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role in maintaining
Maintaining relationships
 All relationships require maintenance. Of course,
different relationships require different types of
maintenance, and some will require more time
and attention than others.
 Although many factors have been found to be
significant in relational maintenance;
communication has been the most critical factor
in all the various types of relationships.
Defining communication
 Communication has been defined as any process in
which a message containing information is transferred,
especially from one person to another, via any of a
number of media.
 Communication may be verbal or nonverbal; it may
occur directly, such as in a face-to-face conversation or
with the observation of a gesture; or it may occur
remotely, spanning space an time such as in writing.
 Communication contributes to the development and
maintenance of ALL relationships
Communicate the
following behaviors to your
neighbor without verbal
 Communication also involves how we express
our cognitions (thoughts, ideas, and feelings) to
others, including what we say and how we say it.
 But when we communicate with others, we also
communicate attitudes, values, priorities, and
Defining communication
 Interpersonal communication: Information has to
be SENT from one person and RECEIVED by
another person.
 The sender can become the receiver and the receiver
can become the sender at any time in a conversation.
 Can be verbal and/or nonverbal
Maintaining relationships
 Good communication is the foundation of
successful relationships, both in familial and
romantic ones. But we communicate with much
more than words.
Communication factors in
 Attribution style
 Self Disclosure
Maintaining relationships
S Fincham, Bradbury, and Scott (1990) have
suggested that it is important to understand the
role cognitions play in driving emotional
expression, behavioral interactions, an satisfaction
in marriage.
S Much of the cognitive research has been in the
area of attribution, focusing on the explanations
spouses give for behavior within the marriage.
What is attribution?
How can attributions
Attributions in relationships
 The majority of empirical work using Attribution
Theory in relationships concerns the processes
and effects of attributions in married couples.
 Only some of this work centers on
communication processes, but all of it is relevant
to understanding the role of attributions in
maintaining interpersonal interaction.
Attributions in relationships
 Trained as a clinical psychologist at the
University of Illinois, Dr. Bradbury studies
how intimate relationships develop and
 A large body of his research as been in the
role of attributing styles in developing
Attributions in relationships
 In an impressive body of research, Thomas Bradbury, and
colleagues have supported the assumption that
attributions play a causal role in both the development
and the breakdown of close relationships.
 Their theoretical analysis emphasizes that context always
must be taken into account in understanding
communication in relationships.
Attributions in
 Their research has shown that spouses in distressed
relationships attribute the causes of their partners'
behavior in ways that lead them to perceive those
causes as internal character flaws of their partners.
Attributions in
 Those in stable relationships, on the other hand,
explain the causes of their difficulties in more caring
ways, such as attributing them to outside
circumstances (Bradbury & Fincham, 1990).
 (Read more: pg. 280-281 Human Relationships packet)
Attributions in relationships
 In their 1998 journal, they asserted: “There is increasing
evidence that attribution communication for negative marital
events (e.g. partner comes home late from work) can increase
the probability of conflict behavior (e.g. “he only thinks about
himself and his needs”)…
 Such conflict-promoting attributions are related to (a) less
effective problem-solving behaviors, (b) more negative
behaviors during problem-solving and support-giving tasks,
and (c) specific affects (whining and anger) displayed during
Attributions in relationships
 This research is essentially based on fundamental
attribution error which states that people in
unhealthy relationships tend to make personal
attributions more often than contextual attributions.
Attributions in relationships
 This body of research suggests attributions that partners make
about each other are associated with levels of satisfaction
with the relationship as well as their behavior toward each
 Negative communication (associated with negative
attributions) usually cause dissatisfaction and may eventually
lead to the end of a relationship.
How can fundamental
attribution error negatively
impact relationships?
Examples of attributions in
 In a happy relationship, if your partner brings home
flowers, you’re likely to attribute it to the partner’s
warm, loving personality.
 In an unhappy relationship, if your partner brings
home flowers for an anniversary/Valentine’s you
might discount their wanted behavior by explaining it
as situational.
How much should a friend
or intimate partner know
about you?
Self disclosure.
 Maintaining a close relationship with another person
requires a certain level of intimacy.
