First Advisor

Larry Steward

Term of Graduation

Winter 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Interpersonal conflict, Intercultural communication, Conflict (Psychology), Communication



Physical Description

1 online resource (51 pages)


An examination of the discussion of conflict in general, interpersonal and small group communication texts indicates that the conceptualization of conflict theory in the U.S. is increasingly dependent upon three theoretical pillars: the qualities of ubiquity, utility and necessity. A critical, deconstructive analysis of these operational characteristics in relation to the actual human experience of conflict reveals that they are more appropriately associated with the essential condition of difference, rather than conflict, and the concepts of conflict and difference are generally conflated in U.S. communication texts. The synergistic interaction of a variety of specific cultural constructs can be seen as contributing to this condition.

Positing that elemental quality of difference, rather than conflict, is essentially ubiquitous, useful and necessary, the concept of conflict can be usefully reframed as being a widespread, but often optional, structurated response to particular perceptions of a specific condition of difference. Employing the 2 purposeful, overt recognition of difference as a necessary foundation for self-aware human existence and growth, a difference-based interpersonal communication model for the development of mutual understanding through increased empathy is described.


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