The transactional model of communication is based on the belief that communication is a two-way process in which both sender and receiver simultaneously send and receive messages.
In the late 1960s, Barnlund and Watzlawick crafted a model to emphasize that communication is both an exchange of information and influence.
This revolutionary idea stressed each communicator’s frequent impact on one another in any given dialogue.
The transactional model hones in on the context of the message and how it is processed by each person, paying special attention to nonverbal cues like posture, vocal inflection, and facial expressions.
This theory recognizes that people have different reactions to various types of communication, emphasizing the importance for everyone involved in a dialogue to understand not only what is being stated but also how it is expressed.
Transactional Model of Communication Definition
The transactional model is a theory that proposes communication between two or more people occurs in an ongoing exchange of messages, where both the sender and receiver influence what is communicated.
According to Bruce (2022), this model
“…describes communication as a process in which communicators generate social realities within social, relational, and cultural contexts” (p. 9).
Kumar (2020) believes that
“The transactional model of communication is the exchange of messages between sender and receiver where each takes turns to send or receive messages” (p. 126).
Here, both parties play an active role in the communication process.
This model emphasizes the content of messages and nonverbal cues, including body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice (Bragg et al., 2021).
It acknowledges that different messages can be interpreted differently depending on the background, experience, culture, and context of the individual receiving them.
In simple terms, the transactional model of communication is a two-way process in which both the sender and receiver are actively involved in constructing meaning.
Transactional Model of Communication Examples
- Face-to-Face Communication: This is the most direct form of communication, where two or more people are in the same physical space. It allows for nonverbal cues such as body language, different facial expressions, and tone of voice to be used to convey a message and enables both the sender and receiver to acquire immediate feedback about their communication.
- Facetime/Video Conference Calls: Video conference calls are fast becoming an increasingly popular way for people to converse online. By using audio and visual technology, these calls allow two or more people to communicate with one another in real time, regardless of geographical location.
- Phone Calls: This involves speaking over the phone without being physically present. Phone calls provide a convenient way for individuals to communicate without needing to meet in person; however, they lack some of the emotions that can be expressed through face-to-face conversation.
- Text Messages: This is typically used when communicating with someone via SMS or instant messaging applications like WhatsApp or iMessage. It is less immediate than other forms of communication but provides an easy way of sending brief messages quickly between parties involved in a conversation. It demonstrates how the transactional model can also involve written communication.
- Social Media Posts: This involves posting messages on different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These posts can include text, photos, videos, and audio clips for others to view and interact with online to further conversations between individuals or groups.
- Emails: Emails are written messages sent from one person or group of people to another via electronic mail services such as Gmail or Outlook. Emails allow senders to write detailed messages, which those who receive them can read at any time.
- Letters: Letters are written letters sent through physical mail services; though less common today due to advancements in electronic mail services, letters still remain a popular way of communicating messages between two or more people who may not have access to a computer or smartphone device.
- Group Discussions: In this form of communication, multiple parties communicate face-to-face simultaneously to discuss topics ranging from academic debates to business meetings. This type often includes active participation/involvement from all individuals involved to ensure everyone’s voice is heard during the discussion.
- Focus Groups: Focus groups involve select members coming together to discuss specific topics related either directly or indirectly to their personal experiences; it is typically used by organizations seeking insight into how certain demographic groups respond/react differently towards particular products/services they offer.
- Brainstorming Sessions: Brainstorming sessions involve allowing participants within a group setting to voice their opinions freely regarding certain topics so that new ideas will emerge from collective thought processes practiced during these sessions.
Main Types of Transactional Model of Communication
While the transactional model of communication is typically viewed as a two-way process involving a sender and a receiver, there are still several variations within this particular model. The two most common types are Barnlund’s and Dance’s helical models.
1. Barnlund’s Transactional Model of Communication
One Sentence Overview: Barnlund’s Transactional Model of Communication highlights the role of private and public cues that impact our messages.
Barnlund’s Transactional Model of Communication is a theory that proposes communication as an exchange between sender and receiver, both of whom can influence the message being sent (Halder & Saha, 2023).
This model breaks communication into three components: encoding and decoding, feedback, and context. The sender encodes a message with their thoughts and feelings before sending it to the receiver, who then decodes it.
Afterward, the receiver provides feedback on what was received and sends new messages based on that information. It creates a loop of mutual influencing between sender and receiver, making up what Barnlund calls transactional communication.
2. Dance’s Helical Model of Communication
One Sentence Overview: Dance’s Helical Model sees communication as a circular process that gets more and more complex as communication occurs, which can be represented by a helical spiral.
Dance’s Helical Model of Communication is an interactive concept that consists of six steps: Initiating, Understanding, Perceiving, Evaluating, Reacting, and Reflecting.
Each of these steps involves both the sender and receiver in the feedback process. In this model, communication is viewed as an ongoing cycle of thoughts and feelings between two or more individuals (Mcquail & Windahl, 2015).
