1.1 Theoretical models of communication and their relevance to practice

Course: NVQ Level 5 Diploma In Leadership & Management for Adult Care

Unit 3: Communication & Information Management in Adult Care

LO1: Understand Models of Communication

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1.1 Theoretical models of communication and their relevance to practice

Theoretical models of communication can be extremely useful in practice, as they provide a framework for understanding how communication works and how it can be improved.

Strong communication skills are essential to lead people. When you lead, it is important for your team members to understand and be able to communicate with each other in order that they can work well together toward common goals. You cannot effectively lead others if you do not have strong communication skills. It is important for a leader to understand the theory and practice of effective communications so that he or she can assess which model would work best in their situation, given any available information about other people’s needs. Some theories that you may wish to research further are explored below.

Linear models

Linear models are described as being one-way because only one person is actively communicating and sending a message or information with a recipient receiving it passively. Linear communication is especially common in organizations where there might be many people at different levels in the hierarchy who might be able to influence what happens. In these circumstances, those people with less power are more likely to take a passive role as recipients whereas those that have more power will actively use it as senders.

Aristotle’s model

Aristotle’s model is the earliest communication system that has been used to convey information for centuries. The central tenet of this theory is that communication is inextricably linked to culture. This model suggests that in order to create an effective message, one must understand who the receiver will be and their form of socialization. The level of knowledge or education they have acquired will inform how complex you need your message to be in order for it to be understood. In addition, you will also need to understand the background and culture of the receiver because if they have been educated or socialized in a different way from you then your messages may still be unclear.

The most famous advocate of communication, Aristotle identified three strategies that are used to influence others. These include:

  1. Ethos – the ethical approach. Your own personal value system is used to establish credibility with an audience.
  2. Logos – the logical approach. Facts are presented in a clear, coherent manner to build up the argument logically and logically.
  3. Pathos – appeals to an audience’s emotions. Messages are framed in a way that allows the audience to identify with the speaker.

In order for an individual to be successful using Aristotle’s model of persuasion, they must have a thorough understanding of the individual they are trying to influence. This is necessary in order to ascertain how elaborate their message needs to be and also what type of value system the person holds to. The message must be tailored to the receiver and their value system, rather than simply appealing to one type of ethos.

This model is widely used in social science and communications research. It was developed by academic William Gudykunst and attempts to explain how effective communication can be achieved between two or more people who do not share the same culture, language or

Laswell’s model

This model was developed by Harold Lasswell and is based on the idea that communication can be used as a weapon and as such it is important to define your audience so you know what type of message would work best.

There are four main audiences:

  • The knowledgeable – those who already hold knowledge about the subject or topic, but require more information. In this case, the message will need to be complex and detailed because they have a high level of knowledge already.
  • The interested – those who are open to learning about a new topic but do not know much at all. A simple message that is easy to digest is important here as their knowledge is limited.
  • The certain – those who will listen to your message but refuse to be influenced by it. In this case, the most critical part of communication is ensuring that you are understood and aware that they will not be persuaded by what you have to say.
  • The none – those who do not require any communication from you at all because they will not listen or pay attention regardless. This is perhaps the most important group in that if you can communicate with this audience then all others will stand a much better chance of being influenced.

The main criticism of Laswell’s model is that it simplifies communication to make it more understandable for audiences when in fact, communication is far too complex to be broken down into such simplistic categories.

Laswell’s model of communication is a one-way linear model that suggests a sender sends a message to a receiver through some form of media. This can include face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or even written letters. The important components in this model are the sender and the receiver. In order for each person to effectively send and receive the message, they must have an understanding of what they are getting into.

Due to the rise of technology, it was necessary for communication to become more efficient and effective. This model is still used by many companies in order to effectively communicate with its customers on a one-to-one level without having too much information spill in all directions which can cause confusion and inefficiency in an organization.

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Shannon-Weaver model

The Shannon-Weaver model was developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver. It is based on the idea that information can be encoded into electronic signals in order to send across a certain distance.

