Analyzing interpersonal relationships and conflict styles

Analyzing Interpersonal Relationships and Conflict Styles,
    Part 1 (use DeVito, 2013, p. 152), 4 questions
    and
    Part 2 (use DeVito, 2013, p. 161).
   
About 1 – 1.5 pages total written response.

Written Assignment: Analyzing Interpersonal Relationships & Conflict Styles

Part I:

Review the Skill Development Experience on page 152 of your textbook. For the four questions provided, write a concise reflection for each question.

Part II:

On page 161 of your textbook, different conflict styles are described. Using the questions provided in Table 8.1, write a concise reflection about which style describes you best. Consider how adopting a different style may be positive or negative for you.

Both Parts I & II should be included in the same Word (.docx) file and should total about one double-spaced page in length.

 

*Book page 151*

  • acknowledge each other’s individual identities and lives beyond the relationship.
  • express similar attitudes, beliefs, values, and interests.
  • enhance each other’s self-worth and self-esteem.
  • be open, genuine, and authentic with each other.
  • remain loyal and faithful to each other.
  • have substantial shared time together.
  • reap rewards commensurate with their investments relative to the other party.
  • experience a mysterious and inexplicable “magic” in each other’s presence.

Communication Choice Point: Virtual Infidelity

Although in a monogamous relationship for the past 15 years, you have established romantic relationships online and you suspect your partner has as well. Now, it’s causing you anxiety and you want to come clean but not give up these online affairs. In your ideal world, what are some of the rules you would like to see you and your partner establish for online relationships?

Family Rules

Family communication research also points to the importance of rules in defining and maintaining the family (Galvin, Bylund, & Brommel, 2007). Like the rules of friends and lovers, family rules tell you which behaviors will be rewarded (and therefore what you should do) and which will be punished (what you should not do). Rules also provide a kind of structure that defines the family as a cohesive unit and that distinguishes it from other similar families. Family rules encompass three main interpersonal communication issues (Satir,

Page[removed]

1983):

Watch the Video “Please Don’t Lie to Me” at MyCommunicationLab

  • What can you talk about? Can you talk about the family finances? Grandpa’s drinking? Your sister’s lifestyle?
  • How can you talk about something? Can you joke about your brother’s disability? Can you address directly questions of family history and family skeletons?
  • To whom can you talk? Can you talk openly to extended family members such as cousins and aunts and uncles? Can you talk to close neighbors about family health issues?

Workplace Rules

Rules also govern your workplace relationships. These rules are usually a part of the corporate culture that an employee would learn from observing other employees (especially those who move up the hierarchy) as well as from official memos on dress, sexual 151152harassment, and the like. Of course, each organization will have different rules, so it’s important to see what rules are operating in any given situation. These are among the rules that you might find:

  • Work very hard.
  • Be cooperative in teams; the good of the company comes first.

Page[removed]

  • Don’t reveal company policies and plans to workers at competing firms.
  • Don’t form romantic relationships with other workers.
  • Avoid even the hint of sexual harassment.

For a discussion of politeness as a relationship theory, see “Politeness as an Interpersonal Relationship Theory” at tcbdevito.blogspot.com. What role does politeness play in your own relationships?

SOCIAL EXCHANGE AND EQUITY THEORY

Social exchange theory claims that you develop relationships that will enable you to maximize your profits (Thibaut & Kelley, 1986; Stafford, 2008)—a theory based on an economic model of profits and losses. And, although the theory was formulated before social media, you’ll see that it applies equally well to Facebook and Google+ relationships, for example. The theory begins with a simple equation: Profits = Rewards – Costs. Rewards are anything that you would incur costs to obtain. Research has identified six types of rewards in a relationship: money, status, love, information, goods, and services (Baron, Branscombe, & Byrne,

Page[removed]

2009). For example, to get the reward of money, you might have to work rather than play. To earn (the status of) an A in an interpersonal communication course, you might have to write a term paper or study more than you want to.

