Sample Research Paper on Communication Power and Conflict

Communication, Power and Conflict


The majority of people who have ever been in a marriage would undoubtedly admit that conflicts are part of all marriages (Tallman and Hsiao 174). As two people join their lives into one, problems begin to emerge. The two parties bring with them their unique personalities, experiences, and cultures into the union. Miscommunication is one of the main causes of conflict among married couples. There can only be a good marriage when husband and wife openly exchange their emotions, beliefs and desires. As a matter of fact, communication is one of the key components of a satisfying marriage. The majority of marriages undergo difficult times; this can potentially lead to a change in the manner in which the spouses communicate with one another. Many couples tend to develop bad habits and create destructive patterns when things do not work out as expected. Many couples in troubled marriages are often quoted saying they no longer communicate. They probably mean that their marriages are lacking effective communication. The reality is that people communicate all the time. Even couples giving each other silent treatment are actually communicating with one another. This paper examines some of the common communication pathways in a marriage. In particular, the paper explores non-verbal and verbal communication, gender differences in communication, communication patterns in marriage and various other problems in communication.

Non-Verbal and Verbal Communication

Communication involves both verbal and non-verbal. For the communicated meaning to be clear, the non-verbal and the verbal must align. Communication involves more than simply talking. Many important messages are relayed through body language, attitude, facial expressions, and unspoken words. Non-verbal communication can also be physical. For example, if a wife gently touches his husband`s face it conveys a message of affection. On the other hand, if the husband painfully squeezes his wife`s hand, it communicates a completely different message. According to Strong, Christine and Theodore (232), non-verbal communication performs three important functions. First, it conveys interpersonal attitudes, for example, holding hands may suggest affection. Second, it expresses emotions, for example, a smile indicates a good emotional state. In a marriage, expression of emotions is important because it lets the other partner know how you are feeling. Lastly, non-verbal communication handles ongoing interaction by showing the other partner that you are interested and you are paying attention. Other than touch, proximity and eye contact are equally important means of non-verbal communication. On the other hand, verbal communication happens through language. The primary function of verbal communication is reporting. Reporting implies delivering the information to the other party. For example, when a wife uses a word such as “love”, the husband understands because both of them have been socialized to understand the word. Verbal communication equally includes the use of symbols and signs to pass information. For couples in a marriage, for effective communication to occur, they must pay closer attention to what their partners are saying not only through words, but also through movements, actions, gestures, and attitudes. In addition, couples should also understand the non-verbal messages they themselves are conveying (Ahmadi 685).


Gender Differences in Communication

Significant differences exist in terms of how men and women communicate verbally and non-verbally. Men tend to control the topic under discussion and may use direct and abrupt methods, particularly when communicating with women. On the other hand, compared to men, women tend to use more linguistic forms, and as a result, they are viewed as less assertive and hence lacking power. These include the use of compound requests that are polite and not very direct. They also use disclaimers and qualifiers that make their messages sound tentative. Similarly women use tag questions in their statements, thereby making their statements appear weak (Gamble118). The style of communication used by women is often characterized by feelings and relationships. They use styles that express emotions, understanding and support. They are not only personal, but are also more detailed, context oriented and polite (Salverda 54). On the other hand, men`s communication tend to be aggressive, direct, task oriented and independent. In men`s communication, there are numerous authoritative statements. During discussions, men take more time and space, cutting each other`s statements and their discussions are intended to preserve their individual statuses (Salverda 55).

The two genders also exhibit differences in terms of non-verbal communication. While women prefer side by side interactions, men favor face-to-face interactions. Similarly, women use more expressions such as smiles and laughs in their conversations, and make more eye contacts compared to men. In addition, women look at men more. Women are more sensitive to non-verbal communication, and they pick body language and facial expressions better compared to men. On the other hand, men control more territory than women. For example, they lean back while seated, use more gestures, and are less restrained (Gamble118).

The table below provides a summary of the major differences between the two genders:

Women Men
In non-verbal communication, women:

·       tend  to smile more than men

·       use facial expressions to express numerous emotions

·       control, claim and occupy less space

·       prefer maintaining more eye contact with the person they are interacting with

In using language and speaking women use:

·       more qualifiers

·       more tag questions

·       a wider variety of tag questions

·       speak more politely and in non-insistent tones

·       Their speech has fewer words related to things such as food, color, and feelings

·       Use more harsh language

·       Talk more and interrupt women more

·       When talking to other men, men talk less about their personal information. Their conversations are restricted to things such as football and politics.


