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Communication Theories

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In interpersonal communication there are many theories that are similar yet different in many ways. The theories can be combined to describe people and how those people interact and communicate with each other. Many of these theories help explain how people in society form impressions of others, how they maintain these impressions, why people interact with certain people in society, and how people will use these impressions that they have formed later on in life. These theories also help people to better understand themselves, to better understand interpersonal communication, and to better understand people in general. There are two theories in interpersonal communication that, despite their differences, can go hand in hand. The first is interaction adaptation theory and the second is emotional contagion theory. These two theories' similarities and differences and their relevance to my everyday life will be discussed in this paper. These two theories are very important in understanding how people interact with others and why people do the things they do sometimes.

Interaction adaptation theory defined by Beebe, Beebe, and Redmond (2005) is a "Theory suggesting that people interact with others by adapting to what others are doing" (p. 190). A way of looking at this theory is by thinking about a mirror. "Sometimes we relate by mirroring the posture or behavior of others" (p. 190). This theory believes that people will share the same kind of communication patterns when they are communicating together. People will interact in the same way as the other person. There has been a conclusion based on this theory that "nonverbal cues play a key role in how people adapt to others" (p. 190). If a person is communicating with their friend, who has their arms crossed, than this person might find that they are crossing their arms as well. These types of actions are all conclusions to this theory. People, based on their interactions with others, usually tend to develop similar communication patterns and find themselves mirroring the patterns of the other.

Emotional contagion theory is a little similar to interaction adaptation theory. According to Beebe, Beebe, and Redmond (2005), emotional contagion theory "suggests that people tend to Ð''catch' the emotions of others" (p. 213). This means that if a person is communicating with someone who is smiling, than that person may find that they are smiling as well. "Interpersonal interactions with others can affect your nonverbal expression of emotion" (p. 213). As a whole, society tends to mirror the emotions of the person who is speaking or of the person who is playing a part. If a person goes to a play and the actors are experiencing fear, than the people who are watching the play will tend to experience that same fear. If one actor is mad at another actor, than the people watching the play will either experience that same emotion of anger or they will side with the other actor and experience the emotion that the other actor is feeling, whether it be uncertainty about why the other actor is mad at them or a feeling of sadness because the other actor is mad at them. Imitating others emotions happens all the time in society and as long as there is communication between people, whether it is verbal or nonverbal, this catching of emotions will continue.

The interaction adaptation theory and the emotional contagion theory both have similarities and differences, just like any other set of theories. Both of these theories suggest that people adapt to people who are around them and whom they interact with. These two theories allow people to mirror those with whom they communicate with. These theories go hand in hand because when you are communicating with someone and mirroring their actions and behaviors, it is hard to not mirror their emotions. If someone is sad and decides to talk to someone about their problem, than the other person is most likely going to share their friends' emotion of sadness. It is highly unlikely that as a friend someone would start laughing or smiling while their friend is pouring their heart out to them. People would, in general, console their friend and want to help them. This type of interaction and communication allows people to have a sense of closeness even if they are not close with the person with whom they are mirroring.

Where there are similarities, there are bound to be differences. Even though both of these theories are the mirroring of others, if someone does not feel the same as the other person, they will not necessarily follow in the same path. The interaction adaptation theory is about the mirroring of behavior and actions. This includes crossing of the arms if the other person is crossing theirs or leaning in to a conversation if the other person is leaning in.



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