The sender initiates the conversation by sending a message the receiver receives and understands. The receiver then perceives and evaluates the message based on their beliefs and values.
During this process, participants engage in bidirectional interactions to build understanding and reach a consensus.
This model focuses not only on how individuals communicate but also on how they perceive each other’s communications through observation of nonverbal cues such as body language or facial expressions.
Pros of the Transactional Model of Communication
The transactional model of communication has a number of advantages and benefits, including effective two-way communication, the ability to receive feedback, open dialogue, and better problem-solving.
- The model allows for two-way communication, which is essential for effective dialogue between sender and receiver. It means that both parties can provide their thoughts and feelings on a topic to reach an agreement or to build understanding.
- The model helps to ensure effective feedback between the two parties. As communication is sent back and forth, each party can respond appropriately based on what was said by the other person.
- This model encourages open dialogue, which encourages creativity and critical thinking among participants. By exchanging ideas, individuals can brainstorm or explore new concepts they may not have considered before.
- By following this model, parties can develop better problem-solving skills as they can work together to resolve any conflicts or issues during the conversation.
In addition, the interactive nature of this model allows people to practice effective listening skills and build trust amongst one another as communication flows freely between both sides.
Cons of the Transactional Model of Communication
Apart from the pros, the transactional communication model also has some disadvantages, such as an inaccurate representation of thoughts and feelings, misinterpretation of messages, and difficulty in expressing complex ideas.
Here are the key disadvantages:
- This approach does not guarantee a perfect transmission of ideas and emotions since miscommunication can easily occur between the two parties due to its iterative structure. Therefore, it is essential that each party effectively communicates its message to prevent any potential miscommunication or misinterpretation. This has different consequences depending on if a culture is high context or low context in its communication style.
- This communication style can become quite time-consuming as the continuous reciprocation often extends conversations beyond what is required. Additionally, it could lead to the discussion becoming too drawn out in terms of length and content.
- The transactional model relies heavily on nonverbal cues, which may cause problems if one individual cannot interpret expressions or gestures correctly, which could lead to misinterpretations. It tends to work best with communication avenues that have a high degree of media richness.
- Finally, although open dialogue is encouraged with this type of communication, it could also become too personal if participants go beyond the scope of what is appropriate, causing tension and discomfort between them.
- Because the interactive model requires two-way communication, it makes it hard for it to be used for mass communication. As a result, mass media like radio cannot be used to achieve the aims of this model.
Other Models of Communication
While all three models involve communication between two or more parties, key distinctive features set them apart. The main difference is the level of participation (Hamilton et al., 2019).
The transactional communication model is a two-way process in which both sender and receiver are actively involved in sending and receiving messages.
Through this model, communication is viewed as an interchange between two or more individuals that involves trading their individual thoughts, opinions, ideas, and emotions (Kumar, 2020).
The linear communication model uses a one-way transmission of information from the particular sender to the receiver.
This model does not involve any back-and-forth exchange between sender and receiver; instead, the message is sent from one party to the other without any opportunity for further exchange or discussion (Hamilton et al., 2019).
The interactive model of communication combines elements from both the transactional and linear models; it allows for both the transmitting and receiving of messages while also allowing for interactions between sender and receiver.
This type of communication allows senders to address additional questions or provide follow-up comments based on feedback they receive during conversations (Hamilton et al., 2019).
So, while all three models are forms of communication, each has its own purpose and use depending on the particular goal or objective in mind.
Understanding the differences between these models can help you determine which one best suits your needs.
The transactional model of communication is a two-way process that acknowledges the active participation of both the sender and receiver in constructing meaning.
This approach contemplates communication as a perpetual dialogue of messages, where both sides shape what is being communicated.
It emphasizes the substance of messages and non-verbal signals like gestures, facial expressions, and vocal inflection.
Understanding the transactional model of communication and its differences from others can help individuals communicate more effectively in various settings and contexts.
It can also help reduce the potential for miscommunication, misinterpretation of messages, and conversation tension.
Still, it is important to remember that the transactional communication model is not always the right choice for every situation and requires careful consideration.
Bragg, B., Cooley, S., Cooley, A., Hinck, R., & Kitsch, S. (2021). Transactional communication model. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/AD1129274.pdf
Bruce, B. C. (2022). Beyond the classroom walls: Imagining the future of education, from community schools to communiversities. Rowman & Littlefield.
Halder, S., & Saha, S. (2023). The routledge handbook of education technology. Taylor & Francis.
Hamilton, C., Cree, B., & Kroll, T. (2019). Communicating for success (2nd ed.). London Routledge.
Kumar, D. M. (2020). Advanced educational technology. Sankalp Publication.
Mcquail, D., & Windahl, S. (2015). Communication models for the study of mass communications. Longman.