Source: Strong, Christine and Theodore (236).

Communication Patterns in Marriage

There are various characteristic patterns of communication between married couples.The patterns of communication are always shaped by a person`s desire to exercise control or power over his/her spouse. This desire can be exercised consciously, but it can also occur unconsciously. There are two predominant patternsof communication through which spouses attempt to exercise control. These are symmetrical and complementary conversations (Nagaswami 86).

A symmetrical conversation is one where spouses transmit similar messages that are intended to control how both of them define their relationship. In other words, both spouses apply similar tactics while attempting to resolve a particular issue concerning their relationship. Symmetrical communications are categorized into three main types.

The first type is the competitive symmetry discussions. Under this, both spouses compete with one another and the conflict between them worsens. The conversation between the couples degenerates into competition, where by each party attempts to defeat the other.This win-lose strategy creates a fertile ground for accelerating hostilities.For example, a wife complains that her husband is overworking himself. Her husband responds by enumerating all the occasions when her wife was not available at home when he wanted her. The couple soon enters into an argument over who has committed more mistakes in the marriage than the other.

Their argument soon degenerates into a competition of who has made more mistakes than the other (Nagaswami 86).

The second type is submissive symmetry discussions. Under this, both partners attempt to transfer the control of the situation to the other. None of the parties wishes to put the situation under control, with each party trying to win by transferring the responsibility to the other (Nagaswami 86). For example, John and Jane are non-confrontational couples who dislike engaging in open fights. When they have a problem that requires resolution, none of them takes the initiative of bringing the issue on the table so that it can be resolved. As a result, their issues are left unresolved and they continue to heap.

The third type is the neutralized symmetry discussions.Under this the parties mutually respect each other, and no party attempts to exert control over the other. They embrace a win-win approach to problem resolution. Because of this, the couple has time to have fun and enjoy each other rather than fighting. Evidently, this type of discussion is the most preferred alternative to healthy marriage communication. For example, it has come to Ann`s attention that her husband Mike has never been comfortable socializing with her friends. As a result, she stopped attempting to persuade him to do so. In return, Mike stopped going to work on weekends so that they can spend good time together with Ann and have fun (Nagaswami 86).

The second pattern of communication is complementary discussions. Under these discussions, the couple adopts two different tactics in attempting to resolve a problem in conversation. For example, Tom has adopted a habit of being very silent and he simply agrees with everything his wife Rita says during a disagreement. On the other hand, Rita has become so dominant and is forcing Tom to accept her point of view. Effective communication can be achieved when the issue of attempting to exercise control over one`s partner is effectively dealt with so that couples can spend much of their time trying to sincerely learn more about their partners and respect their space (Nagaswami 89).

Problems in Communication

Problems in communication happen to nearly every person. A small number of people are good communicators. People often say what they do not mean. This can be by accident or by design. In addition, sometimes we misunderstand other people. Failing to be heard and failing to listen are some of the most common communication problems. In marriages, communication problems are a major cause of marriage conflicts. The failure to effectively communicate with others often goes unrecognized because we have taken it as a habit. Another important communication problem is failing to consider communication as an alternative in the first place. Psychological and emotional issues are always evident in relationships, and are often based on a person`s early experiences in relationships. These communication problems can be addressed using a number of strategies. These include developing trust. For trust to develop, couples must be able to predict their behavior of their partners. Trust also requires that couples provide response and feedback(Strong, Christine and Theodore 240).

Works Cited

Ahmadi, Khodabakhsh ‘Effect of Family Problem-Solving On Marital Satisfaction’. Journal of Applied Sciences 10.8 (2010): 682-687. Web.

Gamble, Teri Kwal. The Gender Communication Connection. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Print.

Nagaswami, Vijay. The 24 X 7 Marriage:Smart Strategies for Good Beginnings. Chennai: Westland, 2008. Print.

Salverda, Reinier. ‘Language Diversity and International Communication’. English Today 18.03 (2002): n. pag. Web.

Strong, Bryan, Christine DeVault, and Theodore F Cohen. The Marriage and Family Experience. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. Print.

Tallman, I., and Y.-L.Hsiao. ‘Resources, Cooperation, and Problem Solving In Early Marriage’. Social Psychology Quarterly 67.2 (2004): 172-188. Web.