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Communication Accommodation Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Communication Accommodation Theory

Description | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When we talk with other people, we will tend to subconsciously change our style of speech (accent, rate, types of words, etc.) towards the style used by the listener. We also tend to match non-verbal behaviors. 

This signals agreement and liking. It should create greater rapport and them such that they approve of us more.

This can be unwelcome, especially if it is perceived as aping or being overly familiar.

The reverse also happens: people deliberately assert their identity by speaking and acting differently from the other person.

Communication Accommodation Theory used to be called Speech Accommodation Theory.

So what?

Using it

Be a chameleon! Copy the other person’s modes of speech (but not so much you sound like a mimic). Also listen to how they are copying you: it may be a signal that they are seeking your approval.

Defending

If it seems like a person is trying to copy you, change how you are speaking and see if they follow. If they do, have fun! Try some subtle and weird variations and see if they will follow you to the ends of the linguistic earth.

See also

Social Identity Theory

References

Giles and Wiemann (1987), Street and Giles (1982)

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