Costs are things that you normally try to avoid, that you consider unpleasant or difficult. Examples might include working overtime, washing dishes and ironing clothes, watching your partner’s favorite television show that you find boring, or doing favors for those you dislike.

SKILL DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE: Analyzing Interpersonal Relationships in the Media

Interpersonal relationships, as they’re expressed in the popular media, provide an interesting perspective on the ways in which our culture views relationships and on the principles of relationship communication it teaches. Think of all the media you’re exposed to throughout an average day and consider the messages you are receiving about relationships. Look at the media in any form—television (in dramas, sitcoms, commercials, talk shows, reality shows), newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, music, and film—and try to identify the values and attitudes they communicate about interpersonal relationships. Think about these examples:

  • Do the popular media approve of certain types of relationships and not others?
  • How do the media “define” friendship, love, and family?
  • What do the media say about the rules for relationships?
  • How do the media deal with the dark side of interpersonal relationships, such as relationship violence and spousal abuse?

Becoming mindful of what the media teach and how they do it will help you to avoid internalizing relationship values before examining them critically.

Page[removed]

Equity theory uses the ideas of social exchange but goes a step farther and claims that you develop and maintain relationships in which the ratio of your rewards relative to your costs is approximately equal to your partner’s (Walster, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978; Messick & Cook, 1983; Stafford, 2008). For example, if you and a friend start a business and you put up two-thirds of the money and your friend puts up one-third, equity would demand that you get two-thirds of the profits and your friend get one-third. An equitable relationship, then, is simply one in which each party derives rewards that are proportional to their costs. If you contribute more to the relationship than your partner, then equity requires that you should get greater rewards. If you both work equally hard, then equity demands that you 152153should get approximately equal rewards. You also see the demand for equity in online relationships; if you indicate “like” or “+1” to a friend’s photos or posts, you expect reciprocity; you expect equity. In fact social media have rather strict, though unwritten, equity expectations.

Equity theory puts into clear focus the sources of relational dissatisfaction seen every day. For example, in a relationship both partners may have full-time jobs, but one partner may also be expected to do the major share of the household chores. Thus, although both may be deriving equal rewards—they have equally good cars, they live in the same three-bedroom house, and so on—one partner is paying more of the costs. According to equity theory, this partner will be dissatisfied.

Communication Choice Point: Negotiating Equity

You feel your romantic relationship of the last three months has become inequitable—you seem to do more of the work but get few benefits, while your partner does less work but gets more benefits. You want to correct this imbalance before the relationship goes any further. What are some options you have for negotiating greater equity? What are some of the things you might say?

Equity theory claims that you will develop, maintain, and be satisfied with relationships that are equitable. You will not develop, will be dissatisfied with, and will eventually terminate relationships that are inequitable. The greater the inequity, the greater the dissatisfaction and the greater the likelihood that the relationship will end.

Objectives Self-Check

  • Can you explain the theories of interpersonal relationships (attraction, rules, and social exchange and equity)?
  • Can you apply the insights from these theories to your own relationships—to better understand them and to improve them?

Page[removed]

Messages in the Media Wrap Up

Television dramas and sitcoms are perfect laboratories for studying communication patterns in relationships of all kinds. Watching these shows with a view to the ways in which the characters define themselves and communicate with each other will provide a useful follow-up to this chapter.

Summary of Concepts and Skills

Study and Review materials for this chapter are at MyCommunicationLab

Listen to the Audio Chapter Summary at MyCommunicationLab

This chapter explored interpersonal relationships—their stages and types; the reasons they are formed; and the influence of culture, technology, and work on relationships.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Interpersonal Relationships

  • 1. Among the advantages are that relationships lessen loneliness and raise self-esteem.
  • 2. Among the disadvantages are that relationships put pressure on you to expose weakness and increase your obligations.

CONFLICT IS INFLUENCED BY CULTURE AND GENDER

As in other areas of interpersonal communication, it helps to consider conflict in light of the influences of culture and gender. Both exert powerful influences on how people view and resolve conflicts.

