Coordinated Management of Meaning

Theory Development:

The coordinated management of meaning (CMM) theory was first introduced by Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen in the 1970s.   Emroy Griffin describes the CMM theory in his book A First Look at Communication Theory, written in 2000.  Emroy “indicated that talk creates the social environment in which we participate.”  In 1989, Pearce wrote Communication and the Human Condition, to further describe his theory of communications, including that communicating to others was an entire circular process.


The theory of CMM was developed to summarize how individuals add meaning to their everyday lifestyle in communicating.  Communicating involves an entire three step process to add meaning to a conversation.  The three processes combined “create the basis for our social interactions” (Griffin, 2000), and they each affect the other. 

 “The first step, coherence, describes how meaning is achieved in conversation” (Griffin, 2000).  There are many different ways meanings can be understood in this process of coherence: relationships, episodes, self-concepts, and culture.  In terms of a relationship, how the people relate to each other in the conversation determines the interpretation of the speech.  The episodes of conversations are the “rules” people follow in the conversation to understand its meaning.  How people view themselves and create their environment for their listeners involves self-concept.  Finally, culture places a role in coherence because many people have different cultures, so the way they interpret a situation may be different.

“The second process for persons in conversation is the concept of coordination” (Griffin, 2000).   It creates the idea that, although everyone has different beliefs on some issues, there still can be similarities.  Here the rules are defined that people must take care of themselves because others follow from their actions.  These actions of the individuals can be coordinated with other people’s actions.  Without these rules, there would be no guide aiding in coordination, which only “occurs when, in a particular interaction, we move from sense making and try to live” (Griffin, 2000).   

The third and final process is mystery.  Anything mysterious or unexplainable in communication is described in this process.  It forms our social environment in communicating.