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Coordinated Management of Meaning. Genevieve Carlson. Coordinated Management of Meaning: The Long Definition.

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coordinated management of meaning the long definition
Coordinated Management of Meaning:The Long Definition

“Pearce and Cronen’scoordinated management of meaning: Persons-in-conversation co-construct their own social realities and are simultaneously shaped by the worlds they create. They can achieve coherence through common interpretation of their stories told. They can achieve coordination by messing their stories lived. Dialogic communication, which is learnable, teachable, and contagious, improves the quality of life for everyone.(Griffin, A-1)”

coordinated management of meaning the short definition
Coordinated Management of Meaning:The Short Definition

Every conversation has an afterlife. Tomorrow’s social reality is the afterlife of how we interact today.

Questions We Should Be Asking…

  • What are we making together?
  • How are we making it?
  • How can we make better social worlds?

(Griffin, 67)

coordinated management of meaning1
Coordinated Management of Meaning
  • Introduced in 1978 by W. Barnett Pearce & Vernon Cronen
  • Interpretive theory
  • Critical theory or a theory with a critical edge
  • Practical theory
cmm as a practical theory
CMM as a Practical Theory
  • Offers tools to improve communication
  • Understand flawed patters on conversation
  • Identify critical moments of conversation
  • Suggests ways to talk to make a better social environment

(Griffin, 67-8)

cmm as a practical theory1
CMM as a Practical Theory

Strange Loop

  • An unwanted repetitive communication pattern

Figure 6-1 Griffin, 68 Courtesy of W. Barnett Pearce

cmm as a practical theory2
CMM as a Practical Theory
  • What are other examples of a strange loop?
  • How can this be put to practical use?
cmm as a practical theory3
CMM as a Practical Theory
  • Strange Loop: Used in therapy
cmm as a practical theory4
CMM as a Practical Theory


  • Questions to ask: why did we come to mediation, what stories are presented about relationships and others, how does that construct one’s identity, do cultural narratives come into play?
  • Helps describe the reflexive process of action and interpretation that people are co-constructing.

(Griffin, 69)

cmm as a practical theory5
CMM as a Practical Theory

Dialogic Communication

  • Conversation in which people speak in a manner that makes others want to listen, and listen in a way that makes them want to speak.
  • Talking through the issues: Example- racial tension in small towns, open forums with facilitators, transform social environment based on the communication that took place at the open forums.

(Griffin, 60-70)

cmm as an interpretative theory
CMM as an Interpretative Theory

Social Constructionist:

  • Language theorist who believe that persons in conversations co-construct their own social realities and are simultaneously shaped by the worlds they create.

M.C. Escher’s Bond of Union

cmm as an interpretative theory1
CMM as an Interpretative Theory

Social Constructionists:

  • The experience of persons-in-conversation is the primary social process of human life.
  • Communication isn’t just a tool, communication literally forms who people are and forms a relationship.
cmm as an interpretative theory2
CMM as an Interpretative Theory

Social Constructionists:

2. The way people communicate is often more important than the content of what they say.

  • Logical force: the moral pressure or sense of obligation a person feels to respond in a given way to what someone else has just said or done- “I had no choice.”
  • Examples?
cmm as an interpretative theory3
CMM as an Interpretative Theory

Social Constructionists:

3. The actions of persons-in-conversation are reflexively reproduced as the interaction continues.

  • Reflexivity: the process by which the effects of our words and actions on others bounce back and affect us.
  • “What are we making together?”

(Griffin, 72)

cmm as an interpretative theory4
CMM as an Interpretative Theory

Social Constructionists:

4. As social constructionists, CMM researchers see themselves as curious participants in a pluralistic world.

cmm as an interpretative theory5
CMM as an Interpretative Theory


  • Get into groups of 3-4 people
  • While having a casual conversation about any of the given topics below be aware of how the four ideas of Social Constructionist plays a part of the conversation.
  • 1. How does communication form who you are and your relationships with those around you?
  • 2. How were you communicating? Were you a victim of logical force?
  • 3. How did reflexivity effect your conversation?
  • 4. Where you a participant in the story being created?


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cmm as an interpretive theory
CMM as an Interpretive Theory
  • Management of meanings: we’re obliged to adjust our stories told to fit the realities of our stories lived and vice versa
  • Stories lived are co-constructed actions that we perform with others
  • Stories told are the narratives that we use to make sense of stories lived

(Griffin, 73)

cmm as an interpretive theory1
CMM as an Interpretive Theory

Hierarchy of Meaning:

  • A rank order of relative significance of contexts-episode, relationship, identity, and culture- that encompass a given story as an aid interpretation.
  • Every story is embedded within multiple contexts, or frames.
  • Speech Act: any verbal or nonverbal message as part of an interaction; the basic building blocks of the social universe people create; threats, promises, insults, compliments, etc.

(Griffin, 74)

cmm as an interpretive theory2
CMM as an Interpretive Theory

Hierarchy of Meaning

cmm as an interpretive theory3
CMM as an Interpretive Theory


  • A connection, association, or involvement.


  • A “nounable” sequence of speech acts with a beginning and an end that are held together by story; an argument, interview, wedding, mediation, etc. (Griffin, 75)
cmm as an interpretive theory4
CMM as an Interpretive Theory


  • Describes webs of shared meanings and values. (Griffin, 75)


  • The condition of staying oneself, and not another.
  • Condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is.

cmm as an interpretive theory5
CMM as an Interpretive Theory
  • Identity may be the most important overarching context in one person’s modes of communication whereas personal relationships might be more important to someone else.

The ranking order of relative significance of these contexts will change from person to person, from situation to situation.

cmm as an interpretive theory6
  • Coordination: The process by which persons collaborate in an attempt to bring into being their vision of what is necessary, noble and good and to preclude the enactment of what they fear, hate, or despise.
  • Coordination takes place when we fit our stories lived into the stories lived by others in a way that makes life better
cmm as a critical theory

The critical edge of CMM separates communication styles that are harmful form those that are helpful

  • CMM reminds us that communication has the power to create a social universe of alienation, anger, and malice- or one of community, tolerance, and generosity.

(Griffin, 78)

cmm as a critical theory1

Cosmopolitan communication: Coordination with others who have different backgrounds, values, and beliefs without trying to change them.

Why is this important in today’s world?

(Griffin, 78-9)

cmm as a critical theory2

Narrow Ridge

  • A metaphor of I-Thou living in the dialogic tension between ethical relativism and rigid absolutism; standing your own ground while being profoundly open to the other.
  • “On the far side of the subjective, on this side of the objective, on the narrow ridge, where I and Thou meet, there is the realm of the Between”

(Griffin, 79)


An Interpretive Theory

A Critical Theory

A Practical Theory

an interpretive theory
An Interpretive theory
  • Lack of clarity has limited CMM’s aesthetic appeal and has a reputation of being a confusing mix of ideas that are hard to pin down.
an critical theory
An Critical theory
  • Depending on the definition of critical theory will depend on if CMM really qualifies. CMM makes clear value judgments about communication patterns but doesn’t unmask how communication can perpetuate the unjust power imbalances in society. CMM still has a critical edge to it which shouldn’t be excluded.

(Griffin, 80)

an practical theory
An Practical theory
  • CMM tools are put into practical use by therapists, mediators, teachers and consultants who have reported positive improvements in their fields by following CMM guidelines. However, there is still more research to be done. CMM is commonly used alongside other forms of communication theory as well.
  • CMM is not very user friendly- cut and dry, step by step which makes its practicality diminish.

(Griffin, 80)