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Communication Styles

Psychology (Year 12) - Communication

Jessica Pratt

Communication is defined as the transmission of a message between parties as intended. In this, people have different styles in communicating, where the communication style is the style in which an individual speaks, including their accent, vocabulary, grammar and expression.

An individual’s communication style is dependent on:

  • the culture they were raised in

  • their socio-economic background

  • their gender

Social Background Theory

Basil Bernstein, a British psychologist, claimed that communication was based on an individual’s societal class. He considered the working-class to have a language deficit due to the middle class devising the education system. From this he proposed two different types of communication.

  1. restricted code is used by the working class to preserve traditional roles and interpretation.

  2. the middle class uses elaborate code to develop ideas in relation to personal experience.

William Labov stated that languages were different, not a deficit. He studied Black children speaking Black English Vernacular (BEV), finding that it was just as complex and rule governed.

Gender Difference Theory

Deborah Tannen studied language and gender, often making use of two models. The dominance model in an approach where females are seen as subordinate or inferior, and therefore, language differences result from male supremacy. Spanner, another psychologist, supported this, stating that men were dictionary authors and therefore had the power to dictate language. The difference model states that differences in communication styles leads to conversational breakdown. From this, friction occurs due to a lack of understanding.

The two communication styles proposed from this include:

  • report talk - utilised by men in public speaking to hold attention and maintain status.

  • rapport talk - used by women to establish relationships, and to understand and negotiate.

Tannen described six gender differences from the model:

  1. men seek status vs. women seeking support

  2. men desire independence vs. women seeking intimacy

  3. men focus on fixing (advice) vs. women focus on understanding

  4. men talk in grunts of information vs. women talk about feelings

  5. men give orders vs. women making proposals

  6. men are willing to fight vs. women are willing to compromise

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