Assignment #2: Language – When Rules Collide

In this assignment, you will use the CMM theory (found in Chapter 4 of our Trenholm textbook) to analyze a problem in which two people communicated in such a way that they misunderstood one another.

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Step 1: Please read chapter 4 in our Trenholm textbook.

Step 2: Identify a problem in which two people communicated in such a way that they misunderstood one another. Please select an example you are comfortable sharing. You are welcome to change names or use initials if you are more comfortable doing so. If you are unable to think of a real situation of your own, you are welcome to use an interaction from a television program or movie.

Step 3: Please specifically include the following in your paper:

1. Clearly identify and briefly describe a problem situation in which two people misunderstood one another.

2. Use CMM theory to analyze the problem. In doing so please answer the following questions:

What words were used?
Why didn’t they work?
Which constitutive (appropriate behavior for a given context; give meaning/how to interpret or understand message or event) and regulative rules (what behavior should happen next; guide about action/how to respond or behave) did each party use to interpret the interaction?
At which level or levels (episode, relationship, life script, culture) did the misunderstanding occur?

3. Respond to the following discussion questions:

How was the misunderstanding eventually resolved (or not)?
How can people develop more accurate understanding of one another?
How can people increase the sensitivity of the rules (please check out Grice’s Cooperative Principle and the four conversational maxims in chapter 4) that guide their communication?


This paper should be 2 pages, double-spaced, proofread and edited.

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