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Uncertainty reduction theory Essay


Uncertainty reduction theory is based on the tradition that strangers need to minimize the level of doubt in their early relations. The theory is based on the concept that people find it difficult to communicate due to uncertainty of the other person’s reaction. However, this insecurity can be reduced through interpersonal communication where relations created motivate people to engage in conversations.

Researchers link uncertainty reduction to a number of interpersonal communication strategies such as verbal and non-verbal interactions, similarity of a kind, information search, and self-disclosure (Ting-Toomey, 2012). To cut doubt amongst individuals, persons pursue passive, active, as well as interactive schemes (Gamble & Gamble, 2013).

A passive scheme does not engage an individual directly but aims at having a clear view of the stranger in the surrounding. An interpersonal study denotes the consideration given to the relations between persons in love, business associates, or social commitments.

People meet in different settings while on daily activities; this gathers individuals from diverse social backgrounds who may find it hard to express themselves at the first instance. This paper discusses the central idea of uncertainty reduction theory with regard to strangers from different ethnic backgrounds.

Interpersonal Communication in Cultural Differences

The uncertainty reduction concept tries to increase an individual’s confidence and develop more interactive relationships. In most cases, people from dissimilar cultures find it hard to communicate and express personal ideas in a convincing manner. Concerning the matter, many may opt to communicate using signs due to the urgency of the message.

This is resulted by language barriers caused by differences in race, sex, education levels, as well as social status. Self-disclosure in cultural issues is a strategy aimed at building confidence to reduce uncertainty in communication (Hogg, Kruglanski, & Bos, 2013).

Cultural differences bring about the aspect of strangeness in that individuals avoid others. A stranger is someone who is perceived as being physically near but conceptually very far. In that case, the stranger holds personal membership not shared by others in the locality. This understanding acknowledges that anyone can be a potential stranger and hence interpersonal processes must be initiated to reduce uncertainty (Wood, 2012).

Ethnic differential is a primary cause of this uncertainty when people meet in strange situations. This can be in the workplace, in social settings, or during cross-cultural actions. In addition, most international organizations may experience this communication conflict.

Uncertainty reduction through interpersonal strategies may be effective in cross-cultural as well as intercultural communication. Interpersonal affiliations help in the advancement of interactive schemes necessary to counter a situation of incertitude. Communication gives sympathy in relation building.

Most importantly is that the need for uncertainty reduction is elevated in the early levels of interaction when the parties have little knowledge about each other (Koester & Lustig, 2012). In order to predict the probable behavior, one needs to choose words rightly to engage the stranger into a conversation aimed at stimulating attraction.

The choice of topics is important as it determines the level of anxiety as well as communication motives exhibited. In that case, preciseness and specialty in talking is core to building a calm environment for the strangers. This in the end reduces uncertainty, improves communication, and solves inter-cultural issues.

During initial encounters, individuals from different ethnic settings look at each other with dismay; this is because it is not easy to trust people from other social backgrounds, which one does not know well. The aspect of uncertainty is evident in the way people approach each other. Hostile environment is characterized by silence and suspicious looks.

This is necessary to reduce anxiety and self-doubt between two individuals. This is the initiative towards reducing uncertainty. The act of observing a stranger as he or she approaches takes in the passive strategy in the process, which allows one to monitor the activities of the other. This gives an individual the natural outlook of the stranger even before they get into contact.

As a result, one would have analyzed the person he or she hopes to meet far before the actual meeting (Scollo & Carbaugh, 2013). This is a great step towards creating good relations if a stranger shows positivism in deeds.

Having observed a stranger at a distance allows the party to compose him or herself and thus gets set to start a conversation with the individual. Passive approach also includes the primary search of information regarding another’s culture.

Cultural knowledge is important where strangers come from diverse social settings; this is because dissimilar ethnic communities practice own traditions, which are not similar to any other. This means that each person has own beliefs, norms, as well as customs that influence personal judgment and communication skills. This is another concept of the theory that looks at the active part of inter-cultural encounters.

Each party thus brings on board various conceptions from their own culture (Koester & Lustig, 2012). Active strategy involves the real solicit of information from third parties, which gives a clear description of the stranger. This involves actual dealings with the person of interest whether by engaging them directly or through other persons who promise an excellent follow up of the stranger.

For instance, one may sit at the same table with the stranger to try and understand the person’s behavior, interests, as well as beliefs (Gamble & Gamble, 2013). In this stage, one may combine the passive strategy by merely observing strangers and interacting with them where he or she may try to extract some information straight from the strangers.

The interactive strategy might be the most promising mode of reducing uncertainty; this involves a direct relation with the stranger featured by open communication. The idea behind this interactive part is the need to get firsthand information directly from the other person. In such a situation, the individual may realize that the stranger is more social than earlier thought or else cold to interact.

This self-disclosure leads to uncertainty reduction on a greater part due to its reciprocity effect (Ting-Toomey, 2012). The individuals understand each other’s behavior, interests, and cultural backgrounds. This results to the building of firm relationships between the persons. Collecting information from strangers requires good interpersonal knowledge in order to take full advantage of time spent with the person.

Thus, communicators should use relevant questions to engage the party into active communication. This helps information seekers to use positive non-verbal reactions to understand the person and reduce uncertainty aspects. Uncertainly between people is greatly minimized by building retroactive confidence and increasing knowledge on behavioral choices.

Therefore, uncertainty reduction is influenced by personal interactions as well as adequacy of information accumulation. Attribution confidence is enhanced when stranger data is available relative to current and future behaviors. This gives one the confidence to trust in another person and thus reduce uncertainty.

The relationship between interactive communication and attributive confidence is logical in trying to reduce uncertainty. The interrogative aspect keeps people at par hence promoting a good environment for an exchange program.

People from diverse cultural settings find themselves having difficulties in socializing where fear takes course (Koester & Lustig, 2012). This leads to communication breakdown, which can only be resolved by influential interpersonal skills and actions.


The use of non-verbal communication tools is also essential in the reduction of uncertainty where people engage in expressive activities to reduce tension amongst them. Verbal and non-verbal attributes are all aimed at enhancing confidence and initiating communication amid strangers. As a result, strangers disclose personal information to others and eventually share experiences as well as ideas.

Ambiguity reduction acts a key task in boosting effective communication (Scollo & Carbaugh, 2013). Strangers should try as much as achievable to create a calm environment through passive and active schemes in order to build self-confidence. Studies acknowledge that each person should use personal experiences and behaviors to approach another. This is called for due to cultural differences as well the level of self-understanding exhibited.

Therefore, the strategies that persons employ to reduce as well to manage uncertainty vary across ethnic positions. For instance, it is observed that individuals from high-context cultures differ considerably from those in collectivists’ cultures in that both present distinct information (Wood, 2012). Uncertainty may be minimized by using interactive communication, and attributive confidence is a logical manner to influence behavior.


Gamble, T. K., & Gamble M. (2013). Interpersonal communication: Building connections together. New York: Sage Pub.

Hogg, M. A., Kruglanski, A., & Bos, K. (2013). Uncertainty and the roots of extremism. Journal of Social Issues, 69(3), 407-418.

Koester, J., & Lustig, M. (2012). Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Scollo, M., & Carbaugh, D. (2013). Interpersonal communication: qualities and culture. Russian Journal of Communication, 5(2), 95-103.

Ting-Toomey, S. (2012). Communicating across cultures. New York: Guilford Press.

Wood, J. T. (2012). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters. New York: Wadsworth.

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"Uncertainty reduction theory." IvyPanda, 29 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/uncertainty-reduction-theory/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Uncertainty reduction theory'. 29 December.

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