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Browsing by Subject "relational communication"

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  • Vehkanen, Laura Helena (2008)
    Topic avoidance in romantic relationships has not been researched before in Finnish speech communication research, and this study was expected to increase the understanding of a phenomenon that acquires relatively dramatic attributes in everyday conversation. The aim of this study was to describe topic avoidance based on what was told in the interviews, and to describe the beliefs concerning functional or dysfunctional relational communication that can be interpreted from the interviewees' speech when they talk about topic avoidance. The theoretical reference frame of this study consists of the Communication Privacy Management Theory, relational dialectics, and earlier, mostly American research on topic avoidance. Ten Finnish people aged 22-31, who all had previous experience on one or more marital or common-law relationships were interviewed for this study. Additional material for the study was gathered from the interviewees by using the role playing method to describe interactional events where something essential is left unsaid in the context of romantic relationship. The following values were attributed to functional communication in romantic relationships: openness, equality, honesty, trust and positivity. The dialectical nature of the phenomenon being researched is evident in the way that along with openness, the interviewees talked about excessive openness that should occasionally be avoided in the context of relational communication by leaving things unsaid. Topic avoidance was seen both as a conscious strategic communication for managing privacy, and as an uncontrollable force of nature that at its worst destroys the relationship. When topic avoidance is seen as strategic communication, the choice concerning what is left unsaid is made by weighing the following dimensions against each other: risks/ benefits (for self, relationship), protects/ does not protect (self, partner, relationship), burdens/ does not burden (self, partner, relationship), honesty/ dishonesty, responsibility lies with self/ responsibility does not lie with self. Topic avoidance was acceptable if it was used in order to preserve the relationship, as opposed to gaining power in the relationship or causing insecurity for the partner. The acceptability of topic avoidance varied according to whether it differed from lying or not. When the interviewees talk about topic avoidance, their speech can be interpreted to mean that in spite of uncontrollability, communicative choices can be made in relational communication and that skills concerning communication in romantic relationships can be learned.