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RELATIONAL DIALECTICS Leslie Baxter & Barbara Montgomery in Em Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory.

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Presentation on theme: "RELATIONAL DIALECTICS Leslie Baxter & Barbara Montgomery in Em Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory."— Presentation transcript:

1 RELATIONAL DIALECTICS Leslie Baxter & Barbara Montgomery in Em Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory

2 CLICKER QUESTION According to Relational Dialectics, sameness characterizes intimate relationships. A.TRUE B.FALSE

3 CLICKER QUESTION According to Relational Dialectics theory, personal relationships thrive only when people finally achieve the level of independence from one another. According to Relational Dialectics theory, personal relationships thrive only when people finally achieve the level of independence from one another. A. TRUE A. TRUE B. FALSE B. FALSE

4 Intimate Communication Relational dialectics is a theory about close relationships, romance, friends, & family; Relational dialectics is a theory about close relationships, romance, friends, & family; It is interested in the communicative predicaments of relationships, in the interplay of opposing tendencies enacted in interaction, complex contradictions within family systems; It is interested in the communicative predicaments of relationships, in the interplay of opposing tendencies enacted in interaction, complex contradictions within family systems; Personal relationships are indeterminate processes of ongoing flux; Personal relationships are indeterminate processes of ongoing flux;

5 Push-Me-Pull-You Dialectics of Close Relationships The theory suggests not to look at personal traits when we want to understand the nature of close relationships; The theory suggests not to look at personal traits when we want to understand the nature of close relationships; Contradiction is the central concept of relational dialectics; Contradiction is the central concept of relational dialectics; A contradiction is formed whenever two forces are interdependent (the dialectical principle of unity) yet mutually negate one another (the dialectical principle of negation) p. 161; A contradiction is formed whenever two forces are interdependent (the dialectical principle of unity) yet mutually negate one another (the dialectical principle of negation) p. 161;

6 Contradiction Intimate   Independent According to Relational Dialectics, all personal relationships face this tension; According to Relational Dialectics, all personal relationships face this tension;

7 Simultaneous and Conflicting Forces Baxter & Montgomery take ideas from the Russian theorist, Bakhtin; Baxter & Montgomery take ideas from the Russian theorist, Bakhtin; Bakhtin saw dialectical tension as the “deep structure” of all human experience; Bakhtin saw dialectical tension as the “deep structure” of all human experience; There is no ultimate resolution to the opposing forces; There is no ultimate resolution to the opposing forces; Our skills at interpersonal relations do not resolve the tensions; Our skills at interpersonal relations do not resolve the tensions; Relationships are always in flux; Relationships are always in flux;

8 Three Relational Dialectics Connectedness-Separateness; Connectedness-Separateness; Certainty-Uncertainty; Certainty-Uncertainty; Openness-Closedness; Openness-Closedness;

9 A Challenge to Traditional Wisdom Social Penetration Theory suggests that partners want more closeness; Social Penetration Theory suggests that partners want more closeness; Uncertainty Reduction Theory assumes that we seek interpersonal certainty; Uncertainty Reduction Theory assumes that we seek interpersonal certainty; Most conceptions of intimacy assume that it is always best to be open; Most conceptions of intimacy assume that it is always best to be open; Relational Dialectics questions these traditional and conventional ideas; Relational Dialectics questions these traditional and conventional ideas;

10 We Also Seek the Opposite of the Conventional Goals We also seek We also seek –Autonomy; –Novelty; –Privacy; We can’t simply choose one end or the other of a dilemma: We are caught between, juggling; We can’t simply choose one end or the other of a dilemma: We are caught between, juggling; There are more paradoxes than the three, e.g., judgment and acceptance; There are more paradoxes than the three, e.g., judgment and acceptance; Can you think of others? Can you think of others?

11 CONNECTEDNESS & SEPARATENESS A primary strain within all relationships; A primary strain within all relationships; Individual identities are important, but some individual identity must be sacrificed for the relationship to work; Individual identities are important, but some individual identity must be sacrificed for the relationship to work; Some independence can be associated with a fear of being hurt; Some independence can be associated with a fear of being hurt; At the same time, we desire connection; At the same time, we desire connection;

12 CERTAINTY & UNCERTAINTY Berger’s uncertainty reduction theory makes a strong case for the idea that people want predictability in their relationships; Berger’s uncertainty reduction theory makes a strong case for the idea that people want predictability in their relationships; Relational dialectics theory does not disagree with this claim about predictability, but ….; Relational dialectics theory does not disagree with this claim about predictability, but ….; Relational dialectics believes that it is wrong to ignore our equal desire for novelty, mystery, spontaneity, the occasional surprise; Relational dialectics believes that it is wrong to ignore our equal desire for novelty, mystery, spontaneity, the occasional surprise;

