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Relational Dialectics Theory Alex Ulbricht Amber Kemmerer Kristin Bowling.

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1 Relational Dialectics Theory Alex Ulbricht Amber Kemmerer Kristin Bowling

2 Questions Answered How do we maintain our individuality while we are in interpersonal relationships? How do members of a dyad express their feelings while still protecting their vulnerability? What are the strategies used to maintain a healthy relationship? How do we cope with the tension brought upon by our significant others?

3 Relational Dialectics Theory Explains that relational life is characterized by ongoing tensions between contradictory impulses “Contradiction is the central concept of relational dialectics.” –Baxter & Montgomery Developed to describe, predict, and explain the tensions that occur in all personal relationships Developed to better understand the contradictions that are present in relationships and the strategies to overcome them

4 History Developed by Leslie Baxter and Barbara Montgomery in Related to the Yin and Yang dynamics, which makes an emphasis on values always being in motion, like relationships.

5 Type Social Scientific Humanistic Intrapersonal Interpersonal Intercultural

6 Metatheoretical: Interpretive Ontology ▫Truth is constructed through interaction Epistemology ▫Used to describe and interpret meaning Axiology ▫Recognize how our values influence the truth

7 Earlier Studies RDT relates to the Social Penetration Theory which examines the development of closeness in relationships ▫Relational closeness can progress from superficial to intimate RDT also relates to Certainty Reduction Theory, which states the beginning of relationships are filled with uncertainty

8 Primary Research Baxter, L.A. (1988). A dialectical perspective on communication strategies in relationship development. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of Personal Relationships,

9 Further Research ▫Goldsmith, D. (1990). A Dialectic Perspective on the Expression of Autonomy and Connection in Romantic Relationships. Western Journal of Speech Communication: WJSC, 54(4), Retrieved January 26, 2009, from Communication & Mass Media Complete database. Reseracher’s Position: Focuses on the qualitative changes in autonomy connection dialectic tensions Methods: Examines and analyzes 10 romantic relationships through five types of tensions Findings: All 10 respondents recalled instances of conflict between autonomy and connection.

10 Approaches to Theory Monologic Approach- framing contradictions either/or. Dualistic Approach- framing contradiction as two separate entities. Dialectic Approach- framing contradiction as both/and. ▫Relational Dialectics Theory uses the Dialectic approach

11 Real Life Theory is evident in Friends.Friends What is going on in this clip? How does Rachel feel? How does Ross feel?

12 Dialectics Interactional dialectics- are tensions resulting from and constructed by communication. Contextual dialectics- are tensions resulting from the place of the relationship within the culture. Public and Private dialectic- refers to the tension between the two domains Real and Ideal dialectic- is the difference between idealized relationships and lived relationships.

13 Vocabulary Totality: ▫suggests that people in a relationship are independent. When something happens to one member in a relationship, the other member(s) will be affected as well. Contradiction: ▫Refers to oppositions- two elements that contradict each other. Contradiction is the central feature of the dialectic approach. Dialectics are the result of oppositions.

14 Vocabulary Motion: ▫Refers to the process of relationships and their change over time. Praxis: ▫Although we do not have completely free choice in all instances and are restricted by our previous choices, by the choices of others, and by cultural and social conditions, we are still conscious and active choice makers.

15 Assumptions Relationships are not linear Relational life is characterized by change Contradiction is the fundamental fact of relational life Communication is central to organizing and negotiating relational contradictions.

16 Tensions Internal- between two individuals External- your relationship and society Three sets of tensions ▫Autonomy/Connection ▫Openness/Protection ▫Novelty/Predictability

17 Autonomy & Connection “Primary internal strain in relationships” ▫Baxter Simultaneous desires to be independent of our significant others and to find intimacy with them Relational life is permeated with the conflicting needs to be both close to and separate from relational partners

18 Example Internal- ▫When you attend the same college there might be a contradiction on the amount of time you spend together External- ▫The tension brought upon by hanging out with your girlfriend’s friends constantly and the desire to be alone with her