It is important to note that this model does not focus on the receiver of these messages but rather the sender. This means that the main focus is how to effectively create a message in order to maximize its chances of being received and understood by the receiver. There are five main components in this model:

  1. The source – who or what is creating the message? In some cases, this will be a person but in most cases, it is an electronic device such as a computer or mobile phone.
  2. The channel – is a physical means used to send the message from sender to receiver. Examples would be a train track or an airway.
  3. The noise – all messages have some form of barrier that will have an effect on how effective it can be, this is known as noise and can include factors such as weather conditions, distractions, equipment malfunction, etc.
  4. The receiver – is the person or device that receives the message. The information must be able to pass through the channel in order for this to occur.
  5. The destination – where is the message being sent? This can include local surroundings, a store, an office, etc.

This model was developed primarily due to Claude Shannon’s work on information theory. The model explains in detail how an organization can effectively communicate with its customers to ensure that important information is transmitted in the right way and at the right times.

The Shannon-Weaver model aims to improve communication between two people so that the message they are trying to send is heard clearly and accurately. Using this model, researchers can find out where things may be going wrong in the communication process so that they can fix it before it causes problems for them or their customers.

The Shannon-Weaver model considers communication as information transmitted through a channel. It is important to remember that noise, which could be anything from environmental factors to background distractions, will impact the efficiency and accuracy of a message.

Whereas Aristotle’s and Laswell’s models are concerned with one-to-many communications, Shannon’s model is primarily for one-to-one communications.

Interactive models

The interactive models of communication are more advanced than the traditional linear ones. They acknowledge that the sender and receiver can switch roles at any time during a conversation, so it’s important for both parties to be on their toes about what they’re saying since there is no set rhythm or order in an interaction between two people who communicate this way with each other.

Schramm’s model

The Osgood-Schramm Model is a model for communication that considers it to be an ongoing, cyclical process. One party takes turns encoding/sending messages while the other decode them; then they switch roles so each person can use their own perspective in order to make sense of what was said or written before going forward with any response at all.

The concept of feedback is introduced in this model. Feedback is a way for people to communicate their thoughts about what you said. The receiver then provides feedback to the sender before their roles are switched again and they continue the process until they have reached a point where both parties feel satisfied with what was communicated and agree on how to move forward based on it.

The Osgood-Schramm Model is considered an interactive approach since it acknowledges that communication doesn’t always follow a linear progression. It also accounts for the two-way nature of communication and gives weight to feedback instead of just looking at what was initially encoded in the message.

In a health and social care setting, the Osgood-Schramm model can be useful for clients who find it difficult to talk about what they’re thinking or feeling because of learning disabilities, mental health difficulties, memory impairments, or other factors that may make it hard for them to express themselves clearly.

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Transactional models

Transactional models are communication systems in which all parties take on the role of sender and receiver. Interactive models have alternating senders, with one person being responsible for each action or transaction; however transactional model sees them simultaneously sending messages back and forth between themselves throughout their exchange until it’s complete (or not).

Barnlund’s model

Barnlund’s transactional model is structured around five different transactions that two people can compete with one another during their communication.

  1. The first transaction is an offer, which can be either accepted or rejected by the other person.
  2. If the offer is accepted, it leads to a commitment between both parties who agree on what they’re going to do. If the offer is rejected, both parties are able to move on easily.
  3. After a commitment has been made, there may be an unforeseen obstacle that blocks the way forward for one or more of the people involved in this exchange. This can lead to either problem-solving or conflict resolution.
  4. If this obstacle prevents the transaction from being completed, then it leads to a failure between both parties who agree on what they’re going to do next instead of continuing on with their exchange.
  5. The final step is ending the communication on good terms. Both people are able to continue forward by either keeping in touch or moving on completely.

The transactional model can be used in different scenarios out in the community, like when service users engage with allied health professionals. When they’re talking to each other, it’s important that both people are clear about what they’re saying and what their expectations are so everyone is able to move forward while feeling satisfied with their communication.

This model is considered transactional because both parties are continually processing information throughout their exchange, rather than just encoding/decoding one thing and then moving on to the next.


The SOLER/SURETY models are transactional systems that reflect a communication process where all parties take on the role of sender and receiver. However, they’re structured around a set of rules that tell people how to respond when they’ve been sent a message.

Since these models have specific rules for responding to each different type of communication, they can be helpful for people who get stuck when they’re trying to talk about their thoughts and feelings because of learning disabilities, mental health difficulties, memory impairments, or other factors that make it difficult for them to express themselves.