Conflict and Culture

Culture influences both the issues that people fight about and the ways of dealing with conflict that people consider appropriate and inappropriate. Cohabiting teens, for example, are more likely to experience conflict with their parents about their living style if they live in the United States than if they live in Sweden, where cohabitation is more accepted and more prevalent. Similarly, male infidelity is more likely to cause conflict between U.S. spouses than in cultures in which such behavior is more common. Students from the United States are more likely to engage in conflict with another U.S. student than with someone from another culture; Chinese students, on the other hand, are more likely to engage in a conflict with a non-Chinese student than with another Chinese (Leung, 1988).

The types of interpersonal conflicts that tend to arise depend on the cultural orientation of the individuals involved. For example, in collectivist cultures, (such as those of Ecuador, Indonesia, and Korea), conflicts most often involve violations of larger group norms and values, such as failing in your role, for example, as family provider or overstepping your social status by publicly disagreeing with a superior. Conversely, in individualistic cultures (such as those of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe), conflicts are more likely to occur when people violate expected norms—for example, not defending a position in the face of disagreement (Ting-Toomey, 1985).

VIEWPOINTS: Conflict and Culture

What does your own culture teach about conflict and its management? For example: What strategies does it prohibit? Are some strategies prohibited in conflicts with certain people (say, your parents) but not in conflicts with others (say, your friends)? Does your culture prescribe certain ways of dealing with conflict? Does it have different expectations for men and for women? Do these teachings influence your actual conflict behaviors?

Page[removed]

Conflict and Gender

Do men and women engage in interpersonal conflict differently? One of the few stereotypes that are supported by research is that of the withdrawing and sometimes aggressive male. Men are more apt to withdraw from a conflict situation than are women. It has been argued that this may happen because men become more psychologically and physiologically aroused during conflict (and retain this heightened level of arousal much longer than do women) and so may try to distance themselves and withdraw from the conflict to prevent further arousal. Another explanation for the male tendency to withdraw is that the culture has taught men to avoid conflict. Still another explanation is that withdrawal is an expression of power (Gottman & Carrere, 1994; Canary, Cupach, & Messman, 1995; Goleman, 1995; Noller, 1993).

Women, on the other hand, want to get closer to the conflict; they want to talk about it and resolve it. Even adolescents reveal these differences; in a study of boys and girls aged 11 to 17, boys withdrew more than girls but were more aggressive when they didn’t withdraw 160161(Lindeman, Harakka, & Keltikangas-Jarvinen, 1997). Similarly, a study of offensive language found that girls were more easily offended by language than boys, but boys were more apt to fight when they were offended by the words used (Heasley, Babbitt, & Burbach, 1995a, 1995b). Another study showed that young girls used more prosocial strategies (i.e., behaviors designed to help others rather than oneself) than boys (Rose & Asher, 1999).

It should be mentioned that some research fails to support these gender differences in conflict style—the differences that cartoons, situation comedies, and films portray so readily and so clearly. For example, several studies dealing with both college students and men and women in business found no significant differences in the ways men and women engage in conflict (Wilkins & Andersen, 1991; Canary & Hause, 1993; Gottman & Levenson, 1999).

CONFLICT STYLES HAVE CONSEQUENCES

The way in which you engage in conflict has consequences for who wins and who loses, if and when the conflict is resolved, and ultimately for the relationship as a whole. As you read through these styles (Blake & Mouton, 1984), try to identify your own conflict style as well as the styles of those with whom you have close relationships. A summary of these five styles appears in Table 8.1.

Watch the Video “Time Troubles” at MyCommunicationLab

Competing: I Win, You Lose

The competitive style involves great concern for your own needs and desires and little for those of others. As long as your needs are met, you think the conflict has been dealt with successfully. In conflict motivated by competitiveness, you’d be likely to be verbally aggressive and to blame the other person.

