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Theories of Communication in Ongoing Relationships

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1 Theories of Communication in Ongoing Relationships
Chapter Eleven Theories of Communication in Ongoing Relationships

2 Relational Systems Theory: The Palo Alto Group
Bateson and his colleagues (WBJ) The Palo Alto group was concerned with understanding the general nature of communication Particular concern was given to the role of communication in psychiatric pathologies

3 Systems Theory: Shift in Focus
Prevailing view was that mental illness was a disease of the individual, treated through individual-level treatment Palo Alto group moved to an emphasis on the system in which the individual was embedded Particular attention paid to relational communication in the family system

4 Systems Concepts Family systems are interdependent
behavior of individuals depends on each other They develop and change through positive feedback (change in stability) & negative feedback (preserves status quo of system) They are characterized by equifinality – same final state can be achieved through multiple paths

5 Some Systems Terms Input/throughput/output Environment Goal
Equifinality/Equipotentiality Homeostasis/dynamic equilibrium Rules: how things work—not how supposed to work Feedback Positive: Change the system: Deviation amplifying Negative: Inhibit change: Deviation inhibiting Schismogenesis (positive/negative)

6 Theoretical Influences on Relational Systems Theory
Theory of logical types--systems are organized at various levels of abstraction (take out garbage: behavior or relational meaning) Rules orientation—highlights role of relational agreements that prescribe certain behavior Constitutive or regulative Implicit or explicit Shifts influence from individual to system

7 Pragmatics of Human Communication (1967)
Axiom One: One Cannot not Communicate. Axiom Two: Communication has both relational and content functions in interaction Axiom Four: Humans communicate through both digital and analogic code systems

8 Pragmatics (continued)
Axiom Three: In relational systems, we often punctuate interaction in different ways, leading to different meaning Axiom Five: Communication interactions can be either symmetrical (based on equality and mirroring) or complementary (based on differences—assertive & passive)

9 Pragmatics (continued)
As a result of these complexities, relational communication can become dysfunctional (paradoxes and double binds) Relational system change must often be second-order change, often accomplished through reframing from outside of the system first-order change within system may not work

10 Relational Systems Theory: Developments
Important contribution to understanding power and control in relational communication. Coding of complementary and symmetrical interaction (Edna Rogers) Interact: Two-turn sequence reveals power/control through one-up and one- down patterns though may be topic specific

11 3 turns = 2 interacts Interact example: Who’s in charge? One up One down Relational Dialectics: Philosophical Roots--Nothing on this (pp )

12 Relational Dialectics
A dialectic approach to relationships proposes that relationships are comprised of inherent contradictions A dialectic is not a “dualism” in which one aspect of a contradiction can or should be chosen In a dialectic approach, both poles of the contradiction can and do exist together

13 Dialectics: Central Concepts
Contradiction: The coexistence and conflict of interpenetrated opposites Totality: Contradictions in a relationship are part of a unified whole and cannot be understood in isolation Process: Movement, activity, and change are fundamental properties of social life Praxis: The choices social actors make in the midst of dialectical tensions

14 Relational Dialectics: Types
Romantic Relationships Connection-Autonomy Certainty-Uncertainty (predictability— novelty) Openness-Closedness Dialectics can be internal to relationship or external (relationship and network)

15 Baxter’s Typology of Dialectical Tensions
Integration- Stability- Expression- Separation Change Privacy Connection Autonomy Predictability-Novelty Openness- Closedness Internal Inclusion- Seclusion Revelation- Concealment Conventionality- Uniqueness External

16 Rawlins: Friendship Dialectics
In addition to Baxter’s dialectics, Rawlins adds: Affection-Instrumentality Judgment-Acceptance Ideal –Real (Miller forgot this one)

17 Relational Dialectics: Praxis patterns (Table 11.1, p. 201)
Denial Disorientation Spiraling Inversion Segmentation Balance Integration Recalibration Reaffirmation

18 Relational Dialectics: Areas of continuing research
Dialectics in friendships: This work (e.g., Rawlins) has looked especially at adolescent friendship Dialectics in romantic relationships: This work has considered various stages of romantic relationships Family dialectics: This research has considered praxis patterns in families, especially blended families

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