19 Predictability and Novelty Conflict between the comfort of stability and the excitement of change RTD differentiates from Uncertainty Reduction Theory which assumes that people move towards certainty and away from uncertainty as relationships develop

20 Example Internal ▫Special surprises like sending flowers to your work but understanding this breaks routine External ▫ visiting your Mother in law’s house every Sunday for dinner

21 Openness and Protection Focuses on our conflicting desire to first be open and vulnerable revealing person information to our relational partners, and second to be strategic and protective in our communication

22 Example Internal ▫After you move away and go to college you might withhold information from your parents about the events in your life External ▫The expectancy of your high school friends to get along with your college friends but to maintain the personal relationship you have with them

23 Responses to Dialectic Tensions These tensions are ongoing so people have many different ways that they deal with the conflicting tension in their lives These methods can be affected by your personality, time frame in which your relationship lies, and the stage that you are in your relationship.

24 Reponses to Dialectic Tensions Segmentation ▫Choosing different poles for different contexts Cyclic Alternation ▫Choosing different poles at different times Selection ▫Selection in choosing one pole and acting as through the other doesn’t exist

25 Reponses to Dialectic Tensions Integration ▫Synthesizing the opposition in dialectic tensions ▫3 Sub Strategies-  Neutralizing  Involves choosing a compromise between oppositions  Reframing  Transforming the oppositions so they appear as though they no long oppose one another  Disqualifying  Exempting certain issues from the general pattern

26 Critique Limited testability ▫Researchers cannot monitor what goes on behind closed doors Limited scope ▫There are limited studies on homosexuality and other cultures Timelessness ▫New research is introducing new dialectics with the changing technologies and ways of communicating

27 Scholar’s Critique Weaknesses ▫It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. ▫It does not have degrees of opposition, only contradictions. Strengths ▫Improves the dualistic view that looks at relationships and communication. ▫It challenges the one-dimensional and more archaic views of communication. ▫**Theory critique by Andrei Duta.

28 Conclusion The relational dialectic theory describes explains and predicts the tensions that occur in our interpersonal relationships. The theory expanded on other relational studies to help us better understand that relationships are ongoing. The theory is relevant to each individual’s life and the relationships within.

29 Questions?

30 Sources Baxter, L.A. (1988). A dialectical perspective on communication strategies in relationship development. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of Personal Relationships, Baxter, L., & Montgomery. (1996). Relating: Dialogues and Dialectics. New York: The Guilford Press. Cools, C. A. (2006). "Relational Communication in Intercultural Couples." Language & Intercultural Communication p Mount Union College. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from EBSCO database. Duta, Andrei. (2008). Leadership Succession: A discourse analysis of governance dialects in two non-profit organizations. Retrieved February 1, 2009 from Google Scholar. Goldsmith, D. (1990). “A Dialectic Perspective on the Expression of Autonomy and Connection in Romantic Relationships.” Western Journal of Speech Communication: WJSC, 54(4), Retrieved January 26, 2009, from Communication & Mass Media Complete database. Graham, E.E. (2003). "Dialectic Contradictions in Postmarital Relationships." Journal of Family Communication, 193. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from EBSCO database.

31 Sources Griffen, E. (2003). A First Look at Communication Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill. "Interpersonal Context." Sping 2001 Thoery Notebook. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from EBSCO database. Masheter, C. & Linda H.M.. (1986) "From Divorce to Friendship: a Study of Dialectic Relationship Development." Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Retrieved February 3, 2009 from EBSCO database. Sahlstein, E.M. (April 2006). “Making plans: Praxis strategies for negotiating uncertainty- certainty in long distance relationships.” Western Journal of Communication, Retrieved January 28, 2009 from EBSCO. Webb, L.M. (2004) "Theory in Progress: Commitment Under Construction: a Dyadic and Communicative Model of Marital Commitment." Journal of Family Communication, Retrieved January 29, 2009 from EBSCO. West, R. & Turner, L. (2007). “ Relational Dialects Theory.” Communication Theory Analysis and Application Ed. 3, New York: McGraw-Hill.


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