Destructive Patterns of Communication

Since there were several continuums of destructive communication patterns in Chapter 11, I decided to try to find an example of a few from my own life, in order to better understand and remember them.

Helpful: My senior year of high school, my then-boyfriend and I both happened to apply to a couple of the same colleges. I had my heart set on one, and had even been told by one of the deans at a conference that I spoke at, that the university would be “lucky to have me” join them next year. I was hoping for and expecting an acceptance letter any day, but unfortunately, I came home one day to find, instead, a rejection letter. When I shared this with my boyfriend later on in the day, he professed receiving a rejection letter as well. This turned out to not be the case, and I was furious when I discovered he had actually been accepted and had lied to me. While his intentions were in the right place, he had tried to “protect” me from feeling more hurt than I already was, which in turn just ended up hurting me more. What was meant to be a caring gesture ended up being one that hindered our relationship.

Active: I recently casually dated someone who was extremely high on the active end of this spectrum. He was extremely interested in anything I did, thought, or said, and that was really sweet. However, the intensity of his interest made me question if there was an ulterior motive, or some type of agenda. I wanted a more equal balance of interest, but he never seemed to want to talk about himself, and it seemed as if he didn’t view himself as my equal. This definitely put space between us, as I was unsure of how to deal with it.

Aggressive: I am most definitely an aggressive communicator at times. While I hope that I am not to the point of any of the “hassling” stages described in the book. But I have noticed this tendency in some of my communication. I have a tendency to be very straight-forward (sometimes to a fault), and very head-on when it comes to communication in personal relationships. Being more aware of this, and moderating it, would definitely be in my best interest.

Submissive: The boyfriend of a girl I know is the epitome of someone who leans toward the submissive side of communication. His girlfriend dominated his completely (a complementary relationship). He shows nearly every sign of submissiveness that is described in the book - dependency, resignation of responsibility, etc. We were once out to breakfast with a group, and he asked her permission to ask the waitress if there were free refills. It was quite sad to watch.

Certain: I definitely know of several people who fall under the certain end of this spectrum. For the most part, they have a tendency to demean others opinions, because they are so certain that they are correct about everything, no matter what the subject matter. It was interesting to read that this communication pattern is often indicative of insecurity, as that was something I suspected in several of these people.

Examining the Dissolution Phases in an Intimate Relationship

Chapter 10 lists 4 phases commonly gone through in the dissolution of a relationship. They are: intra-psychic, dyadic, social, and grave-dressing. I recently ended an intimate relationship, so I thought it would be interesting to see if I went through each of these phases, and if so, how much time I spent in each of them.

The first phase, intra-psychic, is when the person deciding to dissolve the relationship (in this case, me) assesses the other partner’s behavior and whether or not the relationship should be terminated on the basis of this. By my best estimations, I spent several weeks in this phase, though at first, it was very subtle, and not at the forefront of my thoughts. Gradually, it became more prominent in my mind, until I was seriously contemplating whether or not his behavior was something that warranted dissolution. However, his behavior was only part of my entering this phase, and there were other factors that contributed to this.

The second phase, dyadic, is when the partners discuss the problems. After a night of delving deep into the intra-psychic phase, and deciding that I did in fact want to dissolve the relationship, I jumped right into the second phase, unfortunately, without much notice. I told him we needed to talk about some things, and due to the nature of the conversation, the relationship very quickly ended, without much further discussion of the problems, as both of us saw them as insurmountable.

The third phase, social, is figuring out what to do about public acknowledgement of the breakup. This phase went rather smoothly. Both of us agreed that neither had done the other wrong, and there were simply discrepancies between what each of us wanted that prevented us from continuing the relationship. Each of us entered this phase without much issue, each privately mentioning the break-up to selected individuals inside and outside of our mutual friend group. Many of our friends actually heard the story from both of us, and the stories were very similar.

The fourth phase, grave-dressing (how pleasant), is when the individuals focus on ending the relationship on different levels and making sense of what happened. This phase occurred somewhat simultaneously with the third phase. Each of us approached this differently - I, wanting to be around people, he, wanting to be alone. I cannot say for sure how he went through this phase, but I definitely focused on making sense of why things happened they way they did, what I could have done to change things, etc. I understand what the authors of the book meant, when they said that this stage helps to bridge private thoughts with the public world. Though I was not eager to share the details with many people, there was a definite need to explain and talk about what had happened, in order to move past it.

I do feel like there are more phases in the dissolution process. For instance, what happens to the relationship after the breakup - what happens if the could choose to speak again, or only one of them attempts to? What phases can a relationship move into after this? Are post-intimate friendships different from ones that have never entered a more intimate level? I would venture to say that they are. Even if time has passed, and the two people are able to become friends again, there will always be something more than what most friendships have, and something less than what you once had.

