Effective Communication and Interpersonal Interaction in Health and Social Care

8 August 2016

Effective Communication and Interpersonal Interaction in Health and Social Care Of the two theories I considered, the one of greatest relevance to practice was Argyle’s Theory. This theory was most relatable to experience and the logic of it made it understandable in terms of how it was applied in practice. There was nothing irrational about the way this theory worked, it was straightforward and accessible to a reader who wished to take a particular circumstance into consideration and apply the theory to it.

In comparison, Tuckman’s theory was relatively vague and did not consider anything to do with how interaction took place outside of a group setting. The Communication Cycle of Argyle’s also made each stage of the process easier to consider and I could also think about how dependent each stage was on the latter or next, in terms of its potential outcome. One thing I did consider a disadvantage of Argyle’s Theory, was the fact that Argyle did not consider the actual context of where the communication took place.

For example the way that furniture was arranged in relation to where people communicated with one another. It was quite mechanistic and structured whereas human communication often is not. Argyle has expressed that eye contact is vital and facial expressions are the key to communication, however he makes little mention of how this can be achieved in relation to the cycle and how environment and context influence the way in which people are able to communicate. If people are unable to define facial expressions because of shadows and lighting in a room then what they are trying to express is lost.

If there is a need to be able to make eye contact and define facial features then the need should be there to be in the right setting in order to be able to distinguish between the non-verbal communication they are making and the potential for misinterpretation in what they are conveying needs to be acknowledged. One example of how Argyle’s Theory is observable in practice is in the hospital setting, for example on an orthopaedic ward. The communication would start when an idea occurs; the orthopaedic patient is bored, he thinks it a good idea to buy a crossword.

The patient would then secondly code the message. This would be the patient putting their wish to buy a crossword puzzle book into whatever medium they chose wish to communicate with. This might be in the form of a text message to their family, words to the nurse on the orthopaedic nurse or in through sign language. Thirdly the Patient would send the message; by this point the patient has conveyed the message through communication that they would really like a crossword puzzle book.

Next would be the message being received, This is where the family of the person they are planning to visit in the afternoon receives the text message, or the nurse on the ward hears that the patient would like to make a request for something. The message would have been decoded at this point. This is when the relatives or the orthopaedic nurse must now decode what is being asked of them. This example is relatively straightforward but it should also be remembered that if someone has difficulties in communicating what they want then the message might be lost in translation along the way.

For example if the person with the broken leg has had a stroke and their speech has been affected then what they want and what they are actually able to ask for might be two very different things. If the message is decoded wrongly by the patient’s carer who wants the crossword puzzle book then he might not actually get what he wants. Finally the message would be understood; if decoding has occurred correctly then the message about what the orthopaedic patient wants will have been understood and the cycle can begin again. Tuckman’s theory can also be applied to practice.

For example; four health care practitioners; an occupational therapist, a mental health nurse, a ward nurse and a consultant are being asked to form as a group, without first knowing one other. In order to establish a dynamic between each other they need to share some lived experience together where they can begin to communicate and get to know one another. The first stage of communication here could be termed ‘Forming’, which would be used to help in bonding members of the group and help the individual members be more open to speaking.

The second stage would be ‘Storming’, where ideas of individual members of the group might conflict with one another and where individual viewpoints could cause them to oppose one another and potentially compete for leadership. The third stage of communication would be ‘Norming’. In this stage, aggression will fade and the group will potentially reach consensus about care packages, discharge decisions and other important issues. The fourth stage would be the formation of the ultimate performing group where all members interact together without conflict.

By this stage they will get along together both personally and professionally and even if there is a difference in opinion between group members this can be resolved in an appropriate manner and nobody takes insults personally, they are just seen as a process in professional decision making. The final stage of group communication would be ‘adjourning’. This is when all group members have essentially completed their role and with it being regarded as complete, they all go their separate ways as they feel they have contributed sufficient to their initial task in the group.

Argyle’s theory of communication might not be able to be applied in situations where there are might be language barriers, or there could be a situation in which one of the communicators might have a cognitive difficulty which results in their learning difficulty impacting on the communication process. Also the importance of eye contact and facial expressions might not be able to be applied if the is a blind or partially sighted person involved in the process of communication.

Deaf or hearing impaired people may also struggle to apply the communication cycle to their everyday life because not everybody knows how to sign or use makaton as an alternative method of communication. In instances where people lip read, it may be an issue of whether hearing people who overlook this problem do not make their face readily accessible for interpretation by the deaf or hearing impaired person. Despite changes in the way that we communicate with others, Argyle’s communication cycle is still relevant. It explains relevantly and clearly how we function as we listen and communicate information to others.

Even in light of all the technological advances that have happened since Argyle’s Theory was first established, Argyle’s Theory is still very relevant. His theory would be relevant in many situations such as; Job interviews – when you are engaging professionally with someone and attempting to convey information and communicate to someone how capable and well you could be if appointed to a role. When speaking to friends and family during conversation over Sunday lunch at the dinner table. You would use individual communication to tell a waiter/waitress what you would like to order in a restaurant or over the counter at a cafe.

Argyles theory is also flawed in its ability to explain how successful e-mails, social networking and text messages can be. Many people across the world use social networking and texting to stay in touch with people, a lot of the work environment involves organising things by e-mail and doing the paperwork instead of having a fully-fledged conversation due to the busy hectic life of work, this now means more can be done in the space of time one spends at work. This begs the question; ‘how does e-mailing and texting/social networking create an effective one-to-one communication?

Tuckman’s group theory may not be applicable to certain situations. For instance; Cassidy (2007, 416) said that Tuckman’s “storming” stage might not be a very applicable stage for practitioners outside of therapeutic groups. Tuckman’s theory could be still relevant but it depends on the context. It is definitely still relevant in work situations and meetings where the need to be professional still exists, however in modern life where informality is often the norm in social settings, it is not such a big deal any more.

People tend to use more technologically advanced materials now than they did in Tuckman’s era and Tuckman’s Theory is not hugely detailed in structure, although this can be regarded as an advantage in comparison to other more complex models of communication offered by other theorists if communication. For instance; ‘The Tubbs Model of Small Group Interaction’ is more detailed and includes more about what would happen within the group formation. However there are fewer stages than Tuckman’s theory. Tubbs’ theory includes things to do with background factors, internal influences and what would happen consequentially.

This model has a lot more detail than Tuckman’s theory does and it makes it easier to understand the process of the formation of a new group. Tuckman’s theory compared to Tubbs’ does not seem as useful in this light because it appears that Tubbs’ theory would be more applicable to situations because of the way he has expanded and added extra explanations that have been considered. (Tubbs 1978, 1998, 41) The only thing that Tuckman’s theory has left to explain is the fact that one would need to explore the sturdiness of the categories.

There is some overlap between the stages in Tuckman’s model of communication and the differentiation is not very precise. An example of this would be; ‘when group conflict is waning… feelings of cohesion may be increasing, but these time-dependent changes do not occur in a discontinuous, step like sequence’ (Forsyth 1990: 89). However, the acceptance of the model isn’t simply a matter of some memorable headings. A lot of theorists and commentators have used the categories (often re-titled) with only slight alteration.

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