deconstructive conflict strategies

strategies that manage conflict in a way that harms the relationship and can have negative consequences for all parties involved


some people must navigate tensions between or face exaggerated societal oppressions due to overlaps in multiple identities; Crenshaw (who developed the concept of intersectionality) focused on Black women's experience of being Black, women, and Black+women.


Believing in your worth and right to happiness and equity.

Social penetration theory

Altman & Taylor (1973) argue that as relationships progress, they tend to evolve and deepen through increased disclosure


hen two or more individuals disagree on a matter, leading to a negative emotional state

Abstract loss

Loss related to social interactions (or the absence thereof), losing a sense of character, feeling like something is now missing.


putting the needs of others before one's own needs in a conflict

Active listening

giving one's full attention to the other person and seeking to understand their perspective


a sense of caring, fond feelings, and a generally positive sense of togetherness

Asynchronous communication

communication that involves a delay between when a message is sent and when it is received and interpreted by the receiver


ignoring or sidestepping conflict altogether


When hurtful messages are delivered over and over with the intent to tear someone down (can also include physical hurt)


working together to find a solution that satisfies both parties' needs and interests


win-lose conflict mentality, where the individual focuses on their own needs and goals, often at the expense of others


statements that represent one’s discontent with their partner’s attitude about a situation, a particular behavior, or personal features/characteristics


finding a middle ground that satisfies both parties' needs and interests

Conflict management

preventing conflict from occurring, and de-escalating it when it does occur so no harm is caused

Constructive conflict strategies

strategies that manage conflict in a way that promotes positive outcomes for all parties involved


statements that represent one’s discontent with the results of their evaluation of a situation or behavior; these exist within a power structure (one person is evaluating, the other is evaluated)

Cultural competence

understanding and respecting the cultural differences among colleagues


Beyond being just a way of living, culture includes the ways one is taught to believe, behave, speak, relate, organize, and interact at the personal, professional, social, and political levels. Culture may include more concrete things like foods or holidays, but it can also be abstract—such as a cultural emphasis on "freedom" or "happiness."


the intentional manipulation of information to communicate something other than the truth for one’s own benefit

Downward communication

communication from managers or supervisors to their employees

emotional intelligence

the ability to work with and understand the drivers of the emotions of oneself and others

feminine cultures

community-minded approach to communication and people caring for one another despite roles or identities

First impression

The conclusions made about a person in a first encounter.


the act of agreeing to reconcile and move forward following the occurrence of a relational transgression

Formal communication

structured, official communication that follows specific rules and procedures

frames of reference

ideas about what a relationships or situation could or should look like based on previous relational experiences


a manipulative tactic that involves making the other person doubt their own thoughts, feelings, and memories


A “vulnerable and painful state” triggered by loss.

high-context cultures

communicators depend on the context in which the message is delivered (i.e., nonverbal signs and symbols, the time and place) to embed meaning in the message

Informal communication

casual, unstructured communication that occurs between colleagues in the workplace


who you are and how you see yourself.

Identity management

how you share your identity with others through your verbal, nonverbal, and written interpersonal communication.


a breach of relational boundaries via the introduction of a third (or more) parties into an exclusive relationship emotionally, sexually, or affectionately without consent

Interpersonal attraction

a “liking for” or interest in another individual


assigning meaning to information.

intrapersonal communication

The ways in which we speak to and think about ourselves internally.

Lateral communication

communication between colleagues at the same level in the workplace

Looking Glass Self

Charles Horton Cooley’s (1902) theory that argues that one person’s sense of self is likely shaped by how they think other people see them.

low-context cultures

people tend to say what they mean, using words and linguistic details to convey a message.

masculine cultures

emphasis on power hierarchies, competition, and assertiveness

Nonverbal communication

any communication that does not involve spoken or written words


Expected behaviors or social responses that correspond to certain situations.


situating the information you select in the context of what you already know, such as what you have been taught or intuition.


The way that you attend to, organize, and interpret information in your environment, including messages from others and sensory indicators like smell or touch.

Physical loss

The loss of something that one can—or can no longer—touch or measure.


keeping information to oneself that no one else has a right to know

Prosocial maintenance behavior

any positive action that fosters trust and intimacy between individuals in a relationship

Relational abuse

ny behavior that allows one partner to exercise power over another partner, physically or mentally, that causes damage to their self-esteem and their sense of physical or psychological safety

Relationship maintenance

range of actions taken by partners to uphold their relationship

routine maintenance behaviors

less strategic everyday tasks that help to maintain a relationship


an individual keeping information from others who are directly connected to the information in some fashion


Attending to a piece of information in the environment.


The process of establishing behaviors that promote a comprehensive, lasting sense of wellbeing.


Attributes one perceives in the self without value-assessments (e.g., I play tennis, I spend a lot of time in school, I am part of a big family).


the process of revealing information about yourself to others in a relational context


The degree to which one believes they can perform a task or behavior successfully.


Perceptions of the self that are rooted in value assessments (e.g., I am not very athletic, I am very smart, I am usually good at providing support to others in times of need).

Self-Expansion Theory

being in close relationships can actually increase one’s sense of efficacy; humans are naturally motivated to seek an increase in efficacy so they have more access to and opportunities to explore the world, and being connected to others helps them achieve that.

Social Identity Theory

This theory explains that your sense of who you are is largely shaped by interpersonal encounters and the groups to which you belong (Tajfel & Turner, 1979)

Social support

actions that make us feel like we are not alone


Assumptions or generalizations made about a group of people or individuals in a group.


when someone shuts down emotionally and stops communicating with their partner

Strategic maintenance behaviors

ctions that are carried out deliberately to help maintain the relationship


pockets of unique culture situated in the larger culture with which a specific group of people in a larger culture may identify.

Synchronous communication

communication in which messages are exchanged between the sender and receiver in real time

topic avoidance

refusal to have a conversation about a specific topic

Upward communication

communication from employees to their managers or supervisors

Verbal communication

exchanging information, ideas, and thoughts through spoken words

Written communication

exchanging information, ideas, and thoughts through written words


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In Your Eyes: Communicating in Close Relationships Copyright © 2023 by Sydney Brammer; Ryan Martinez; and Narissra Punyanunt-Carter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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