4 Notes

My Brother’s Use of Persuasion Strategies

My 17-year-old brother often has a need to persuade my parents of various things. Unfortunately for him, he is often unsuccessful. Reading about the different persuasion strategies in Chapter 9, and some of the factors that contribute to the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the persuasion made think about some of the strategies he uses, and why they are often so ineffective.

Usually, when my brother is trying persuade my parents, it is because he is asking for something. Perhaps the main reason that he almost always fails is that his most-used strategy is “ask.” There is no buttering up, mention of benefits, bargaining, or appeal. He just simply asks, and then might follow up with a reason. For instance, “Mom, can I have twenty bucks?” and then when prompted, some half-assed excuse as to why he needs it. One would think that presenting the information before-hand would be more effective, but my brother doesn’t think his persuasive strategies out that much. 

Sometimes, however, he is successful, and that is usually either because my parents are tired, or he won’t stop asking. The audience familiarity usually works against him, though, as if he attempts to lie, my parents are quick to pick up on it and dismiss him. The degree of intimacy between my brother and our parents is obviously a very high one, and while this can cause them to feel obligated to give into his persuasion, very often, it does not. It would be in my brother’s best interest to expand his variety of persuasion strategies to some of the aforementioned, instead of just relying on his brilliant charm. 

Self-Disclosure and Intimacy

In Chapter 8, the authors mention that self-disclosure is key to forming intimate relationships. It is said that until the relationship is fairly stable, self-disclosure plays a large role. 

This lead me to begin thinking about the reasons why I shy away from certain levels of commitment and intimacy. I had previously thought that I avoided self-disclosure because it would lead to intimacy and commitment. Now, I’m considering that I actually avoid intimacy and commitment because it would require self-disclosure. This is similar to the “chicken and the egg” question - which came first? Many would argue that self-disclosure is necessary for intimacy to develop, while others would assert that you need to first have an intimate relationship with someone in order to disclose. I’m not sure what I believe. Perhaps it is a little bit of both. I definitely need to feel some level of intimacy with someone to let them in closer to my core “layers,” but I also sometimes disclose in order to achieve a deeper level of intimacy (on the rare occasion when I desire to do so). 

And of course, the other dimension of self-disclosure is that it almost always has to be reciprocal for it to be effective. I can’t think of many instances where both partners would be relationally satisfied if just one of them was disclosing, unless they each had very opposite needs of intimacy of some sort. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I seem to be in a kind of stand-off with a relational partner as far as disclosure goes about our feelings and the current relationship we’re in. If self-disclosure usually needs to be reciprocal, it is likely that neither of us will take the first step towards self-disclosure, as we have gone quite some time without doing so. The only exception to this is if one of us gets to the point where we feel an absolute need to lay things out on the table. Otherwise, I would guess that our relationship will eventually come to an end due to a lack of self-disclosure and intimacy. It will be interesting to see what eventually happens, and if either of my predictions are correct.

1 Notes

The Lies that Bind

I found parts of the Paul Thaler article “The Lies that Bind” in Chapter 8 to be quite shocking.

Essentially, Thaler’s thesis is that lying, to an extent, is acceptable, and even necessary in romantic relationships. Which I would agree with, if it wasn’t for how he defines “to an extent.” His first example of acceptable lying is his having dinner with an ex-girlfriend, and telling his wife that he was at the office working late. When I read this, I was definitely a little put-off. 

There are many instances in which lying can be viewed as acceptable. The usual example is a wife asking her husband how she looks. Many others fall into this gray area, as well, depending on the situation. Thaler portrays the importance of honesty as “a delightful myth, sustained by advertisers, Dr. Ruth, pulp novels, Cosmopolitan magazine, and B movies.” He also goes to say that he always tells his life he loves her, when some days, he feels as if he does not. I am not asserting that every truth of significant importance should be told. That is not realistic. However, while “white lies” can help a relationship, keeping serious matters hidden away can be severely detrimental to the relationship. The notion that “as intimacy deeonds, the need for lying deepens also” is a depressing one. I do my best to not be naiive, and usually I am quite adept at this. But I would at least like to think that if I were to enter into a serious relationship, lies wouldn’t have to become a large part of what we were building. I am curious as to how Thaler’s wife reacted to learning that he had spent an evening with his ex-girlfriend in Time magazine. That would be a true test of Thaler’s theory.

Conflict Styles

I have been waiting for us to cover conflict styles for the entire semester so that I could tell this story. 

