Communication Theory Terminology and Negotiations

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1. Verbal Aggressiveness Theory argues that people have the tendency to attack the self-concept of an individual with whom they are having a conflict as opposed to the conflict itself. These attacks may come in the form of teasing, profanity, attacks on appearance and intelligence, and have little to do with the conflict itself (Foss and Littlejohn 46). Attribution Theory seeks to attach meaning to behavior. It argues that when explaining the behaviors of others, we tend to use internal attributions like personality traits, but when explaining our own behaviors, we will attribute them to outside forces beyond our control (Foss and Littlejohn 60). Understanding each allows for more self-aware, honest communication.

2. Psychodynamic theory is a perspective that argues that all actions are motivated by the unconscious. It is useful as it attempts to understand the mental and emotional reasoning behind an individual’s behavior. The Theory of Reciprocity is the belief that one receives behaviors one puts out; therefore, providing sincere, timely and consistent communication will ensure that one will receive the same (Foss and Littlejohn 156).

3. Principled negotiation bases conflict resolution on the merits of a decision and not the willingness of the parties involved. The first component seeks to settle relational issues through legitimacy and active listening. The second component pushes for the focus to be on the “shared and compatible interests” of the conflicting parties. Thirdly, a list of possible options must be generated. The fourth component calls for the decision to be made based on the list of options with the use of objective criteria. Flipping a coin is one example (Fisher et al. 45).

4. Accommodating, as a conflict management style, presents as extreme cooperation. An individual may sacrifice his or her own goals and objectives. This is rarely appropriate, but if the other party is a far better expert on the subject it may be. Competing is the opposite management style, in that a person is so assertive and insistent that their way is accepted, they may sacrifice the goals of another party. This, too, is rarely appropriate—possibly only in emergencies or if a decision must be made very quickly (Foss and Littlejohn 372).


1. A supportive climate calls for descriptive language over language that evaluates. It promotes cooperation as a means to solve a problem. It does not attempt to control the situation. A supportive climate fosters spontaneity over strategy and empathy over neutrality. It calls for an atmosphere of equality as opposed to superiority and for provisionalism instead of certainty (Foss and Littlejohn 150).

5. A BATNA is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is needed if negotiations fail. It is the least satisfactory outcome a party will accept. One must, before negotiating, decide upon a list of possible actions and select which is best. Negotiation Jujitsu is necessary when an individual is opposed to any negotiating. Instead of attacking the other party, one seeks to push the conflict in a positive direction by inviting criticism and advice, by spinning personal attacks into attacks on the issue, and through asking questions and using silence as a way to encourage the second party to communicate (Fisher et al. 49).

Works Cited

Fisher, Roger, et al. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. 2nd edition, Penguin Books, 1991.

Foss, Karen A., and Littlejohn, Stephen W. Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, Sage, 2009.