Page[removed]

This style represents an “I win, you lose” philosophy. This is the conflict style of a person who simply imposes his or her will on the other: “I make the money, and we’ll vacation at the beach or not at all.” But this philosophy often leads to resentment on the part of the person who loses, which can cause additional conflicts. Further, the fact that you win and the other person loses probably means that the conflict hasn’t really been resolved but has only concluded (for now).

Avoiding: I Lose, You Lose

Conflict avoiders are relatively unconcerned with their own or with their opponents’ needs or desires. They avoid any real communication about the problem, change topics when the problem is brought up, and generally withdraw both psychologically and physically.

TABLE 8.1 Five Conflict Styles and Their Consequences

Here are the five conflict styles and their likely consequences or outcomes (Blake & Mouton (1984). Do you have a general conflict style or does your conflict style vary with your relationship to the other person? For example, are you likely to engage in conflict differently depending on the other person, whether friend, romantic partner, work colleague, and so on?

 

You

Other

Competing: great concern for your needs; little concern for other’s

Win

Lose

Avoiding: little concern for your own or other’s needs

Lose

Lose

Compromising: some concern for your own and other’s needs

Win and lose

Win and lose

Accommodating: great concern for other’s needs; little concern for your own

Lose

Win

Collaborating: great concern for your own and other’s needs

Win

Win

161162

Page[removed]

As you can appreciate, the avoiding style does little to resolve any conflicts and may be viewed as an “I lose, you lose” philosophy. If a couple can’t agree about where to spend their vacation, but each person refuses to negotiate a resolution to the disagreement, the pair may not take any vacation at all; both sides lose. Interpersonal problems rarely go away of their own accord; rather, if they exist, they need to be faced and dealt with effectively. Avoidance merely allows the conflict to fester and probably grow, only to resurface in another guise.

Compromising: I Win and Lose, You Win and Lose

Compromise is the kind of strategy you might refer to as “meeting each other halfway,” “horse trading,” or “give and take.” There’s some concern for your own needs and some concern for the other’s needs. This strategy is likely to result in maintaining peace, but there will be a residue of dissatisfaction over the inevitable losses that each side has to endure.

Compromise represents an “I win and lose, you win and lose” philosophy. So, if you and your partner can’t vacation at both the beach and the mountains, then you might settle for weekend trips or use the money to have a hot tub installed instead. These may not be your first choices, but they’re not bad and may satisfy (to some degree at least) each of your vacation wants.

Accommodating: I Lose, You Win

When accommodation takes place, you sacrifice your own needs for the needs of the other person(s). Your primary goal is to maintain harmony and peace in the relationship or group. This style may help maintain peace and may satisfy the opposition, but it does little to meet your own needs, which are unlikely to go away.

Accommodation represents an “I lose, you win” philosophy. If your partner wants to vacation in the mountains and you want to vacation at the beach, and you, instead of negotiating an agreement acceptable to both, give in and accommodate, then you lose and your partner wins. Although this style may make your partner happy (at least on this occasion), it’s not likely to provide a lasting resolution to an interpersonal conflict. You’ll eventually sense unfairness and inequality and may easily come to resent your partner, and perhaps even yourself.

Collaborating: I Win, You Win

In collaboration you address both your own and the other person’s needs. This style, often considered the ideal, takes time and a willingness to communicate—especially to listen to the perspectives and needs of the other person.

Collaboration enables each person’s needs to be met, an “I win, you win” situation. For example, you might both agree to split the vacation—one week in the mountains and one week at the beach. Or you might agree to spend this year’s vacation at the beach and next year’s in the mountains. This is obviously the style that, in an ideal world, most people would choose for interpersonal conflict.

SKILL DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE: Generating Win–Win Solutions

For any one of the situations listed, (a) generate as many win-lose solutions as you can—solutions in which one person wins and the other loses; (b) generate as many possible win-win solutions as you feel the individuals involved in the conflict could reasonably accept; and (c) explain in one sentence the difference between win-lose and win-win solutions

Page[removed]

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 Analyzing Interpersonal Relationships and Conflict Styles, 

    Part 1 (use DeVito, 2013, p. 152), 4 questions
    and
    Part 2 (use DeVito, 2013, p. 161).
   
