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Meluch, A. and Walter, H. L. (2012). “Conflict management styles and argumentativeness: Examining the differences between face-to-face and computer-mediated communication.” Ohio Communication Journal. 50(1) 31-48.

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Abstract

Today's interactions are increasingly occurring in textually-based computer-mediated formats over traditional face-to-face (FTF). This paper explores the differences in conflict management styles (CMS) and argumentativeness between computer-mediated communication (CMC) and FTF communication. Results indicate that individuals are more likely to compromise and collaborate in a FTF conflict situation than they would be in a similar conflict situation that occurs via CMC.
Hess / Online Ecstasy
User
Discourse
Ohio
Communication
Journal
Volume
50-2012,
pp. 31 -47
Conflict
Management Styles
and Argumentativeness:
Examining
the Differences between
Face-to-Face
and Computer-Mediated
Communication
Andrea
L.
Meluch
Heather
L.
Walter
Today's
interactions are increasingly
occurring
in textually-based computer-
mediated formats over
traditional
face-to-face
(FTF).
This
paper explores the
differences
in conflict
management
styles (CMS) and argumentativeness
between computer-mediated communication (CMC) and FTF communication.
Results
indicate
that
individuals are more likely to compromise and
collaborate
in a FTF conflict situation than
they
would be in a similar conflict
situation
that
occurs via CMC.
Conflict
is a natural daily
occurrence
that routinely impacts both
personal and work relationships.
Conflict,
however, should not be
negatively denoted, especially in the innovative
world
present
today
(Clercq,
Thongpapanl, & Dimov, 2009). In fact, one can conclude that
individuals
who
engage
in conflict allow varying opinions to surface,
which
can solve problems and develop new
ideas.
The format for
communicating is changing, especially
with
the advent of social
networking,
and the overall canopy of computer-mediated
communication
(CMC).
Researchers
cannot ignore the widespread
usage
of CMC in conflict
research
and
need
to
embrace
the different
ways that people can now
engage
in conflict. Working through
conflict,
whether it
occurs
in a face-to-face (FTF) or CMC context,
still
requires communication.
In
the earlier
years
of conflict
studies,
researchers
felt
that conflict
management
could
best
be understood by breaking down
one's
cooperativeness
and
assertiveness
behaviors (Thomas, 1976). Today,
Andrea
L. Meluch is a doctoral
student
in the College of Communication and
Information at Kent State University. Heather
L.
Walter (Ph.D., University of Buffalo,
SUNY)
is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at The University of
Akron.
Inquiries may be
sent
to the first author at ameluchl@kent.edu.
32
Meluch
& Walter /
Conflict
Management Styles and Argumentativeness
however, there are many factors that early
conflict
management
researchers
could
not have predicted, and
digital
communication media
are one of
these
factors. It is common for people to take their entire
network
of contacts
with
them wherever they go, communicating
with
them,
at
will,
throughout the day via texts, emails, and social
networking
websites. The
availability
of
communication
and the
digital
medium
through
which
this communication
takes
place foster an
environment
ripe for
conflict.
Misinterpretation of
messages
and the
physical
space
that
separates
individuals using CMC makes
conflict
not
only
a common occurrence, but a routine one.
When
conflict
occurs via CMC channels, an individual's
degree
of
argumentativeness can affect how
willing
he or she is to
engage
in a
conflict.
An individual's argumentativeness has been shown to be
greater in public arguments (Johnson, Becker,
Wigley,
Haigh,
& Craig,
2007).
Message
boards,
status
postings and tweets all provide a public
forum
for individuals to argue their positions
with
one another and
engage
in
conflict.
When
conflict
is considered,
researchers
can
identify
an individual's
conflict
management style
(CMS),
which
can
provide
insight on how that
individual
will
respond to a
conflict.
However,
the CMC context
changes
many things, such as whether or
not
an individual's argumentative nature
will
emerge.
The Internet has given the
world
the
ability
to connect individuals
together who otherwise
would
have never met. In many instances
these
individuals
are expected to
work
and communicate
with
one another
via
CMC, instead of doing so in a FTF environment. Research on
communication
technology in the workplace shows that individuals are
utilizing
the Internet and email over other types of technology that are
also available (D'Urso & Pierce, 2009). The use of CMC usually
takes
place through textual interactions, despite the
availability
of video chat
and video conferencing technologies.
