Communication Accommodation Theory is a pretty interesting theory to write about, especially since I personally know that I do what this theory describes on a daily basis. This theory was first presented in the early 1970’s by Howard Giles and some of his colleagues. According to the Communication Accommodation Theory, people adjust their style of speaking to others with the idea that by doing so the conversation will be more comfortable for all involved. “CAT (Communication Accommodation Theory) maintains that individuals derive a significant portion of their identity from groups to which they belong” (Orbe) But it is not only the way they speak, but how they behave during the conversation. While this theory can be used in many different types of communication, it is most commonly used when everyday people communicate with each other on an interpersonal level. “Communication accommodation becomes a mutual feeling of identification between the source and the receiver, as a result of the usage of symbols and images, the emphasis being simultaneously laid on the source, receiver and the message. All of these elements collaborate to generate a persuasive process and, progressively, the accommodation becomes self-accommodation.” (Hordila) When we communicate with others, we change our behavior, making adjustments to how we respond in any given conversation.
There are two aspects of Communication Accommodation Theory, convergence and divergence. First I would like to discuss convergence. When we have a conversation sometimes on a subconscious level we change the way we talk, like the types of words we use, our accent and even sometimes the hand gestures we use, also known as non-verbal gestures. We do this to better blend in with the person or group we are speaking with. Communication Accommodation Theory maintains that people change the way they communicate with people for different reasons. When you are communicating with someone and want to feel as if you are connected to them, you might change the way you speak so you can sound more like them. You can do this in many ways, like changing your accent, your tone of voice and other verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Attraction would be another reason why a person would use convergence when communicating with others. Convergence is largely based on attraction, the greater the attraction between communicators, the more convergence happens. Attraction includes things like liking, personality, and trustworthiness. Also, the possibility of future communications, ability to communicate, and difference in status. This is something that does not happen overnight but over time.
Convergence usually depends on whether the convergence is thoughtful, and it can be perceived as good and bad in the communication process. “Convergence is defined as “a strategy whereby individuals adapt to each other’s communicative behaviours in terms of a wide range of linguistic/prosodic/nonvocal features including speech rate, pausal phenomena and utterance length, phonological variants, smiling, gaze, and so on”” (Hordila) Usually when we do this it can indicate that we are trying to have more in common with the person that we are speaking to. It is a way of establishing a rapport with the person with which we are conversing with, a way to try to achieve a level of understanding with them. It is also a way of seeking approval from the person we are talking to. But there is a flip side to this. Over-accommodation is a type on convergence in which we might not come across to the people that we are conversing with in a positive light. Sometimes we try too hard to be like someone that it might come across as being a way to belittle people. As a means of seeming like we are “with it” we might try to use speech patterns that are obviously not in a way that we usually speak. This ends up having us come across as being patronizing as opposed to trying to accommodate them in