SOLER model

The SOLER model of communication provides strategies for understanding others by using particular nonverbal cues at key points during a conversation. The SOLER model, detected by looking at clients’ body language, is what the Soler Model focuses on their body- Language. The acronym is made up of the following techniques:

  • Sit Squarely: In order to create a good first impression, you should sit squarely on the chair. Legs should be together and arms should be placed on the armrests or in your lap. You should lean back slightly and look directly at the other person. 
  • Open Posture: Open posture refers to keeping your arms uncrossed and your body facing towards the other person. Open posture is important because it makes it clear that you are receptive to what is being said to you by showing that you are open to the conversation. 
  • Lean Forward: Leaning forward shows that you are interested in the conversation and are actively listening to what is being said. Leaning forward also helps to create a good first impression because it shows that you are approachable and ready to engage in a positive interaction with the other person. 
  • Eye Contact: Making eye contact shows that you are engaged in the conversation and listening to what is being said, which can help to develop trust between you and the other person.Eye contact can also help to build a good first impression as it shows that you are engaged and ready to engage with the other person. 
  • Relex: Relex is the process of reflecting back on what was said to you to make sure that you understood it correctly. It helps to ensure that both parties are on the same page and helps to avoid miscommunication.

SURETY model

SURETY is a new theory that helps users to use touch and intuition, which is the power of our intelligence combined with our emotions.

  • Sit at an angle: Always sit facing sideways in a conversation with your colleagues or bosses and not turned away from them. By sitting sideways you can see the reactions of the person speaking to you.
  • Uncross arms and legs: Do not cross arms or legs, keep them at least slightly apart for better cognition, and sometimes nodding is required just like watching a movie.
  • Relax: A relaxed body translates into a relaxed mind.
  • Eye Contact: Eye contact full of confidence inspires mutual trust, belief, and intellectual connectedness for discussing a serious issue or dealing with difficult situations at the workplace.
  • Touch: Studies state the more people touch each other the happier they feel about their relationship.
  • Your intuition: The biggest form of self-confidence is understanding and listening to your inner feelings which shall lead you in the right direction.

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The role of Phatic communication

Phatic communication or phatic expression is a term introduced by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski for speech acts that do not convey information but are intended to establish a certain mood or effect. He described such exchanges as “social by their very nature… (and) devoid of any discoverable connexion with their antecedents and consequents”.

This type of communication is often used to fill the void in conversations, especially when there’s a lull. It’s not meant to convey information or be meaningful (for instance, “how are you?”) but it serves its purpose regardless. The term phatic derives from the Greek word φατικός (phatikos) meaning “relating to or concerned with putting the right tone in the performance of ritual”

It’s also known as social speech and has been studied by linguists and psychologists. For instance, Marshall McLuhan characterizes it as a form of ulterior transaction that is primarily used for managing the mood between speaker and listener through verbal interaction.

Phatic communication often happens unconsciously, but it’s probably an essential part of all human interactions. For example, parents or teachers saying “good morning” to students is not meant with any specific meaning attached to it other than conveying the fact that they are aware of their presence and are ready for a day together. It’s a simple greeting that signals a transition of a switch from one set of behaviors to another.

It can also be an integral part of any conversation used to convey the mood or tone between messages, especially in business settings. For example, saying “I’m sorry” implies an apology no matter how it’s phrased and is even more so if said with a tone of sincerity rather than an indifferent one.

Formal communication vs informal communication

Formal communication is the set of conventions, standards, and norms that are related to written and spoken communication. It’s either academic in nature (that is, involving at least two parties who perceive themselves to be operating within a common framework) or institutional in nature (that is, involving an organization and its stakeholders).

Informal communication takes place on a daily basis and is more common, such as when we speak to our friends or family members. It’s usually on a casual level and lacks the same formalities of what is commonly referred to as “formal communication”.

Self-awareness and perception awareness in communication

Self-awareness is the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from others and, in some cases, as an individual different from others. It’s a concept that is strongly tied to self-monitoring which can be defined as “the application of social awareness to monitoring one’s own effect on other people”.

In today’s world where most people are constantly surrounded by other people, it’s essential to be aware of how our words and actions affect them. If we take a moment to consider what others think about us, chances are that we will avoid angering or offending them in any way.

The definition of perception is “the process of acquiring information using all senses”. Perception awareness in communication is the ability to know how others perceive us and what we say.

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