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Ch. 11 Relational Dialectics

A First Look at Communication Theory - Griffin, Ledbetter, Sparks

Kristina Wenzel Egan

on 5 April 2018

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Transcript of Ch. 11 Relational Dialectics

Relational Dialectics Theory

the dynamic interplay between unified oppositions
Relational dialectics:

contradictions located in the relationship between parties, (re)produced through the parties' joint communicative activity
Internal dialectics:

ongoing tensions played out within a relationship (dyad, group, family, etc.)
External dialectics:

ongoing tensions between a couple (or group, family) and their community
RDT: The Original
Me We
Old New
Reveal Conceal
RDT applied to military marriages
Interviews with 50 wives of deployed soldiers
3 Relational Contradictions emerged

"[Before my husband left] it was like fear. Fear of the unknown and that loss of control. It finally hits you. I have no say in my own life."
Big fear: "...was that he would be different when he came home. Different in a negative way."

"[My daughters and I] woke up the next morning [after my husband left for Iraq] and I said, 'Okay, time to get on with our lives.'"
*Stay connected in marriage
Phone calls: "I want to be here when you call but I can't spend the next 8 months sitting by the telephone"

"[There are] things he couldn't say to me that he thought would scare me or upset me so he went and talked to his dad... especially with him going back I know that I would just worry a lot more."
Wartime Deployment: Wives' Perspectives Revealed through Relational Dialectics
Common Dialectical Tensions
Connection & Autonomy
(cc) image by anemoneprojectors on Flickr
& Uncertainty
Revelation & Concealment
Openness & Closedness
Conventionality & Uniqueness
Inclusion & Exclusion
Connection-Autonomy: Individuals desire connection with close relationships, but they also want personal freedom.

Inclusion-Seclusion: Close relationships want to spend time with their social network, but they also want time with just their close relationship.

The Dialectic of Integration-Separation
People experience tension between needs for social integration and social division.
Certainty - Uncertainty: Individuals want routine and consistency in their close relationships, but they also want spontaneity and novelty.

Conventionality-Uniqueness: Close relationships want to adhere to social norms to fit in with others, but they also want to see themselves as unique.

The Dialectic of Stability-Change
People want security and continuity, but they also want excitement.
Openness-Closedness: Individuals want to feel free to self-disclose, but also to keep some secrets from others.

Revelation-Concealment: Individuals want to talk about their close relationships with their social networks, but they also want to maintain privacy.

The Dialectic of Expression-Privacy
People want to be able to express themselves to others but also to keep some information private
This theory captures the dynamic nature of relationships.

RDT 2.0

Constitutive Dialogue:
Communication CREATES & SUSTAINS the relationship
a system of meaning-a set of propositions that cohere around a given object of meaning

Suggests that "relationships achieve meaning through the active interplay of multiple, competing discourses" (Baxter, 2011, p. 7). Rather than single binary contradictions, each relational force is in tension with every other pole.

The revised theory emphasizes discourses and dialogue.
Frances - Direct Interplay
Dialogue as Utterance Chain
Cultural Ideologies (Distal Already-Spokens)

Normative evaluation of 3rd party: Distal Not-Yet-Spokens
Relational history (already-spokens)
Relational Not-Yet-Spokens
Discourse of individualism
Discourse of community
Discourse of privacy
Discourse of romanticism
Anticipated normative evaluation to be provided by a possible future listener who is not physically present when the utterance is voiced.
Relationship specific discourses from past
Anticipated response of the partner(s) to the speaker's words and nonverbal gestures
Dialogically Contractive
Single-voiced monologue

Dialogically Expansive
Aesthetic moment

Double-voiced dialogue
Diachronic separation
Synchronic interplay

Independence & Dependence
Direct Interplay
Single-voiced Monologue (privileging independence)
Openness & Closedness
Singled-voiced Monologue (privileging openness)
Diachronic Separation
Anticipating Death & Sustaining Life
Hidden Polemical Interplay
Antagonistic Struggle
Aesthetic Moment

Oh when he calls me, he’ll say [pause] what’s a matter mother don’t ya feel good today? Now I try not to portray that when I answer the phone but he always can tell if I’m not feeling good.
I: Why don’t you portray that?
Well I don’t- I don’t want him to worry about me [laughter] I’m mother! I can take care of myself [laughter]. No he’s—I don’t know, I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. None. (2: 304-307).

Findings: Older Parents Talking about Relationship with Adult Children
Yeah, I had to do that anyway, call.
I: Why do you feel like you have to check in with Gary?
C: Because he’s the guy I trust. He calls me every night and during the day. Just to make sure I’m OK. No one else does that. (3: 364-367)

Charles - Single-Voiced Monologue
Beverly - Antagonistic Struggle
Because they didn’t think I was going to make it in the hospital with my heart attack and my kids said, “you know mom, I’m so glad you’re with us yet” and I said, “you know what? I’m getting older, I’m not going to be here forever.” [laughter] So I think they appreciate me too because we get along real well. (1: 132-136)

Competing discourses that animated older parents’ talk about the changing nature of their relationship with their adult children
The meanings that were constructed in their interplay
Method: In-depth interviews with older parents (average age of 82)

Older Parents, Discourses, and Relational Change
Step 1: Identify discourses in the text
Step 2: Identify contrasting discourses in the text
Step 3: Identify how the interplay of discourses constructs meaning in the text

Contrapuntal Analysis
"relational dialects is describing the contradictions that are 'located in the relationship between parties, produced and reproduced through the parties' joint communicative activity'" (p. 138)
Dialogue as an Aesthetic Moment
Dialogue can be “a momentary sense of unity through a profound respect for the disparate voices in dialogue.”
A meaningful ritual can be an aesthetic moment for all participants because it’s a joint performance of normally competing and contradictory voices,

"I was struck by the contradictions, contingencies, non-rationalities, and multiple realities to which people gave voice in their narrative sense-making of their relational lives" -Baxter (as cited on p. 136).
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