks like and how it has evolved as time has progressed.
Table of Contents
1. What Is Communication?
As the saying goes, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” The words we choose and the tone we use to convey our message may be just as important as the meaning behind them. Communication is defined as “the act of conveying information, ideas, feelings, etc., by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.” This definition can be applied both online and in-person; face-to-face communication is typically the most effective means of conveying one’s message, but it is not the only one. For example, in an emergency, it is likely that many people would turn to social media to inform their family and friends of what was happening or provide updates on when they were safe.
The main point here is that communication is solely through the act of transferring information; how this information is transferred does not alter its definition. Thus, all forms of communication that convey information can be placed into one or more theories of communication which are defined as “the framework within which individuals interpret messages and thus create shared meaning” (Kowert & Hermann, 2014). These theories take into account the context in which communication is taking place and also aim to explain how it functions.
2. What Are Communication Theories and Their Types?
While communication theories are not yet widely taught in formal schooling, they are widely used by professionals who require them to work effectively. There are seven main communication theories:
The Information Processing Model
This theory focuses on how we process information through our senses. It is commonly used in marketing and can be applied to any situation where the receiver is trying to process what they are being told.
The Functional Model
This theory states that communication functions to give feedback, accomplish tasks, and reach consensus. Communication is about sending information but also receiving it back in order to improve upon or verify its accuracy.
The Linear Model
This model proposes that communication can be broken down into distinct stages and progresses from general to specific with the intention of reaching a goal.
The Dramatic Model
In this theory, communication is viewed as an “ongoing dramatic performance” with social interaction at its core. This model is used mainly in team building and leadership development.
The Game Theory
This approach to communication is derived from game theory and uses language that reflects its mathematical origins. It is an extremely complex concept that can be difficult to understand at first glance. However, you may already apply it without knowing. For example, a job interview is a prime example of a game theory communication situation where both the interviewer and interviewee are “playing” against each other to see who can come out on top.
The Dialectical Model
In this approach, communication is seen as an ongoing process with efforts made by both parties to reach an agreement. This leads to an “interdependence and circularity” in the relationship between sender and receiver.
The Rhetorical Model
This theory views communication as a process driven by the speaker who uses language to construct their message while taking into account their own values, needs, and emotions.
These theories provide different perspectives on communication that are useful for different purposes. This gives the speaker greater control over their message and how it is sent.
3. What Kind of Communication Theories Are Used Mostly?
There are many different theories of communication currently in existence, ranging from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers.
While some of these theories may seem complicated, that is not necessarily the case. Theories involve making abstractions in order to understand phenomena at different levels of analysis. In other words, when we use a theory such as the linear model, we are thinking of communication at a high level and trying to understand how it works in general. When we use the dramatic model, we focus on specific interactions and use language and actions with others in order to create better outcomes.
In conclusion, communication theories can help us to communicate more effectively while also understanding why we communicate the way that we do.
4. How to Choose the Right Communication Theory for Your Needs?
There is not always one correct answer when it comes to choosing a particular theory. It depends on the situation and the purpose you have in mind; however, there are three main things to consider:
“1) What is the goal of this piece of communication?” If your aim is simply to inform people about something, they may respond better using the information processing model.
“2) What is the relationship between the speaker and audience?” In a formal situation such as a job interview, it is best to use an approach that builds rapport, or this could potentially have negative consequences on the outcome. It may be better to use dramatic theory in this particular case because it will emphasize your professionalism and give you an edge over other candidates.
“3) Who is your audience?” If the receiver has limited knowledge on the topic of discussion, it would be wise to use a model that focuses on simplicity and understanding, which could potentially benefit from using linear theory or game theory.”
This model views communication as a process driven by the speaker who uses language to construct their message while taking into account their own values, needs, and emotions. This leads to an “interdependence and circularity” in the relationship between sender and receiver.
This theory provides different perspectives on communication that are useful for a different purposes. This gives the speaker greater control over their message and how it is sent. There are also different types of rhetorical models to choose from depending on what you are trying to achieve.
5. Major Communication Techniques
Diffusion of Innovations Theory
This theory is useful in understanding the speed with which ideas become accepted by a group or society. The general idea here is that people rely on others’ experiences when deciding whether an idea will be beneficial for them. The more people who already use the new idea, the faster it will be accepted by others. This theory is useful when communicating new ideas. For example, explaining to your family why you think they should recycle and what benefits come with this behavior would be a good way to try and influence their behavior and habits.
