relational dialectics n.
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  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. TRUE FALSE

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

  4. Intimate Communication • 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; • 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; • 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;

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

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

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

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

  10. We Also Seek the Opposite of the Conventional Goals • We also seek • Autonomy; • Novelty; • Privacy; • 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; • Can you think of others?

  11. CONNECTEDNESS & SEPARATENESS • A primary strain within all relationships; • 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; • 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; • 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;

  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; • 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;

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

  15. Connectedness-Separateness Certainty-Uncertainty Openness-Closedness Inclusion-Seclusion Conventionality-Uniqueness Revelation-Concealment The Couple-Community Strains Parallel the Within-Couple Strains 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; • After some time, the couple needs the stimulation from others; • A balance is needed;

  17. Conventionality and Uniqueness • Society has a stake in seeing relational patterns reproduced—stability; • The couple needs a sense of uniqueness to foster intimacy; • 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; • 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: • 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. Spiralingalteration—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 • shared meaning • warm communion • increasing certainty • 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;