These
textual relationships
rely
solely
on the receiver's personal interpretation of the
message.
In
the
past,
communicating
with
one another consisted
mainly
of
FTF
relationships; however, today that is no longer the
case.
Individuals
can communicate
with
one another and never actually see
or
hear
the other person at all.
Much
CMC lacks all elements of
traditional
interpersonal communication, except the
bare
bones
of text.
Deciphering
the meaning of computer-mediated
messages
is
difficult
in
itself,
let alone when individuals are disagreeing on a given subject,
or
experiencing
some
level
of
miscommunication.
Ohio
Communication
Journal
/
Vol.
50 - 2012 33
Conflict
Management Styles
Conflict
is a regular part of the
daily
human experience.
Conflict
has many definitions in the social
sciences;
some
have positive
connotations and others have negative
ones
(Thomas, 1976). The
definition
of
conflict
to be
utilized
for the
purposes
of this study is
"From
a communications standpoint,
conflict
is an expressed struggle
between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible
goals,
scarce
resources, and interference
from
the other party in
achieving
their goals"
(Wilmot
& Hocker, 1985, p. 23). In this
definition
there is recognition of interdependent parties, where there
are
multiple
perspectives that in
some
way
seem
to
differ
from
each
other. There are many
approaches
to determine the way in
which
humans handle
conflict.
Blake and Mouton's (1964) managerial
grid
was one of the
first
attempts made by
researchers
to evaluate human
behaviors and categorize them. At its inception the managerial
grid
measured an individual's "concern for people" and "concern for
producdon;"
however, it has been
modified
(Rahim, 1983; Thomas,
1976)
to examine "concern for others" and "concern for self"
Researchers
have a variety of
names
for the
five
basic
conflict
management styles
(CMS).
While
reasoning for changing or altering
the
names
of the CMS varies, research usually
idenfifles
some
form
of
the
five
types CMS as
follows:
1) avoiding; 2) accommodating; 3)
competing;
4) compromising; and 5) collaborating (Thomas, 1976).
Each CMS is unique in that it incorporates specific behaviors of an
individual
in a
conflict
situation (Volkema & Bergmann, 1994).
Individuals
who
exhibit
the avoiding style are prone to have low
assertiveness
and cooperafiveness. The accommodating style is when
individuals
exhibit
low
assertiveness
and
high
cooperativeness. In
certain
scales,
such as the Organizational Communication
Conflict
Instrument
(Putnam &
Wilson,
1982), the accommodating and
avoiding
styles are combined due to their low
degree
of
assertiveness.
When
avoiding and accommodating styles are grouped together, in
some
cases
they are referred to as "non-confronting." Competing is
comprised
of
high
assertiveness
and low cooperativeness behaviors.
Putnam and Wilson's (1982)
scale
has a different term for competing,
and instead refers to individuals
with
high
assertiveness
and low
cooperativeness as being
"controlling."
While
compromising behaviors
include
medium
assertiveness
and medium cooperativeness, the
collaborating
style is comprised of both
high
assertiveness
and
cooperativeness behaviors.
Volkema
and Bergmann (1994)
identify
the relationship between
behaviors in each CMS and
found
that
highly
assertive behavior and
34 Meluch & Walter / Conflict Management Styles and
Argumentativeness
highly
cooperative behavior (collaborating) occurred
least
often. The
behaviors that were found to occur most often were
those
that included
ignoring
or accepting
conflict.
Conflict-handling behaviors are
associated
mostly
with
conflict
management in a positive
light
(Thomas, 1978). The study of
conflict
experienced a paradigm
shift
from
having negative connotation to being viewed as a productive
force
(Deutsch, 1969). Today we know as long as
conflict
is handled in
a non-avoidance way, it can lead to synergies among individuals.
