The Meaning of "Relationship" in Interpersonal Communication

By Richard L. Conville; L. Edna Rogers | Go to book overview

6
"But I Thought that We Were More than Error Variance": Application of the Social Relations Model to Personal Relationships

Sandra Metts

Anyone who has been interested in the phenomenon known loosely as close or personal relationships, whether as participant or scientist, has been struck by the complexity of relational life. The conversations of ordinary people are peppered not only with references to members of their relational network, such as friend, lover, dating partner, husband or wife, parents, and other category designations, but also with more discerning expressions, such as "just a sexual relationship," "only a study partner," "a good friend but not best friend," a "fishing buddy," and so forth. Moreover, traditional role and kin relationships are sometimes defined as personally selected, for example, "my mother (brother, sister, father) is my best friend," and carefully distinguished, for example, "He's my biological father but not my real dad."

Clearly, something in the nature of these interactions and their interpretations are identifiable and consequential to people as they go about their daily affairs. Similarly, people observe the interactions of those around them and reveal their insights by reference to relationship properties. For example, coworkers or academic colleagues who spend considerable time working together may be observed to deviate from the norms of polite discourse, to use shorthand expressions and personal idioms, to complete each other's sentences, to co-construct stories or edit each other's stories, and to have similar attitudes about social objects, events, and other people. Observations of these interactions by outsiders may evoke the

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