About 1 – 1.5 pages total written response.

Written Assignment: Analyzing Interpersonal Relationships & Conflict Styles

Part I:

Review the Skill Development Experience on page 152 of your textbook. For the four questions provided, write a concise reflection for each question.

Part II:

On page 161 of your textbook, different conflict styles are described. Using the questions provided in Table 8.1, write a concise reflection about which style describes you best. Consider how adopting a different style may be positive or negative for you.

Both Parts I & II should be included in the same Word (.docx) file and should total about one double-spaced page in length.

 

*Book page 151*

  • acknowledge each other’s individual identities and lives beyond the relationship.
  • express similar attitudes, beliefs, values, and interests.
  • enhance each other’s self-worth and self-esteem.
  • be open, genuine, and authentic with each other.
  • remain loyal and faithful to each other.
  • have substantial shared time together.
  • reap rewards commensurate with their investments relative to the other party.
  • experience a mysterious and inexplicable “magic” in each other’s presence.

Communication Choice Point: Virtual Infidelity

Although in a monogamous relationship for the past 15 years, you have established romantic relationships online and you suspect your partner has as well. Now, it’s causing you anxiety and you want to come clean but not give up these online affairs. In your ideal world, what are some of the rules you would like to see you and your partner establish for online relationships?

Family Rules

Family communication research also points to the importance of rules in defining and maintaining the family (Galvin, Bylund, & Brommel, 2007). Like the rules of friends and lovers, family rules tell you which behaviors will be rewarded (and therefore what you should do) and which will be punished (what you should not do). Rules also provide a kind of structure that defines the family as a cohesive unit and that distinguishes it from other similar families. Family rules encompass three main interpersonal communication issues (Satir,

Page[removed]

1983):

Watch the Video “Please Don’t Lie to Me” at MyCommunicationLab

  • What can you talk about? Can you talk about the family finances? Grandpa’s drinking? Your sister’s lifestyle?
  • How can you talk about something? Can you joke about your brother’s disability? Can you address directly questions of family history and family skeletons?
  • To whom can you talk? Can you talk openly to extended family members such as cousins and aunts and uncles? Can you talk to close neighbors about family health issues?

Workplace Rules

Rules also govern your workplace relationships. These rules are usually a part of the corporate culture that an employee would learn from observing other employees (especially those who move up the hierarchy) as well as from official memos on dress, sexual 151152harassment, and the like. Of course, each organization will have different rules, so it’s important to see what rules are operating in any given situation. These are among the rules that you might find:

  • Work very hard.
  • Be cooperative in teams; the good of the company comes first.

Page[removed]

  • Don’t reveal company policies and plans to workers at competing firms.
  • Don’t form romantic relationships with other workers.
  • Avoid even the hint of sexual harassment.

For a discussion of politeness as a relationship theory, see “Politeness as an Interpersonal Relationship Theory” at tcbdevito.blogspot.com. What role does politeness play in your own relationships?

SOCIAL EXCHANGE AND EQUITY THEORY

Social exchange theory claims that you develop relationships that will enable you to maximize your profits (Thibaut & Kelley, 1986; Stafford, 2008)—a theory based on an economic model of profits and losses. And, although the theory was formulated before social media, you’ll see that it applies equally well to Facebook and Google+ relationships, for example. The theory begins with a simple equation: Profits = Rewards – Costs. Rewards are anything that you would incur costs to obtain. Research has identified six types of rewards in a relationship: money, status, love, information, goods, and services (Baron, Branscombe, & Byrne,

Page[removed]

2009). For example, to get the reward of money, you might have to work rather than play. To earn (the status of) an A in an interpersonal communication course, you might have to write a term paper or study more than you want to.

