narrated Ch11 Conflict

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The first sentence of the chapter tells you that conflict is an inevitable part of being in a close relationship. It’s true. Conflict is a natural by-product of having a close relationship.

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This is the agreed upon definition of interpersonal conflict across most all relational communication scholars. Each of these characteristics will be discussed separately.

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Interpersonal conflict must be an expressed struggle. That means it must be behavioral. Intrapersonal conflict is conflict that is in your head – an internal conflict. Recall in a previous chapter that interdependence occurs when one person affects another and vice versa? Well then, it only makes sense that interpersonal conflict occurs between individuals who are interdependent. Incompatibility highlights the idea that it is impossible to satisfy both individuals’ needs. There also has to be a perception of scarce resources. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the resources are in fact scarce, but individuals must believer that they are. Interference is the part of the definition that makes interpersonal conflict an actual conflict – it happens when acting in ways that keep the other from achieving his/her goal.

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The book lists quite a few metaphors that individuals tend to use to think about conflict. And, not everyone things of conflict the same way. Think about how conflict might look between someone who thinks of conflict as a trial and the other person who thinks that conflict is a trial. Their approach, strategy, and perception of the conflict experience will be different based upon how they think about conflict.

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When we think of conflict, we tend to overlook these characteristics. We tend not to think of it as normal, so we say things after managing conflict like, “I’m so glad we’re back to normal.” This notion works against thinking about conflict effectively. That doesn’t mean that conflict can not be harmful, it can…especially when handled ineffectively. This will be discussed in more detail later in the chapter.

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Inevitably when a class is asked what they think married couples fight about the most, “sex,” “money,” and “in-laws” tend to top the list. However, research shows that the most common source of conflict involves personal criticisms. This makes intuitive sense, as the personal criticisms may involve sex, money and/or in-laws, but the act of criticism is the most common source of conflict. The effects of criticism will be discussed later in the chapter.

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Recall from the previous chapter, sex differences are of degree not kind. Research on the demand-withdrawal pattern shows that in most crossed-sex relationships, it is the most common for women to be the demanders (wanting to engage) and men as the withdrawers (wanting to retreat). Online and intercultural interactions are fraught with the potential for misunderstandings and conflict. Misunderstanding is what tends to exacerbate conflict in these two contexts.

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We tend to think of power, like conflict, in negative ways particularly when thinking of power differences between people. However, power is not inherently positive or negative, but rather it is how it is exercised that makes it that way. Agreeing on the power relationship does not always mean that you agree with everything the more powerful person does. In other words, you may not always like every decision you boss makes, but by continuing to work for him/her you are implicitly agreeing to the power arrangement.

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These are known as French and Raven’s power bases. They are not mutually exclusive. It is possible for an individual to possess more than one type of power.

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Gottman’s ratio (5:1 positivity to negativity) was discovered while he was doing research on predicting divorce. This research found that it is not presence of conflict, but rather, HOW the conflict was handled that correlated with these four divorce predictors. A “Blink,” a popular press book by Malcolm Gladwell, there is a section dedicated to Gottman and his 4 Horsemen research. Given the speed and accuracy of making a divorce prediction is pretty amazing, and very telling about the impact of this research. The real take-away message from this research is about the importance of handling conflict effectively. Saying to your partner, “It makes me feel like you don’t care about our relationship when you do not do the things you promise me that you will do” will have a much different effect on the relationship than saying, “You are a good-for-nothing-SOB who doesn’t care about anyone but yourself.” I language (“I feel x when you do y”) is much more effective than “you” language (you are x). And, because these 4 horsemen are sequential, stopping criticism can have beneficial outcomes in the long and short term.

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Blake and Mouton’s research found these five strategies for dealing with interpersonal conflict that come from concern for self and concern for the other. Some of these strategies seem better than others, but their efficacy can depend upon the conflict situation and how they are communicated. Please note, compromising is markedly different from collaborating. A compromise is when one person gives in – a win-lose, if you will; whereas collaborating involves joint problem solving where the outcome is win-win. In sum, how we handle conflict can have a tremendous effect on our relationship and the satisfaction that we experience within it. This chapter is descriptive, providing a solid foundation for understanding basic principles of conflict; but it also provides some really good prescriptive information that can be used now to help improve the quality of your relationships.

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Floyd: Interpersonal Communication Interpersonal Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Interpersonal Conflict What is Interpersonal Conflict? Conflict in Personal Relationships Power and Conflict Managing Interpersonal Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Interpersonal conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interferences from the other party in achieving their goals. Interpersonal Conflict? © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Points to remember: Conflict is an expressed struggle It occurs between two or more interdependent parties It is about goals the parties see as incompatible It arises over perceived scarce resources It includes interference Interpersonal Conflict? © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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People tend to think of conflict using figurative language, such as metaphors. The metaphor shapes how conflict is perceived. Conflict is a war Conflict is struggle Conflict is a dance Conflict is a game Etc. Thinking About Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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In relationships, conflict… Is natural Has content, relational, and procedural dimensions Can be direct or indirect Can be harmful Can be beneficial Conflict in Personal Relationships © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Common sources of conflict in marriages: Personal criticisms Finances Chores Children Employment In-laws Sex Use of Time Conflict in Personal Relationships © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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What else affects conflict? Sex and gender Cultural messages Interaction online Conflict in Personal Relationships © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Power is the ability to influence or control other people or events Power is context-specific Power is always present Power influences communication Power can be positive or negative Power and conflict affect each other Power and Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Power comes in five forms: Reward power Coercive power Referent power Legitimate power Expert power Power and Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Criticism Contempt Defensiveness Stonewalling Managing Interpersonal Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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Five strategies for managing conflict: Competing Avoiding Accommodating Compromising Collaborating Managing Interpersonal Conflict © 2009 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill

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