Role of Electronic Communication in Building Relationships

Role of Electronic Communication in Building Relationships

New communication technologies are changing the way we build and maintain relationships. Ten years ago people became acquainted mostly with those with whom they had personal- physical contact. At the same time, dating services advertised that they could get people in the same community acquainted with each other within a Welch. Today, people are able to make acquaintances with  people around the world within seconds

From Internet to In-Person Relationships

In face-to-face-relationships, trust is our it over time. We meet a person and then begin interacting. As a result of the behavior we encounter, we then make decisions about trust. For instance, we loan a book and consider when and if it is returned; we make a date and consider whether and how often the person is on time; we tell the person something that is personal and consider whether that person keeps the information to him- or herself 0; communicates it to others. Through such experiences, we determine whether or not we can trust the person and thus whether or not we want to move toward a more intimate relations

In EM relationships, making a trust evaluation is more difficult. Some of he media through which relationships are developed are very opaque. That is, we lose most of the spontaneity and most of the information normally available through nonverbal channels. As a result, our capacity to judge the accuracy of t”‘e trustworthiness of the behavior of another is limited

The Dark Side of Electronically Mediated Relationships

Despite its appeal, using EM communication to form relationships has led to several unethical practices.

Abuse of anonymity

One unethical practice for Internet-based relationships is the common practice of assuming a fictitious online persona. A serious question
for Internet relationships is, “What kind of a relationship can be forged when , users are not honest about who they are?” This practice removes both accountability and responsibility. Without these, sound relationships are not possible. Kramer and Kramer (1997) assert that women have the most to lose from fictitious identity usage (p. 236).


third potential problem for children and adults alike is technological addictions, defined as non chemical (behavioral) addictions that involve human-machine interaction (Griffiths, 1998, p. 62). The seductiveness of Communicating electronically can result in the disruption of ongoing interpersonal relationships. One extreme example was reported in a recent Cincinnati Enquirer article (“Angry Wife,” 1999). It appears that a wife became angry

because her husband was on the Internet at 2:05 a.m. He had been online until 4 a.m. the previous day “chatting” with women. In an act of desperation, anger, jealousy, and frustration, this wife tried to cut the power cords on the computer before attacking it with the meat cleaver. She pleaded no contest to domestic violence and resisting arrest and was fined two hundred dollars.

Theoretical Perspectives on Relationships

What determines whether or not we will try to build a relationship with another person? Why do some relationships never move beyond a certain level or begin to deteriorate? Two theories-interpersonal needs theory and exchange theory provide answers to these questions.

When two people have an honest relationship, it is inevitable that there will be rimes when one person’s attempt to satisfy his or her own needs will conflict with the other person’s desires, When this happens, the partners experience Interpersonal conflict is the result of a situation wherein the needs or ideas of one person are at odds or in opposition to the needs or ideas of another. In these conflict situations, participants have choices about how they act and how

Although” many people view conflict as bad (and, to be sure, conflict situations. are likely to make us anxious and uneasy), conflict is often useful in confronting and resolving honest differences. In this section, we will look at five styles of managing conflict and then suggest specific communication strategies that can be used to initiate and respond to conflict effectively.

Styles of. Managing Conflict

When faced with conflict, people can withdraw, accommodate, force, compromise, or collaborate

Accommodating Accommodating

Accommodating is giving in to the other’s needs while ignoring your own. For instance, Juan would like to spend his vacation alone with
Mariana, but when she says I think it would be fun to have Sarah and Paul come with us, don’t you?” Juan replies, “OK, whatever you want. Considered from an individual satisfaction standpoint, accommodation is a win-lose situation. The person who accommodates loses and allows the other person to win.

From a relational satisfaction standpoint, habitual accommodation has two problems. First, conflicts resolved through accommodation may lead to poor decision making because important facts, arguments, and positions are not voiced. Second, from an exchange theory perspective, habitual accommodation -results in the accommodation’s consistently receiving less. Eventually this can result in the accommodation’s seeking more balanced exchange relationships. Habitually accommodating is a problem, but when the issue really isn’t that important but the relationship is, it is appropriator and effective to for instance, whether to have chicken or fish for dinner may be unimportant to you, but if your in-laws prefer fish. you may accommodate them, Moreover, it should, be noted that accommodating is a preferred style of dealing with conflict in some cultures. In Japanese culture, for instance, it is thought to be more humble and face-saving to accommodate than to risk losing respect through conflict

Forcing Forcing is demanding through physical treats, verbal attacks, coercion, or manipulation that your needs be satisfied or your ideas be accepted. The phrase “might makes right” captures the forcing style. • Considered from an individual satisfaction standpoint, forcing is win-lose. Nonperformance their way with little regard to the cost borne by others. From a relational satisfaction standpoint, forcing rarely improves and usually hurts a relationship. Because of this, forcing is only appropriate when the issue is very important and the relationship is not and in emergencies when quick and derisive action must be taken to ensure safety or minimize harm.


Compromising occurs when both people make sacrifices to find common ground, attempting to resolve the conflict by providing at least some satisfaction for both parties. Under this approach, both people give up some part of what they really want or believe, or they trade one thing they want to get something else.

From a personal satisfaction standpoint, compromising creates a lose-lose situation because both parties in one sense lose” even as they win.” Although compromising is a popular style, there are significant problems associated with it. One of special concern is that the quality of a decision is affected if one of the parties “trades away a better solution” to effect the compromise. Compromising is appropriate when the relationship is important, the issues have no simple solution, and both people have a strong interest in some parts of the issue.  relational satisfaction standpoint, compromise does not damage long-term relationships because both parties gain some satisfaction.


Collaborating is problem solving by addressing the needs and issues. of each. party to arrive at a solution that is mutually satisfying. During
collaboration, people discuss the issues and their feelings about the’ issues and identify the characteristics that are important for them to find in a solution. Thus from an individual satisfaction standpoint, collaboration is win because the conflict is resolved to the satisfaction of all.

From a relational satisfaction standpoint, collaboration is positive because bot sides feel that they have been heard. They get to share ideas and weigh and consider information. Whatever the solution, it is a truly collaborative effort. In effect, collaboration proves to be the most appropriate and the most effective means of managing conflict. In the Spotlight on Scholars that follows, we can see-how the res-arch of Daniel Canary has validated the importance of both appropriateness and effectiveness in conflict management

kc solving conflict through collaborative discussion requires a problem-solving approach, Let’s go back and Eduardo’s conflict ever the sixty dollars Eduardo was supposed to pay back to Susanna for her failure to recognize his problems. So, how do they collaborate? In general, the collaborative approach includes five parts: (1) defining the problem, (2) analyzing the problem (what are its causes and symptoms), (3) developing mutually acceptable criteria for judging solutions (what goals do we want to achieve), (4) suggesting possible solutions (what could we do), and (5) selecting the best solution. Sometimes not all the steps are needed.

For instance, after Justin points out her parents’ need for the money Eduardo quietly explains that he also owes some money on his credit card bill so he ran’t pay her folks immediately. As they discuss this, Justin sees that because the credit card interest is so high Eduardo needs to payoff the credit card debt as quickly as possible so that he has money to pay her folks. After more discussion, Eduardo suggests that while he is paying the credit card debt he could come up with some money each month for her folks. Justin suggests ten dollars a month until the debt is paid. Eduardo agrees that he could handle that.