Dialectical Perspective Of Interpersonal Communication Essay


In recent years, interpersonal communication scholars have begun studying and theorizing about personal relationships through the lens of dialectical theory. This metatheoretical perspective highlights the mutually defining and processual nature of dialectical tensions that exist within, and form the context of, interpersonal relations. The application of dialectical theory to the study of interpersonal communication has engendered innovative scholarship that has recast theoretical assumptions, proposed alternative means for understanding and assessing relationships, and encouraged methodological eclecticism. To date, however, little systematic effort has been made to apply a dialectical perspective to the study of group communication. The purpose of this essay is to extend the metatheoretical insights of scholarship on dialectics to the concerns of group communication scholars, practitioners, and group members. In the sections that follow, we a) provide a description of dialectics (from our view), (b) examine some specific ways this perspective can help expand our understanding of group communication, and (c) offer some important considerations for using this approach in group communication research. In so doing, it is our hope that this chapter inspires the reader to see and study group communication in new ways.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2001 Sage Publications. This book chapter first appeared in New Directions in Group Communication Research.

Book edited by: Lawrence R. Frey

Please note that downloads of the chapter are for private/personal use only.

Purchase online at Sage Publications.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Scott D., and Lynette M. Long. ""Being a Part and Being Apart": A Dialectical Perspective on Group Communication." In New Directions in Group Communication Research, edited by Lawrence R. Frey, 25-41. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001.

Relational Dialectics Theory Essay

2542 Words11 Pages

Comparing relationships to unicycles seems strange or unlikely, however the constant strive for balance against opposing forces is a perfect description for relational dialectics theory (Griffin, 2009). Barbara Montgomery, an interpersonal communication scholar, describes riding a unicycle as a task of contradicting forces, constantly pulling against each other in a tug-of-war motion. The best way to control the wheel is by the constant changes in movement, adapting one way or the other, to maintain control over the fall (Griffin).
When Montgomery and Baxter first started researching interpersonal relationships they were surprised by the feedback they discovered from their interviews (Griffin, 2009). They found multiple truths to a lot…show more content…

They argue that these tendencies are common towards all relationships and are unavoidable (Griffin). The core concept that stands out of relational dialectics theory is contradiction (Griffin, 2009). A contradiction happens whenever you have two interdependent forces that mutually work against each other (Griffin). This is continually happening in relationships because they are in a constant state of flux. Relationships are constantly changing and there is no complete certainty. Baxter and Montgomery give the example of contradiction as a game of tug-of-war created through interpersonal conversations. Moreover, these theorists believe that contradictions are inevitable and can be used to constructively enhance the quality of relationships (Griffin). When researching, Baxter came across three reoccurring contradictions that come as a balancing act for relationships: integration-separation, stability-change, and expression-nonexpression (Griffin, 2009). There are two ways to experience these dialectic contradictions, internally or externally. Internal dialectic refers to the contradictions within the relationship, whereas external dialectic refers to contradictions between the couple and the community (Griffin). Baxter and Montgomery regard the internal dialect for integration and separation as a contradiction between connectedness and separateness (Griffin, 2009). As an individual a person feels the need to be independent and

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