Costs are things that you normally try to avoid, that you consider unpleasant or difficult. Examples might include working overtime, washing dishes and ironing clothes, watching your partner’s favorite television show that you find boring, or doing favors for those you dislike.

SKILL DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE: Analyzing Interpersonal Relationships in the Media

Interpersonal relationships, as they’re expressed in the popular media, provide an interesting perspective on the ways in which our culture views relationships and on the principles of relationship communication it teaches. Think of all the media you’re exposed to throughout an average day and consider the messages you are receiving about relationships. Look at the media in any form—television (in dramas, sitcoms, commercials, talk shows, reality shows), newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, music, and film—and try to identify the values and attitudes they communicate about interpersonal relationships. Think about these examples:

  • Do the popular media approve of certain types of relationships and not others?
  • How do the media “define” friendship, love, and family?
  • What do the media say about the rules for relationships?
  • How do the media deal with the dark side of interpersonal relationships, such as relationship violence and spousal abuse?

Becoming mindful of what the media teach and how they do it will help you to avoid internalizing relationship values before examining them critically.

Page[removed]

Equity theory uses the ideas of social exchange but goes a step farther and claims that you develop and maintain relationships in which the ratio of your rewards relative to your costs is approximately equal to your partner’s (Walster, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978; Messick & Cook, 1983; Stafford, 2008). For example, if you and a friend start a business and you put up two-thirds of the money and your friend puts up one-third, equity would demand that you get two-thirds of the profits and your friend get one-third. An equitable relationship, then, is simply one in which each party derives rewards that are proportional to their costs. If you contribute more to the relationship than your partner, then equity requires that you should get greater rewards. If you both work equally hard, then equity demands that you 152153should get approximately equal rewards. You also see the demand for equity in online relationships; if you indicate “like” or “+1” to a friend’s photos or posts, you expect reciprocity; you expect equity. In fact social media have rather strict, though unwritten, equity expectations.

Equity theory puts into clear focus the sources of relational dissatisfaction seen every day. For example, in a relationship both partners may have full-time jobs, but one partner may also be expected to do the major share of the household chores. Thus, although both may be deriving equal rewards—they have equally good cars, they live in the same three-bedroom house, and so on—one partner is paying more of the costs. According to equity theory, this partner will be dissatisfied.

Communication Choice Point: Negotiating Equity

You feel your romantic relationship of the last three months has become inequitable—you seem to do more of the work but get few benefits, while your partner does less work but gets more benefits. You want to correct this imbalance before the relationship goes any further. What are some options you have for negotiating greater equity? What are some of the things you might say?

Equity theory claims that you will develop, maintain, and be satisfied with relationships that are equitable. You will not develop, will be dissatisfied with, and will eventually terminate relationships that are inequitable. The greater the inequity, the greater the dissatisfaction and the greater the likelihood that the relationship will end.

Objectives Self-Check

  • Can you explain the theories of interpersonal relationships (attraction, rules, and social exchange and equity)?
  • Can you apply the insights from these theories to your own relationships—to better understand them and to improve them?

Page[removed]

Messages in the Media Wrap Up

Television dramas and sitcoms are perfect laboratories for studying communication patterns in relationships of all kinds. Watching these shows with a view to the ways in which the characters define themselves and communicate with each other will provide a useful follow-up to this chapter.

Summary of Concepts and Skills

Study and Review materials for this chapter are at MyCommunicationLab

Listen to the Audio Chapter Summary at MyCommunicationLab

This chapter explored interpersonal relationships—their stages and types; the reasons they are formed; and the influence of culture, technology, and work on relationships.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Interpersonal Relationships

  • 1. Among the advantages are that relationships lessen loneliness and raise self-esteem.
  • 2. Among the disadvantages are that relationships put pressure on you to expose weakness and increase your obligations.

CONFLICT IS INFLUENCED BY CULTURE AND GENDER

As in other areas of interpersonal communication, it helps to consider conflict in light of the influences of culture and gender. Both exert powerful influences on how people view and resolve conflicts.