I happen to have a group of friends, all of whom have extremely different conflict styles, and it can get quite interesting. This exemplifies it:

This past May, three of my girlfriends, myself, and our male friend who is in the Marines all went on vacation for a week in Orlando. Towards the end of the week of living together, certain members of the trip were beginning to feel the need to engage in conflict. Especially while under the influence. We got back late one night from a night downtown. Myself and my friend Nikki were decidedly happy and wanted to chat and go to sleep. Our other two female friends, however, were feeling a bit differently, and proceeded to get into a conflict about who was sleeping in which bed. (These are college-aged individuals, by the way). Andrea is a competitive fighter, and starts screaming at Brooke and grabs her weave. Brooke is usually a yielding fighter, but due to external influences and the situation, suddenly becomes a competitive fighter as well, and attempts to hit her with a barstool. Nikki, an avoiding fighter in friendships, reacts by rolling her eyes and ignoring them. Our male friend, Betinho, is an indirect fighter, and is telling them to stop fighting, without actually doing anything. I try to go the avoiding route by pretending to be asleep, but have to resort back to collaborating and compromising to break the two apart, along with the help of my reluctant other friends, which took several hours and a lot of convincing.

After this semester started, I was reminded of conflict styles, and realized that this anecdote shows perfectly how a mixture of conflict styles can create the “perfect storm.” Usually, for a situation such as this to happen, there must be more than one competitive fighter present. However, in romantic relationships (and other types as well), there are many combinations of conflict styles that can cause frustration and significant issues. For instance, I once dated someone with a yielding conflict style. I mostly fall into the collaborating style, and whenever there would be a disagreement, he would just attest that I was right about everything. While that might have been what a competitive fighter would want, I didn’t have an interest in “winning,” and would become frustrated when things were not close to equal in conflicts. 

I think it’s also worth mentioning that it seems like most people have traits of more than one conflict styles. There are very few people that I can think of that seem to completely represent just one style, and those that do are often caught in conflicts due to their strong personalities. No matter what your personal conflict style is, it definitely helps to be aware of it, and to be able to identify others’ styles, in order to manage conflict effectively.

2 Notes

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me

As it turns out, Chapter 7 is quite the eye-opener as far as relationships go. 

I completed the Love Styles Profile on page 220 with a particular current relationship in mind. My highest-scoring section was a tie between playful / game-playing love and compassionate / friendship, AKA Ludus / Storge. Uh oh. My roommate also completed the the profile. Her highest-scoring section was beauty / passionate, followed by obsessive, AKA Eros and Mania. She did not agree with this assessment, unsurprisingly.

What I found interesting was that “love styles,” (whether you’re “in love” or not) definitely can change depending on the relationship. If I completed the profile with a previous relationship in mind, I am almost certain that I would have scored differently. I believe this is a combination of the differences between relationships I have had, and the effect of the previous one on the relationship that follows it.

According to Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, which asserts that love is made up of three components - Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment, I identify with Romantic Love in my current relationship. However, my further exploration of the triangles leads me to believe that the other person in this relationship is very likely experiencing a different triangle. While it seems that different love “styles” can complement each other, it appears that most likely, two partners in a relationship should agree upon whether or not each component of Sternberg’s trifecta is present. I’ve been expecting this to cause an issue for some time now, yet, it has not.

Which brings me to the topic of clarity. On page 228, the book says, "[b]ut, of course, there are times when the ambiguity and confusion associated with communicating intimacy, closeness, love, and liking serve a useful purpose. At such times, we aren’t interested in being ‘clear.’" So perhaps the apparent disconnect in my relationship has not caused a problem because, for whatever reason, both of us aren’t interested in being "clear" (myself especially). This could be because clarification of feelings and of the relationship could make it "more serious," and it could leave the other partner vulnerable. If both partners are being silent about their feelings, neither one will want to express them until the other one does. Hence, the specifics of the relationship become a taboo topic.

Some theories in the book suggest that the relationship I am in is a type of love, others suggest it is not love at all. Naturally, then, I cannot agree with all of them. While the many definitions did allow me to more clearly understand some aspects of my own relationships, mostly, it confused me more. The sheer amount of differing theories on love proves that it really is a indefinable idea.

Politeness Theory and Face Threatening Acts

Since I usually compare the theories we learn in class to my own life, I decided it would be a beneficial challenge to compare one to an example from the media.

The one television show I regularly watch, House, MD., is a prime example of Politeness Theory in action. The two main characters, Gregory House and Lisa Cuddy, are constantly engaging in FTAs. 

