Estonia: Communication Accommodation Essay

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Communication Accommodation Theory
Shane A. Edwards
Missouri State University

When you think about the elderly, what comes to mind first? How do you interact with your grandparents or the elderly at your church? Do you think you have mastered the key to speaking to people older or even younger than you; hopefully this research helps sharpen those tools. Howard Giles has developed a set of communication theories to better understand the link between young and old, friends and enemies, southern accents to northern accents, and everything in between. Howard Giles begins to describe CAT by first understanding “accommodation”. According to Giles, Accommodation is the constant movement toward or away from others by changing your communicative behavior (Griffin, 2012, p. 395). For this research, we will focus on interactions between young and old, and the style of communication which it entitles. Giles and his colleagues started an extensive program of lab and research to answer the questions of that which speech accommodation rises. They ask, “Are there times we don’t adjust our speech style to match that of others? If so, what is our motive for not accommodating? Is accommodation always conscious? Do we accurately perceive our intent when we shift our speech style? To what extent do we adjust what we say as well as the way we say it?” (p.395). Such answers to these questions led Giles to believe the issues with communication where to closed minded. Things such as “accent mobility”, pauses, and pronunciation, led Giles to expand his theory. In 1987 Giles changed the definition of communication accommodation (CAT) to “a theory of intercultural communication that actually attends to communication” (p.395). Lately, researchers have shown interest in exploring communication accommodation in a “intergenerational context”. For the sake of this research, like said before, we will focus on young-elderly communication. We will refer “young” communicators as people who are teenagers to young adults (teen to 40’s and 50’s). As well as defining elderly as 65 and above. In order to fully understand the context of communication accommodation theory, we must first look two strategic forms of communication that diverse people use when they interact, convergence and divergence. The first strategy Giles talks about is “divergence”. According to Giles (2012) convergence is “a strategy by which you adapt your communication behavior in such a way as to become more similar to another person” (p.395). In other words, adjusting you speaking style better relate with the other speaking partner (Griffin, 2012). Giles goes into talking about ways in which we converge with someone older or even younger than oneself. An example would be to talk in a manner in which makes it easier for the elder to understand. If you can tell he or she is having a hard time understanding you, maybe take your voice level up a notch, but not too much you are insulting them. Girls talks about another way in which we can bridge the gap between generations through discourse management (Griffin, 2012, p.396). Discourse management according to Giles is the “sensitive selection of topics to discuss” (p.396). For instance, not focusing on negatives because that brings about awkwardness to people who aren’t as comfortable as a close friend to them, but focusing on uplifting stories that bring about happiness (p.396). The second strategy Giles explains is divergence. Divergence according to Giles (2012) is “a communication strategy of accentuating the differences between you and another person” (Griffin, 2012). Divergence for example is purposely making other feel uncomfortable or exaggerating your tone of voice. Giles gives an example where a young man deliberately says to an elder man, “Okay, mate, let’s get it together at my crib around 4:30 tomorrow.” Obviously, this is no way to speak to an elder or even someone your age you hardly know. What this is doing,