Argumentativeness
The desire to be argumentative can be found in communication
interactions both in public and private settings, and in both face-to-face
(FTF)
and computer-mediated communication (CMC) contexts. An
individual's
argumentativeness is an inherent characteristic of
one's
personality that
will
determine how
willing
someone
is to
engage
in an
argument or shy away
from
one (Infante & Rancer, 1996). Therefore,
argumentativeness is a
trait
and
would
likely
remain constant
across
different
contexts. Argumentativeness
scales
have
been
shown to be a
valid
way to
assess
how
likely
a person
will
be to
argue
a position on
any given subject matter (Infante & Rancer, 1982). However, even
friendly
arguments (especially
those
concerning controversial
issues)
can
quickly
turn
into heated
conflict.
In
their study, Johnson, et. al. (2007) focused on whether the
public
nature of an argument affects whether an
individual
will
exhibit
higher levels of argumentativeness. They found that the type of
argument (a public argument or private one) is a predictor of reported
argumentativeness levels. In
looking
at computer-mediated
communication
(CMC),
argumentativeness levels may be affected by
the computer-mediated nature of the argument. Many times in CMC
public
conversations are readily available for all of an individual's
contacts to see. Examples of public CMC conversations include
message
boards, blogs, Facebook posts,
status
updates,
and tweets. In
CMC
individuals
choose
whether or not to display their argumentative
behavior to an entire social network, and/or everyone on the Internet.
Face-to-Face
Communication
Prior
to the Internet, face-to-face (FTF) communication in the
traditional
interpersonal setting, "snail
mail"
and telephone
conversations comprised most of the communication
landscape.
Letters
were the textual
basis
of communication used frequently in many
settings before computer-mediated communication (CMC) technology
Ohio Communication Journal/Vol. 50 - 2012 35
made
its way into the picture. However, letters and memos were not
used the
same
way that CMC is used today. Letters and memos were
formal
correspondences
used to communicate
with
little
expectation of
an expedited
response.
Conversely, CMC
uses
technology to
communicate
less
formally
and
with
a
high
expectation of an expedient
response.
In
a synthesis of FTF and CMC comparative literature, Bordia
(1997)
proposed that
research
has shown a "poorer" perception of the
partner and task in CMC,
versus
FTF group relationships. FTF
relationships generally
allow
individuals to get a better
sense
of
each
other's communication through nonverbal
cues,
such as tone and body
language, among others. An analysis of this
research
shows that FTF
groups are more prone to attitude or
shift
changes
(Bordia, 1997). The
attitudinal
changes
can be due to the social
pressure
that is immediate
in
FTF relationships,
whereas
in CMC relationships individuals are
less
likely
to
flip
their perspective
because
there are not others
physically
present.
Computer-Mediated
Communication
and
Conflict
The
emergence
of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in
all
areas
of
one's
life
has drastically changed the way individuals
interact
with
one another. CMC can roughly be defined as "human
communication
via computers," (Simpson, 2002, p. 414). Through
CMC,
individuals send and receive a wide variety of synchronous and
asynchronous
messages
that impact relationships. Synchronous CMC
is
the passing of
messages
in real time (Simpson, 2002). Asynchronous
CMC
occurs when using mediums such as email, where time
passes
instead of
having
instantaneous communication in the
sender-message-
receiver relationship (Simpson, 2002).
Email,
however, is not the
only
CMC
which
individuals use
primarily
on a textual
basis
(not
including
emoticons) to convey their
messages.
Other forms of
CMC
include the
popular social networking websites
like
Facebook and
Twitter,
as
well
as instant-messaging, text-messaging, and different forms of blogs and
message
boards.
Due to the wide
acceptance
of CMC by popular culture, more
individuals
are
utilizing
CMC to its fullest extent to
engage
in
conversations. However, interactions taking place entirely
electronically
are fundamentally different than
those
in interpersonal
settings, where verbal
messages
and nonverbal
cues
can be observed
synchronously. The physical
space
that
separates
individuals engaging
in
CMC is an element that
makes
the interaction completely different
from
FTF.
CMC
only
shows the asynchronous text being
sent,
so it is
36 Meluch & Walter / Conflict Management Styles and
Argumentativeness
more complex than even telephones where tone, volume and
immediate synchronous reactions
still
are
present.
