The Functionality of Conflict Behaviors and the Popularity of Those Who Engage in Them

By Tezer, Esin | Adolescence, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview
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The Functionality of Conflict Behaviors and the Popularity of Those Who Engage in Them


Tezer, Esin, Adolescence


Achieving personal goals and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships with others sometimes come into conflict. Such conflict is particularly problematic during adolescence, when the maintenance of peer relationships is an important social goal.

Two dimensions pertinent to conflict management - concern for self and concern for the other, each of which can range from low to high-have been articulated in different ways by many theorists (e.g., Blake & Mouton, 1964; Deutsch, 1994; Johnson & Johnson, 1987; Thomas, 1976). based on these dimensions, five conflict behaviors have been identified: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. Competing is associated with high concern for self and low concern for the other party; collaborating with high concern for self and other; compromising with intermediate concern for self and other; avoiding with low concern for self and other; and accommodating with low concern for self and high concern for the other party (Deutsch, 1994). Competing involves forcing the other party to acquiesce; collaborating has both parties working together to achieve a mutually satisfying outcome; compromising involves the search for a middle-ground solution; avoiding involves withdrawal from conflict situations; and accommodating involves meeting the needs of the other party at the expense of one's own needs (Thomas, 1976). The escalation or de-escalation of conflict largely depends on which behavior is employed. These conflict behaviors have been studied in relation to individual characteristics, such as attributional biases (e.g., Baron, 1985), situational constraints, such as power relationships (e.g., Tjosvold, Dann, & Wong, 1992), and conflict skill training programs and third-party intervention strategies (e.g., Zhang, 1994).

Boardman and Horowitz (1994) noted that attraction (via similarity/dissimilarity) is a factor in the process of conflict management. However, little is known about the degree to which the various conflict behaviors are associated with attraction in the realm of interpersonal relationships.

The proposition that "people tend to like those who have similar attitudes and dislike those who hold dissimilar ones" seems to be widely accepted in the attraction literature (Byrne, 1971). based on this proposition, it can be assumed that the more someone likes a person, the more eager he or she will be to associate with that person (i.e., to become a friend). This, therefore, has become a common way of measuring attraction (Berscheid & Walster, 1978).

If a conflict is accepted as the critical incident in the establishment of an interpersonal relationship, then the kinds of conflict behaviors engaged in will determine attractiveness. It may be expected that an individual, without necessarily taking part in the conflict, will evaluate another person's dual concerns (for serf, for other) based on perceived similarity and dissimilarity.

Research into the relationship between dual concerns (i.e., conflict behaviors) and attraction may provide a deeper understanding of the establishment and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. It may also contribute to an understanding of cross-cultural differences. Although there have not been many cross-cultural investigations into conflict behaviors, a distinction has been made between the Western task-oriented approach and the more relationship-oriented Eastern approach (Kimmel, 1994; Boardman & Horowitz, 1994). The present study had Turkish students evaluate (1) the extent to which individuals accomplish their goals via conflict behavior and (2) the preference for becoming friends with these individuals in light of their conflict behavior.

METHOD

Participants

The sample consisted of 267 students (148 females and 119 males) enrolled in different departments at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. They ranged in age from 19 to 22, with a mean of 20.

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