In recent years, interpersonal communication scholars have begun studying and theorizing about personal relationships through the lens of dialectical theory. This metatheoretical perspective highlights the mutually defining and processual nature of dialectical tensions that exist within, and form the context of, interpersonal relations. The application of dialectical theory to the study of interpersonal communication has engendered innovative scholarship that has recast theoretical assumptions, proposed alternative means for understanding and assessing relationships, and encouraged methodological eclecticism. To date, however, little systematic effort has been made to apply a dialectical perspective to the study of group communication. The purpose of this essay is to extend the metatheoretical insights of scholarship on dialectics to the concerns of group communication scholars, practitioners, and group members. In the sections that follow, we a) provide a description of dialectics (from our view), (b) examine some specific ways this perspective can help expand our understanding of group communication, and (c) offer some important considerations for using this approach in group communication research. In so doing, it is our hope that this chapter inspires the reader to see and study group communication in new ways.

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Copyright © 2001 Sage Publications. This book chapter first appeared in New Directions in Group Communication Research.

Book edited by: Lawrence R. Frey

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