This theory is useful when trying to understand how people filter information. Gatekeepers are individuals who have the power or authority to control what information reaches other people or what will be accepted by society. For example, an opinion leader in your network could have a big impact on how others perceive something. If they post about a topic on social media, it may get attention from their followers, which influences their decisions about this topic or product. This can be used in marketing and public relations, for example, to spread positive news about your company or event so that more people become interested in being involved.
Social Information Processing Theory (SIPT)
This theory was developed by Charles and focuses on message interpretation between sender and receiver. They are four main stages that help us to better understand how people collect, encode and store information. The first stage of the model is attention which refers to being alert to something new in your environment. The second stage is encoding, which is when you try to process this new information by decoding it into a message, assigning meaning, or categorizing it. The third stage is a response where you may be able to recall the event more clearly because you have sorted through your memories and thoughts on the topic. If not, at least some kind of response will have been produced. Finally, there’s storage which involves keeping what you’ve learned for later reference if needed. This theory can be used in public relations when working with influencers on social media, for example, as you will need to pay attention to their needs and wants as well as how they interact with your content. You also need to be able to encode their messages in a way that is relevant to them.
This model works from the idea of “how people reach a decision.” It focuses on the “interaction between sender and receiver” through communication. This theory can be used when trying to understand both physical and verbal communication, which helps us work out what is going on behind the scenes. This is helpful if you’re dealing with conflict or planning an event where there are multiple stakeholders, for example, so you can better cooperate with others and find common ground between you all.
This theory focuses on the “dramatic nature of social life.” This is because all social interaction can be seen as theater. There are roles that people play depending on who they are communicating with, which helps us to better interpret these messages. So, for example, you might act differently around your friends compared to work colleagues or your family. As well as this, there is a power dynamic at play when communicating, which means that one person may have more influence over another depending on certain factors such as physical appearance or cultural upbringing. The sender and receiver also have different goals in mind when interacting with each other, which will affect how they behave during this process too. This can help us understand why some people hold back their true opinions during discussions, for example, or are more inclined to give up on an argument with someone else.
The Theory of Reflected Appraisal
This theory focuses on social validation that comes from how people communicate messages. It suggests that “the interpersonal feedback people perceive they receive a major determinant of their attitudes and behavior,” which can be helpful in public relations when working with others. For example, positive endorsements from others may influence you to change your behavior, while negative messages delivered by another person could make you feel discouraged about continuing this behavior/habit. A good way to understand the importance of ‘reflected appraisal’ is through language use; however, it’s also important not to ignore our nonverbal behaviors too. We may act differently based on someone’s status or the type of relationship we have with them. So, for example, if you’re speaking to your boss, you may act more submissively compared to when talking to your friend.
Interpersonal Communication Model
This theory focuses on the message that is being delivered “through verbal and nonverbal symbols.” It suggests that there are six steps involved in sending and decoding messages: encoding, transmitting, interpreting, receiving, responding, and evaluating. The first step begins with encoding, meaning paying attention to what you want to say so it can be expressed properly rather than leaving parts out. This part also looks at how information should be delivered, which could include changing body language or adjusting tone, so it’s received as intended by the sender too. The next steps are focused on the receiver trying to work out what you were saying through both explicit messages and implied meaning. This might be easier for some people depending on how well they know you or what type of relationship they have with you, which affects their own interpretation of your message.
The Superiority Theory
This theory focuses on “the tendency of individuals to feel that their group, category, or social unit is better than other groups” which could help us understand why conflicts happen in society because we often think others are trying to put us down rather than understand their perspective. We also make judgments about people based on their appearance, gender, ethnicities, etc., which can be used positively or negatively depending on. So, if someone is wearing provocative clothing, we might judge them negatively because of this, so they have a lower status compared to us. However, if someone is wearing a uniform such as a nurse, firefighter, etc., then we might hold them in higher esteem and allow them access to certain roles/areas that allow them to do their job better.
Interpersonal Communication Techniques
This theory focuses on the “meaningful messages people exchange.” It suggests that there are many different theories researchers use in order to understand what messages mean when it comes to human interaction with each other. For example, scholars may try looking at behavior in terms of game theory which shows how people respond during social interactions depending on what others are doing with you too (e.g., cooperation vs. competition).
All communication theories have value. Communication is a complicated process involving more than one person, with countless variables impacting the way messages are received and interpreted. Theories about how communications work help us to better understand this process in order to improve relationships at home, in business, and in politics.