Whenever Mike does some cleaning of the house and asks Lucy to help, Lucy typically replies that she is too tired after a full day at work to do cleaning. Mike feels it is unfair that he should be responsible for all the cleaning duties. Each scenario was designed with two protagonists, an offended party e.
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Mike , and the party causing offense e. An overall problem was communicated within the scenario description e. Lucy is not helping to clean the house as often as Mike would like. In addition, both the perspective of the offended party e. Mike feels it unfair that he is responsible for all cleaning , and the offending party e.
Lucy is usually very tired after a full day at her work were also included. After reading a scenario, the participant was presented with eight statements that the offended party might use to begin a conflict discussion with the offending party. Table 1 shows all the statements presented to participants for the example scenario.
Note that the statement type information provided in italics in the table was not presented to participants. The six scenarios were evenly spread across issues between romantic partners two , friends two , and work colleagues two. All scenarios are provided in Supplemental Information 1 associated with this article.
This research aims to investigate a general impact of subtle differences in communication rather than focusing on specific relationships or situations. The authors acknowledge that there is likely to be interesting differences to be found across different relationships and situations but those questions, while interesting, are beyond the scope of the present research. Scenarios were presented in random order to participants, as were the order of the statements, via the online survey program Qualtrics.
For each statement the participant rated the likelihood that the offending party would react in a defensive manner on a six-point scale extremely unlikely to extremely likely. Participant ratings were averaged across scenarios. This provided a composite likelihood of defensive reaction score for each of the eight statement types, see Fig. In Fig. This suggests that when I-language is used in conjunction with communicated perspective there is a larger benefit of incorporating I-language compared to when no perspective is communicated.
The present study investigated whether subtle changes in language can influence the perceived impact of statements used to open a conflict discussion.
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As expected, participants rated statements that contained I-language as having a lower likelihood of evoking a defensive reaction compared with statements that contained you-language. In the present study, the benefit of I-language compared to you-language was larger for statements that communicated one or more perspectives. Another expectation was that participants would rate communicating perspective more favourably compared to no communication of perspective.
Results supported this expectation, which is consistent with prior recommendations that there is a benefit to communicating perspective during conflict and tense situations Ames, ; Cohen et al. Furthermore, the results revealed that when communicating perspective, the participants rated communicating both the self- and other-perspective as the most favourable, followed by communicating the other-perspective only, and finally the self-perspective only.
The present study is the first to directly compare ratings across statements that vary in the type of perspective communicated. These results suggest that as an individual act, communicating the perspective of the other is more important than communicating the perspective of the self. However, results also suggest that a combination of communicating both the perspective of the self and other is the best strategy for opening a conflict discussion. In sum, the results suggest that we are more likely to receive a defensive and hostile reaction when we do not communicate any type of perspective, regardless of whether we use I-language or you-language.
On the other hand, if we communicate using statements that include both the perspective of the self and the other person, and include I-language, then we are less likely to receive a defensive response. Arguably, our findings reported here are more appropriately generalised to less interactive forms of communication such as text messaging and email.
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However, it must also be noted that the results of the present study do parallel findings investigating more interactive contexts Cohen et al. In our study we utilised a within-participants design, where each statement was rated by all participants. There is however no empirical evidence to confirm or disconfirm this assertion. In the present study, our interest was to gain insight into the relative utility of the statements used. We concede however that there is a possibility that the magnitude of differences observed among statements in the present research might be lower if the study used a between-participants approach.
Our study is limited to perceptions regarding the likelihood of a defensive reaction. The purpose of our study was to broadly assess the perception of the statements, so we decided upon broad terminology i. Asking participants to rate all statements for many adjectives e. The present study suggests that I-language is less likely to produce a defensive reaction in a message recipient compared with you-language, particularly when it includes self and other communicated perspective.
However, a related type of language framing outside the scope of the present study is we-language. Various researchers have suggested that we-language e. Seider et al. A replication and extension of the present study incorporating statements predominately using we-language would therefore be a useful test of some arguments that exist for the benefits of we-language.
Our research has focused on opening statements to a conflict discussion. Assessing language for making closing statements would also be a useful avenue of further inquiry. Additionally, an investigation of the impact of specific statements mid-discussion would be interesting. Another avenue for future research is to specifically investigate if communicating perspective, or I-language and you-language, have different effects across discursive actions such as requesting, describing, questioning, criticizing, blaming, offering alternatives, rejecting, refusing, inviting, and so on.
What might be the best way to solicit a commitment? A simple request using you-language e. The current research has potential to be extended to further understand how to best communicate during conflict, but also how to be more persuasive in general. A practical implication of this research is to provide empirical evidence to inform guidelines about how to frame opening statements during conflict.
Generally, communicating some perspective i. When communicating perspective, the results of this study suggest that it is most beneficial to communicate both points of view i. This study has highlighted how different forms of language can interact with one another during conflict. Specifically, the study demonstrates how I-language becomes more beneficial for minimising hostility when one also communicates perspective e.
The primary mechanisms to explain a benefit of I-language over you-language are that I-language indicates a recognition of providing a specific point of view that is open for discussion Burr, , and that you-language can at times be perceived as accusatory Kubany et al. How other specific language e. However, for now, this research gives us a significant insight into how two of the most commonly cited language strategies interact with each other i. I-language and communicating perspective-taking. This supplementary file contains all the scenarios and statements that were used as part of this research.
Participants rated each of the statements regarding the extent they believed the intended recipient would react in a defensive manner.
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Raw data in SPSS format contains all participant ratings of all statements, in addition to the composite variables created from those ratings. Common use cases Typos, corrections needed, missing information, abuse, etc.
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