Buying Insurance for Harmony: A Relational Risk Perspective on Conflict Avoidance
34 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2011
Date Written: June 24, 2011
This research adopted the relational risk perspective to understand why people choose to avoid conflicts rather than confront conflict. The interest-focused paradigm, which has long dominated the conflict resolution, assumes that disputing parties tend to maximize their self-interest, but ignores the multiple concerns by disputants in conflict situations. The relational risk perspective proposed in this paper argues that, relationship concern plays an important role in conflict resolutions, and even outweighs the economic concern in cultures or situations where interpersonal harmony is emphasized; and the risk evaluations based on the relational concern will determine the resolutions they take. Specifically, when people encounter a conflict with others who they have kept a relationship, they may anticipate that directly confronting the conflict will sour this relationship, and they would rather avoid the conflict in order to maintain the interpersonal harmony. Four studies using both American and Chinese samples were conducted. The results consistently showed that anticipation of relational strain predicted conflict avoidance. Moreover, we found relationship closeness, interpersonal orientation, and values orientation affected such anticipation; and anticipation of relational strain mediated the relationships between these factors and conflict avoidance. The established theoretical framework in this paper offers new insights into conflict resolution.
Keywords: conflict resolution, harmony, relational perspective, anticipation of relational strain, avoiding
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