Theories of Communication

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17 March 2016

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Communication is a transactional process and in a health context it is an important part of health and social care. Communication is an essential, instrumental and purposeful process. The communication transaction is one of sharing information using a set of common rules. In health and social care communication is a planned process the effectiveness of this planned process comes to fruition when the audience has achieved, acted on or responded to a message. The basic representative model of communication is usually conceptualised as a one-way flow process of sender, message and receiver.

In addition to this fourth and fifth variables must be added: complete understanding by the receiver and feedback to the communicator. The last two variables are important because they imply two-way communication, thus moving away from the traditional concept of one-way communication and towards multi-way communication. It is also important to remember that communication is a cyclic process involving a series of actions thus a model can be represented as circular.

The Argyle Theory is based on one-to-one communication. It follows the communication cycle and it is a way of ensuring communication is effective. The Argyle theory when followed helps us to overcome communication barriers, for example: jargon, misunderstood signals and issues relating to the setting such as noise and lighting. Argyle’s 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.

In the case of communicating with a dementia patient, Argyle’s theory can be helpful as an aid to the communication between the staff member and the service user. Speaking clearly and calmly and making sentences short and simple make it easier for the service user to understand the message delivered to them and to respond to it. A person with dementia will read your body language and your tone of voice. Agitated movements or a tense facial expression may upset them, and make communication more difficult. Equally, it can help to read the facial expression of the dementia patient if they are finding it difficult to communicate properly.

The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory proposed by Abraham Harold Maslow. Maslow, a famous psychologist tried to understand human motivation. According to Maslow, each person had a different set of needs at different point of time in his life. He said that all needs of humans could be arranged in a hierarchy. Each person is said to move through the hierarchy by fulfilling each level of needs. Some people may have dominant needs at a particular level and thus never move through the entire hierarchy.

Maslow’s hierarchy lists the following five levels of needs:

Physiological needs: This level of needs deals with the basic necessities of human survival like food, clothing and shelter. If a person does not fulfil these needs he will cease to function.

Safety: Once the first level needs are met, a person feels the need to have a life of security where safety in all aspects of life is ensured.

Social needs: This deals with the innate need to feel as if one belongs in a chosen social group and in various other relationships that are a part of human life. There is a need to be accepted or otherwise people are prone to negative effects like depression & loneliness.

Esteem: Deals with the need to feel good about oneself and getting recognition from others. A lack of these needs will result in an inferiority complex and helplessness.

Self-actualization: Becoming the best one can be. Here the need is to maximize ones potential.

The levels are presented in the form of a triangle or a pyramid with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom tier, and the need for self-actualization at the top. The limitations with this theory lie in the fact that different cultures may cause people to have different hierarchies of needs. People necessarily may not satisfy one level after another and may have other needs not mentioned in the list and may be ready to sacrifice some needs.

In the case of communicating between a hospital staff member in a senior position and their staff the senior member should give the employees appropriate salaries to purchase the basic necessities of life. Breaks and eating opportunities should be given to employees. They should provide the employees job security, safe and hygienic work environment, and retirement benefits so as to retain them. The senior member should encourage teamwork and organize social events. They can appreciate and reward employees on accomplishing and exceeding their targets. The senior member can give the deserved employee higher job rank / position in the organization. They can also give the employees challenging jobs in which the employees’ skills and competencies are fully utilized. Moreover, growth opportunities can be given to them so that they can reach the peak.

Carl Rogers agrees with most of what Maslow believed, but added that for a person to grow they need an environment that requires someone to be congruent, have unconditional positive regard for the service user as well as showing empathic understanding. Congruence on the part of the care worker refers to their ability to be completely genuine whatever the self of the moment. While it is necessary they are not expected to be a completely congruent person all the time, as such perfection is impossible. Empathy refers to understanding the service user’s feelings and personal meanings as they are experienced and communicating this back to the person. While unconditional positive regard involves relating from care worker to service user. Rogers believed that every person can achieve their goals, wishes and desires in life. When or rather if they did so, self-actualisation took place.

Rogers believed in a mostly person-centred approach to care and that our self-image, how we see ourselves, can affect how effective the service user responds to care and the persons working in the care sector. Self-image includes our perception of our appearance or our inner personality, such as whether we perceive ourselves to be good or bad people, at its lowest level. We often have an idea of an ideal self, someone we aspire to be in our lives and may well work towards becoming. Rogers’ strong belief in the positive nature of human beings is based on his many years of clinical experience, working with a wide variety of individuals. The theory of person-centred therapy suggests any service user, no matter what the problem, can improve without being taught anything specific by the therapist, once he/she accepts and respects themselves. The resources all lie within the service user.

In the case of trying to rehabilitate a youth offender, Rogers’ theory would work well as the service user would need to be in an environment where those working with him were congruent, they would not hold his past actions against him or judge him for them. Rather they would receive him openly and with understanding when trying to help him. They would also need empathy in order to look past his crimes and to see if there were any internal or external factors that contributed to his situation now. Does he suffer from behavioural problems? Did he have a negative upbringing? What is his socio-economic status? And use that to relate to the service user and provide him with the best possible care. Positive regard would also be needed in order to help build up the service user’s self-esteem so they can reach a position where he wouldn’t be tempted to re-offend again at any point.

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StudyScroll. (2016). Theories of Communication [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29 September, 2023]

"Theories of Communication" StudyScroll, Mar 17, 2016. Accessed Sep 29, 2023.

"Theories of Communication" StudyScroll, Mar 17, 2016.

"Theories of Communication" StudyScroll, 17-Mar-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). Theories of Communication. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2023]

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