Conflict and Culture

Culture influences both the issues that people fight about and the ways of dealing with conflict that people consider appropriate and inappropriate. Cohabiting teens, for example, are more likely to experience conflict with their parents about their living style if they live in the United States than if they live in Sweden, where cohabitation is more accepted and more prevalent. Similarly, male infidelity is more likely to cause conflict between U.S. spouses than in cultures in which such behavior is more common. Students from the United States are more likely to engage in conflict with another U.S. student than with someone from another culture; Chinese students, on the other hand, are more likely to engage in a conflict with a non-Chinese student than with another Chinese (Leung, 1988).

The types of interpersonal conflicts that tend to arise depend on the cultural orientation of the individuals involved. For example, in collectivist cultures, (such as those of Ecuador, Indonesia, and Korea), conflicts most often involve violations of larger group norms and values, such as failing in your role, for example, as family provider or overstepping your social status by publicly disagreeing with a superior. Conversely, in individualistic cultures (such as those of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe), conflicts are more likely to occur when people violate expected norms—for example, not defending a position in the face of disagreement (Ting-Toomey, 1985).

VIEWPOINTS: Conflict and Culture

What does your own culture teach about conflict and its management? For example: What strategies does it prohibit? Are some strategies prohibited in conflicts with certain people (say, your parents) but not in conflicts with others (say, your friends)? Does your culture prescribe certain ways of dealing with conflict? Does it have different expectations for men and for women? Do these teachings influence your actual conflict behaviors?

Page[removed]

Conflict and Gender

Do men and women engage in interpersonal conflict differently? One of the few stereotypes that are supported by research is that of the withdrawing and sometimes aggressive male. Men are more apt to withdraw from a conflict situation than are women. It has been argued that this may happen because men become more psychologically and physiologically aroused during conflict (and retain this heightened level of arousal much longer than do women) and so may try to distance themselves and withdraw from the conflict to prevent further arousal. Another explanation for the male tendency to withdraw is that the culture has taught men to avoid conflict. Still another explanation is that withdrawal is an expression of power (Gottman & Carrere, 1994; Canary, Cupach, & Messman, 1995; Goleman, 1995; Noller, 1993).

Women, on the other hand, want to get closer to the conflict; they want to talk about it and resolve it. Even adolescents reveal these differences; in a study of boys and girls aged 11 to 17, boys withdrew more than girls but were more aggressive when they didn’t withdraw 160161(Lindeman, Harakka, & Keltikangas-Jarvinen, 1997). Similarly, a study of offensive language found that girls were more easily offended by language than boys, but boys were more apt to fight when they were offended by the words used (Heasley, Babbitt, & Burbach, 1995a, 1995b). Another study showed that young girls used more prosocial strategies (i.e., behaviors designed to help others rather than oneself) than boys (Rose & Asher, 1999).

It should be mentioned that some research fails to support these gender differences in conflict style—the differences that cartoons, situation comedies, and films portray so readily and so clearly. For example, several studies dealing with both college students and men and women in business found no significant differences in the ways men and women engage in conflict (Wilkins & Andersen, 1991; Canary & Hause, 1993; Gottman & Levenson, 1999).

CONFLICT STYLES HAVE CONSEQUENCES

The way in which you engage in conflict has consequences for who wins and who loses, if and when the conflict is resolved, and ultimately for the relationship as a whole. As you read through these styles (Blake & Mouton, 1984), try to identify your own conflict style as well as the styles of those with whom you have close relationships. A summary of these five styles appears in Table 8.1.

Watch the Video “Time Troubles” at MyCommunicationLab

Competing: I Win, You Lose

The competitive style involves great concern for your own needs and desires and little for those of others. As long as your needs are met, you think the conflict has been dealt with successfully. In conflict motivated by competitiveness, you’d be likely to be verbally aggressive and to blame the other person.