 Gradually, you begin to feel comfortable enough with
the other person to trust him or her with your
feelings, your dreams, and your self-doubts, and be
confident that the other will not reject or blame you.
This is called Self-disclosure.
Self disclosure.
 Self-disclosure can be defined as the intentional sharing of
personal information about oneself.
 Disclosure may include sharing both high-risk and low-risk
information as well as personal experiences, ideas and
attitudes, feelings and values, past facts and life stories, and
even future hopes, dreams, ambitions, and goals.
 In sharing information about yourself, you make choices about
what to share and with whom to share it.
Why is this so important in
our relationships?
Self disclosure.
 Normally, to achieve this kind of intimacy, we rely on
reciprocity. If you tell me something about yourself, I'll tell
you something about me.
 Over time, the exchange deepens and the two people disclose
more and more information to one another. Disclosing
something about yourself makes both strangers and friends feel
closer and empathetic.
 Self-Disclosure has been found to be very important in
maintaining intimate relationships.
Self Disclosure in research
 Drawing on social exchange theory, Altman and
Taylor sought to explain some of the decisions people
make about whether to share information about
 As a way of visualizing this process, Altman and
Taylor use the metaphor of an onion and its layers of
Self Disclosure in research
Self-disclosure has been studied on various types of
relationships across a variety of cultures.
Families (Golish, 2000; Turner & West, 2002),
Teachers (Russ, Simonds, & Hunt, 2002)
Marriages (Dickson & Walker, 2001),
 Physician–Patient relationships (Agne, Thompson, & Cusella,
Self Disclosure in research
 Disclosure begins on the outer layer and proceeds to
the core of the onion.
 These authors also suggest that there are two levels of
disclosure. The first level is called the breadth
dimension. This is the skin of the onion and its most
outer layers. In terms of self-disclosure, this layer is
largely made up of superficial information about
ourselves that we commonly share with a number of
different people.
Self Disclosure in research
 On this superficial level, there is a great deal of
information that will likely cost little to disclose.
 Later, in a relationship, communicators gradually
share a higher depth of information.
 Information at the depth level is more significant and
more central to who we are.
Self Disclosure in research
 Thus, sharing information from our depth may incur
greater risk taking.
 The information from this dimension of self is
typically known by and held in confidence by only a
few people.
Self Disclosure in research
 Sometimes, it includes very strong feelings, beliefs,
and concerns. It may also include secrets, regrets or
hurtful experiences, and painful memories.
Information from the depth dimension, which is more
private and significant, will likely be exchanged later
in a relationship.
 Thus, sharing these depth level feelings essential
shares a part of who we are with with another person. This
leads to stronger and more trusting relationships.
Self Disclosure in research
 When Altman and Taylor (1987) developed their
model, they hypothesized that self-disclosure and
relational development followed a linear path.
 According to this view of the theory, relationships
grow as communicators become more willing to selfdisclose information.
Self Disclosure in research
 Relationships may also go through a process of
“depenetration”, as partners stop sharing information.
 Periods of social penetration may be followed by
periods of depenetration. We may move forward in a
relationship, becoming closer, but then pull back before
becoming closer again.
Critique of
Altman & Taylor’s theory
 Relationships may also go through a process of
“depenetration”, as partners stop sharing information.
 Periods of social penetration may be followed by
periods of depenetration. We may move forward in a
relationship, becoming closer, but then pull back before
becoming closer again.
Gender Differences
Masculine and Feminine Styles
 Research shows that woman are somewhat more willing than men to
share their feelings
 In terms of amount and depth:
 Female – Female were at the top
 Male – Female came in second
 Male – Male had the least disclosure
 Generalizations do not apply to every person
 Biological sex is not as important as the chosen gender role when
expressing emotion
Cultural differences
Cultural Influences on Intimacy
 Notions of public and private selves have changed
over time
 Collectivist cultures
 Generally do not reach out to outsiders, often waiting until
they are properly introduced before entering into
 Individualistic cultures
 Make fewer distinctions between personal relationships and
casual ones
Can self-disclosure be related
to attraction?
Read more: 279-282