13 OPENNESS & CLOSEDNESS Recall that Altman & Taylor’s Social Penetration Theory ultimately came to the conclusion that self-disclosure and privacy operated in a cyclical or wavelike fashion over time; Recall that Altman & Taylor’s Social Penetration Theory ultimately came to the conclusion that self-disclosure and privacy operated in a cyclical or wavelike fashion over time; In other words, relationships are not on a straight-line path to intimacy; In other words, relationships are not on a straight-line path to intimacy; A person’s need to tell all is countered by their need for secrecy; A person’s need to tell all is countered by their need for secrecy;

14 DIALECTICS BETWEEN THE COUPLE AND THE COMMUNITY Inclusion-Seclusion; Inclusion-Seclusion; Conventionality-Uniqueness; Conventionality-Uniqueness; Revelation-Concealment; Revelation-Concealment;

15 The Couple-Community Strains Parallel the Within-Couple Strains Connectedness-Separateness Connectedness-Separateness Certainty-Uncertainty Certainty-Uncertainty Openness-Closedness Openness-Closedness Inclusion-Seclusion Inclusion-Seclusion Conventionality-Uniqueness Conventionality-Uniqueness Revelation-Concealment Revelation-Concealment Within-Couple Couple-Community

16 INCLUSION-SECLUSION According to Relational Dialectics, the couple needs privacy until they can work out meanings for the two people— becoming a social unit; According to Relational Dialectics, the couple needs privacy until they can work out meanings for the two people— becoming a social unit; After some time, the couple needs the stimulation from others; After some time, the couple needs the stimulation from others; A balance is needed; A balance is needed;

17 Conventionality and Uniqueness Society has a stake in seeing relational patterns reproduced—stability; Society has a stake in seeing relational patterns reproduced—stability; The couple needs a sense of uniqueness to foster intimacy; The couple needs a sense of uniqueness to foster intimacy; So, the couple is caught in a dilemma: conform-be unique; So, the couple is caught in a dilemma: conform-be unique;

18 Revelation & Concealment Public disclosure of the nature of the relationship vs. keeping it quiet; Public disclosure of the nature of the relationship vs. keeping it quiet; Keeping the relationship private, gives the couple time to work things out; Keeping the relationship private, gives the couple time to work things out;

19 Dealing with Dialectical Tension: Competence in the Face of Contradiction 8 strategies that people use to deal with the opposing pressures of relational territory: 8 strategies that people use to deal with the opposing pressures of relational territory: –1. Denial—a not very helpful practice of responding to one pole of a dialectic while ignoring the other; –2. Disorientation—a nonfunctional response arising from a feeling of helplessness—being overwhelmed— dialogue about the dilemma stops; –3. Spiraling alteration—responding to one pole now, the other pole later;

20 Coping (continued) –4. Segmentation—a tactic of compartmentalization by which partners isolate different parts of their relationship; For instance, one may be open about certain topics and distant about others; –5. Balance—a compromise approach that promotes ongoing dialogue, where both poles are seen as equally legitimate; however, a happy medium is difficult to reach;

21 COPING (CONTINUED) –6. Integration—a way for parties to simultaneously respond to opposing forces without dilution or delusion—e.g., a traditional couple sees their 35 years together as unique; –7. Recalibration—the process of reframing a situation so that the tugs and pulls on partners no longer seem to be in opposite directions; –8. Reaffirmation—an active recognition by both partners that dialectic tensions will never go away; they remind each other, ”If we weren’t so close, we wouldn’t be having all these problems.”

22 Critique The dialectic jumble of contradictions—i.e., each force is in opposition with every other force—is a view of interpersonal communication that differs greatly from ideas that conceive of communication as The dialectic jumble of contradictions—i.e., each force is in opposition with every other force—is a view of interpersonal communication that differs greatly from ideas that conceive of communication as –shared meaning –warm communion –increasing certainty A major criticism of the theory is that much of its support comes from anecdotal evidence; A major criticism of the theory is that much of its support comes from anecdotal evidence; In the end, the theorists liken a close relationship to staying upright on a unicycle, always working to keep from falling; In the end, the theorists liken a close relationship to staying upright on a unicycle, always working to keep from falling;


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