Most commonly, both characters engage in Positive Face Threatening Acts directed at the other. Cuddy (House’s boss) frequently disagrees with and challenges House’s opinions, as does House to her. House is also commonly seen threatening Cuddy’s positive face with insults, disregard for authority, and inappropriate behavior. Both characters recently engaged in Positive FTAs to themselves, when they finally shared their emotions with each other. In the same episode, House used a Bald On Record Strategy, where he outed his and Cuddy’s relationship to the rest of the hospital staff, threatening her positive face.

Negative Face Threatening Acts are also seen on the show. For instance, in a recent episode, Cuddy obstructs House’s freedom by restricting him from receiving massages from a hooker he used to sleep with. This takes away from House’s independence, and she is able to do this because their relationship has recently advanced to a more serious level, giving her more authority.

In application in real life, I feel it would be most beneficial to remain aware of face threatening acts in competitive situations, such as in classroom environments, business arrangements, and even in some social situations.


While I understood the idea of disclaimers in interaction rituals in Chapter 6, I found it a bit difficult to understand what each specific kind meant. I therefore decided to try to come up with some of my own examples for each type, to better understand them.

Hedging - what you’re about to say is tentative, and you’re open to other points of view.
- Book ex: “I’m no expert, but…”
- “Correct me if I’m wrong here, but…”
- “I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but…” 

Credentialing - knowing that the other person is going to react unfavorably to what you’re going to say, but you soften the reaction by saying something in addition.
- Book ex: “Don’t get me wrong here…”
- “You might not agree, but….”
- “No offense, but…” 

Sin licenses - knowing that the other person is going to react unfavorably to what you’re about to say, but that’s the way it has to be
- Book ex: “What I’m going to do is contrary to the law, but not its spirit.”
- “You’re not going like to hear this, but…”
- “I know you feel differently, but I’m going through with this anyway.” 

Cognitive - noting that what you’re about to say will make you seem crazy
- Book ex: “I know this sounds crazy but…”
- “This is completely unrelated, but…”
- “I don’t expect you to believe me, but…” 

Appeal for suspended judgment - asking someone to wait to hear the whole story before they judge
- Book ex: “Hear me out.”
- “Please save your questions for later.”
- “Let me explain first.”

Hewitt and Stokes categorized these different types of disclaimers, however, they all seem very similar, and I feel as if it might not have been necessary to differentiate between them. Regardless, being able to recognize disclaimer can help you realize when someone is trying to lessen a negative reaction to breaking a rule. While sometimes warranted, it can also be a strategy to avoid responsibility for a sub-par performance, an offense remark, an outlandish idea, etc.

The Implications of Implicit Personality Theory

Implicit Personality Theory (IPA) suggests that we make generalizations about others once we learn about one of their traits. Supposedly, we each have a mental catalogue of traits in our minds, and as soon as we obtain information about one of them, we automatically assume that other traits of the person will be characteristic of this.

Since learning about this theory, I’ve noticed it in action quite often, both in myself and others. 

It’s incredibly easy to assume that since a person is a certain way about something, then the rest of their character will coincide with that trait. It helps us to build an image - a consistent one - of what that person is like. It reduces our uncertainty, and makes us feel like we know the person. Undoubtedly, everyone does this at least some of the time. For instance, one of my good male friends is a “tough guy” - gets in fights, yells, drinks a lot of beer. So I was shocked when one day he poured his heart out to me about how much he’s still in love with his ex-girlfriend. It was inconsistent with his personality, and I had just assumed that because he runs around banging his fists on his chest that he didn’t have any feelings for her anymore. But I was wrong, and it made me see him as a much more complex person. It can be frustrating to see people doing this to others when it is in a negative way (oh, that kid is covered in tattoos and piercings, he must be nothing like me and my friends).

I’ve also found that this happens to me quite often, for some reason. I have a strange tendency to surprise and confuse people once they get to know me better. For instance, people are surprised to learn that I always go out on the weekends, even though I’m constantly focused on doing well in school. My iPod is apparently the most confusing thing for people to deal with - it seems that my personality and appearance don’t coincide with Stone Temple Pilots or Tool. There are varied reactions to this.

What I took away from learning about this theory is that it is important to be careful with the assumptions you make about others just because you know one things about them. Most people have many different layers, and they’re not all the same. While it can be useful while you are getting to know someone to begin to guess what they are like, it is better in the long run to not assume that you know these things for sure. That being said, there have also been multiple instances where I have tried to restrain myself from making assumptions based upon someone’s singular personality traits (just because he’s highly self-confident doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about anybody but himself), but it turned out the assumptions I tried to avoid making were correct all along. Essentially, it is best to at least be aware of when you are make assumptions like those seen in IPA, but at the same time, they can be useful when used correctly.