Uncertainty Reduction and Social Penetration Theories in Tackling Obesity


Communication is inescapable in human life and living things at large. Communication refers to the passing of information between two parties, interpersonal, or within oneself in mind, intrapersonal. The main components of communication are; source, message, medium, recipient, and feedback. However, to enhance the understanding of communication, theories have been put in place to clarify an organization, aspects, and total know-how of it. The achievement can only be attained when the theories are applied in the real-life issue. As a result, the paper emphasizes the application of the methods in a real-life context – tackling obesity with a healthcare physician. Mainly, the theories in focus are the uncertainty reduction and social penetration theories. The paper is arranged systematically – from an overview of the theories to their application in a real-life issue.

Overview of the Theories

Social Penetration Theory

In real life, everyone happens to be in a relationship, though in different contexts. The depth of the relationship always affects the communication space, ranging from intimate to public space. The social penetration theory has the sole purpose of elaborating on the process of interaction that creates the transition from one level to another, particularly from shallow to intimate friendship (Carpenter & Greene 2015). For a relationship to be established, communication must happen in one way or another. The achievements are attained ‘through self-disclosure, the purposeful process of revealing information about oneself’ (Carpenter & Greene 2015, 1). Through communication, one can establish the likes and dislike of the partner; however, with intimacy, there is the establishment of even more specific and rather special issues of a person.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory

It is sure that when invited in an occasion, one feels freer and secure if he/ she knows most of the attendants.  However, it is opposite if one only knows the inviter. The uncertainty theory intends to explain the interaction between two strangers (Redmond 2015). However, the insecurity may not be intense if there is no expectation of meeting again with the strangers or developing an intimate friendship (Redmond 2015). The reaction given affects the communication between the two parties.

Tackling Obesity with Healthcare

Whenever one becomes ill, he/ she need attention from the care provider, thus creating a relationship between the two parties. The rating of the relationship eventually affects the effectiveness of the whole process. Based on social standards, obese patients have received rejection in society in different environments, which affect them psychologically (Flint 2015). As a result, the patients become depressed, anxious, and lack confidence in themselves. Therefore, communication is vital to develop an excellent physician-patient relationship.

Firstly, an excellent physician-patient relationship creates a serene environment for the management of the disease. Whenever the patient meets with a physician, there are expectations of assistance to overcome the condition (Redmond 2015). However, despite the understanding of the effects of the poor physician-patient relationship, fewer measures have been in place. To make the treatment effective, the physician should discuss, in a friendly way, the condition and its management (Flint 2015). The physician may explain the risk associated with illness rather than just the ‘quick treat,’ the awareness created to the patient improves adherence to the set treatment routines. The willingness portrayed by the physician will affect the perception of the patient and the breaking of the uncertainty (Redmond 2015). However, if the physician displays the I-do not-care attitude, the patient is less likely to be attentive and adherer to the whole process. In the same fashion, through motivation and friendliness, the relationship of the patient and the physician is likely to outgrow from the public to an intimate one.  Where the patient is willing to share each challenge faced before, during, and after the therapy (Carpenter & Greene 2015, 1). After breaking the uncertainty, the physician can show sympathy and empathy by referring the patient to weight management facilities rather than rejecting the patient, and in turn, the chances of recovery are very high.

Secondly, at the first meeting with the physician, one may try to observe the non-verbal communication of the physician and predict the future relationship. If the physician talks in a commanding and frowning face, it is much likely that the patient may not be willing to share the associated privacies. The social penetration theory states that for the relationship to develop to an intimate level, there must be active communication (Carpenter & Greene 2015, 1). It has been established that the effectiveness of treatment is highly determined by the approach applied by the physicians (Philips & Kinnersley 2013). After the relationship develops to an intimate level, the patient will be willing to follow the clinic schedules. According to Philips & Kinnersley, a positive change will usually be observed in patients who develop the clinical process. Under such circumstances, the clinician can observe the changes and recommend the practices that will enhance the changes.

Thirdly, when an intimate friendship and uncertainty have been broken, the patient will be more open and honest. According to reports from most of the physician is that not all routines are suitable for every patient (Thompson & Sparks 2012). Resulting from an excellent physician-patient relationship achievement, the openness of the patient will, in turn, help the physician recommend the particularly suitable weight management practice (Philips & Kinnersley 2013). In such a case, familiarity is not of the essence, if the relationship is good. It is a norm that when one meets a new person, the believability is low; however, with excellent and friendly communication, the barriers are broken.


In conclusion, the communication factor is of the essence to make the management of obesity successful. The intimacy between the physician and the patient creates openness and honesty; additionally, the patient will be willing to follow the clinical procedures recommended. As a result of openness, the physician will be able to recommend the most suitable and effective management practice. Similarly, lack of openness will create the ‘quick treat’ which have short-time effectiveness.


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