Page[removed]

This style represents an “I win, you lose” philosophy. This is the conflict style of a person who simply imposes his or her will on the other: “I make the money, and we’ll vacation at the beach or not at all.” But this philosophy often leads to resentment on the part of the person who loses, which can cause additional conflicts. Further, the fact that you win and the other person loses probably means that the conflict hasn’t really been resolved but has only concluded (for now).

Avoiding: I Lose, You Lose

Conflict avoiders are relatively unconcerned with their own or with their opponents’ needs or desires. They avoid any real communication about the problem, change topics when the problem is brought up, and generally withdraw both psychologically and physically.

TABLE 8.1 Five Conflict Styles and Their Consequences

Here are the five conflict styles and their likely consequences or outcomes (Blake & Mouton (1984). Do you have a general conflict style or does your conflict style vary with your relationship to the other person? For example, are you likely to engage in conflict differently depending on the other person, whether friend, romantic partner, work colleague, and so on?

 

You

Other

Competing: great concern for your needs; little concern for other’s

Win

Lose

Avoiding: little concern for your own or other’s needs

Lose

Lose

Compromising: some concern for your own and other’s needs

Win and lose

Win and lose

Accommodating: great concern for other’s needs; little concern for your own

Lose

Win

Collaborating: great concern for your own and other’s needs

Win

Win

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As you can appreciate, the avoiding style does little to resolve any conflicts and may be viewed as an “I lose, you lose” philosophy. If a couple can’t agree about where to spend their vacation, but each person refuses to negotiate a resolution to the disagreement, the pair may not take any vacation at all; both sides lose. Interpersonal problems rarely go away of their own accord; rather, if they exist, they need to be faced and dealt with effectively. Avoidance merely allows the conflict to fester and probably grow, only to resurface in another guise.

Compromising: I Win and Lose, You Win and Lose

Compromise is the kind of strategy you might refer to as “meeting each other halfway,” “horse trading,” or “give and take.” There’s some concern for your own needs and some concern for the other’s needs. This strategy is likely to result in maintaining peace, but there will be a residue of dissatisfaction over the inevitable losses that each side has to endure.

Compromise represents an “I win and lose, you win and lose” philosophy. So, if you and your partner can’t vacation at both the beach and the mountains, then you might settle for weekend trips or use the money to have a hot tub installed instead. These may not be your first choices, but they’re not bad and may satisfy (to some degree at least) each of your vacation wants.

Accommodating: I Lose, You Win

When accommodation takes place, you sacrifice your own needs for the needs of the other person(s). Your primary goal is to maintain harmony and peace in the relationship or group. This style may help maintain peace and may satisfy the opposition, but it does little to meet your own needs, which are unlikely to go away.

Accommodation represents an “I lose, you win” philosophy. If your partner wants to vacation in the mountains and you want to vacation at the beach, and you, instead of negotiating an agreement acceptable to both, give in and accommodate, then you lose and your partner wins. Although this style may make your partner happy (at least on this occasion), it’s not likely to provide a lasting resolution to an interpersonal conflict. You’ll eventually sense unfairness and inequality and may easily come to resent your partner, and perhaps even yourself.

Collaborating: I Win, You Win

In collaboration you address both your own and the other person’s needs. This style, often considered the ideal, takes time and a willingness to communicate—especially to listen to the perspectives and needs of the other person.

Collaboration enables each person’s needs to be met, an “I win, you win” situation. For example, you might both agree to split the vacation—one week in the mountains and one week at the beach. Or you might agree to spend this year’s vacation at the beach and next year’s in the mountains. This is obviously the style that, in an ideal world, most people would choose for interpersonal conflict.

SKILL DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE: Generating Win–Win Solutions

For any one of the situations listed, (a) generate as many win-lose solutions as you can—solutions in which one person wins and the other loses; (b) generate as many possible win-win solutions as you feel the individuals involved in the conflict could reasonably accept; and (c) explain in one sentence the difference between win-lose and win-win solutions

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