What Is Coordinated Management of Meaning?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Coordinated management of meaning is a theory that was developed by Vernon Cronen and Barnett Pearce. The theory seeks to explain the types of interaction that occur between people during the social interaction process of communication. Specifically, the theory of coordinated management of meaning states that people derive or extract their own understanding of a conversation in relation to the social reality they perceive. The main purpose of applying this concept is to help people understand the situation so as to figure out how to respond.

This theory is based on the thought that those engaged in a social interaction will decide how to respond to a situation based on their perception about the meaning of their interaction. One of the perceptions associated with coordinated management of meaning is the data perceived through sight and sound. Two people in a social situation will first see each other and then size each other up. They will also hear the sound of each other’s voice and then process the data from the two modes of sensory input. The sensory input from sight could include the mode of dressing, ethnicity, height and color of hair of the other person. The audio sensory input could include things like accent, pitch and tone associated with the voice of the other person.


The next step is to process what the other person is saying so as to understand what he or she is trying to communicate. This can be done in conjunction with the manner of presentation or communication style of the speaker. For instance, two people could say the same thing to different effects due to the manner speech presentation. One person could sound more confident and persuasive, while the other might sound unsure and timid. This can affect the way the listener will perceive what the person is trying to say. A listener might be more likely to believe what a more confident speaker is saying than what a stuttering and timid speaker is saying.

The environment is also a part of the social interaction that affects the way the people perceive each other’s communication. For instance, conversation in an office during a business meeting will hold a different context than a conversation between a husband and wife held in their bedroom. As such, the perception behind any social interaction in either setting will have a different meaning to those involved.

Professionals like mediators and arbitrators whose responsibility is to try and settle disputes between parties may rely on the underlying principles of coordinated management of meaning to help them resolve disputes more effectively. Such professionals know that factors like the venue of the arbitration or mediation, and visual or audio sensory perception can affect the output of the dispute. For instance, in the mediation between an estranged couple trying to work out child custody issues, seasoned mediators will try to convince the husband to leave his mistress out of the mediation meetings since the sight perception of her will inflame the estranged wife and derail the mediation process.


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