Through
the
exchange
of
messages
via
CMC,
new communication
issues
have
emerged. Characteristics of verbal and nonverbal
communication
are now taken into consideration
with
CMC. Darics
(2010)
found that individuals are "economizing" their
messages
for
purposes
of efficiency. By conducting a micro-analysis of real-time
computer-mediated discourse, Darics was able to locate text and
emoticons that enforced positive interactions. However, due to
space
constraints via computer-mediated discourse, individuals
chose
to
shorten their
messages
or use abbreviations when
necessary.
Research
has found that shortening of
messages,
or "economizing,"
does
not
mean that individuals forgo politeness (Darics, 2010). However,
despite the prevalence of
positivity,
Darics
does
not
fially
explore the
fact
that miscommunication is
still
a common occurrence. CMC that is
misinterpreted
has the
ability
to lead to
conflict
in many different
settings.
Politeness occurs in CMC just as it
does
in interpersonal
message
exchanges;
however, as
conflict
arises
in CMC, individuals are found
to
be
impolite
as
well.
Hardaker (2010)
suggests
that humans
will
exert
aggression more freely in CMC due to the fact that there is generally
less
accountability
involved.
Through examining CMC
posts
derived
from
a public domain, Hardaker found a good deal of individuals
exercising
aggression against one another. Distance between
individuals
was
identified
as a
reason
for CMC aggression (Hardaker,
2010).
CMC aggression, along
with
other forms of
miscommunication,
can lead to
conflict.
The
conflict
and aggression found in CMC is not new to the
field.
In
fact over the
years
many
have
found that CMC lends to more
aggression,
which
is now called
"flaming"
in
research
(Tumage, 2008).
Flaming
is more prevalent when
messages
are shown to contain
aggressive terms. Miscommunication via CMC occurs quite often and
can be the
cause
of future
flaming
and consequently more
misunderstandings as
well.
Examining CMC reveals not
only
the
phenomena of a new communication medium, but also the problems
that arise along
with
the new technology.
Overall,
CMC can be an
efficient
means
of keeping in contact
with
others. However, through
CMC
conflict
can arise, and the textual
basis
and physical separation
of
the individuals using
these
mediated channels can make it
difficult
to
manage.
-
Ohio Communication Journal/Vol. 50-2G\2 31
In
modem times computer-mediated communication (CMC)
facilitates
interaction between individuals; however, this interaction is
digitally
distanced.
Unlike
face-to-face (FTF) interactions, CMC
does
not
allow
individuals to perceive another
person's
nonverbal behavior.
Recently, communication
researchers
have
begun to further explore the
effects that computer-mediated communication (CMC) has on the
interactions that take place between dyads (Friedman &
Currall,
2003)
and in the context of groups (Zornoza,
RipoU,
& Peiro, 2002).
Research
has shown that there is a greater
risk
of
conflict
escalation
when
dyads interact
because
of the use of CMC technologies
(Friedman
&
Currall,
2003). However,
research
has yet to completely
determine if individuals
choose
to
change
their CMS when they are
utilizing
CMC technologies and if their argumentativeness levels are
escalated
as
well
in the CMC context.
In
this study we
seek
to discern the
conflict
management styles
(CMS)
utilized
for CMC interactions, and then to
find
out whether it
differs
from
those
used in FTF interactions. This study also aims to
investigate whether
individuals
are more prone to argumentativeness in
CMC
or FTF. In
light
of the findings
from
previous
research,
we
propose the
following
research
questions:
RQl:
In what ways do
conflict
management styles (CMS)
differ
when it
comes
to computer-mediated communication
(CMC)
versus
face-to-face (FTF)?
RQ2:
In what ways
does
argumentativeness
differ
when it
comes
to computer-mediated communication (CMC)
versus
face-to-face (FTF)?
Method
Participants
Participants for this study were comprised of
a
convenience sample
of
122 undergraduate
students
enrolled at a large public Midwestern
university.
The sample consisted of
51
males (40.8%) and 71 females
(58.2%).
The questionnaire used for this study was distributed in eight
communication
classes;
therefore the
majority
of the majors were
communication
majors. The breakdown of the majors overall was
51.2%
communication majors, 14.4% were
sciences
majors and the
remaining
majors were an even mixture of other majors and
students
that
identified
themselves as undeclared. The
ages
of the participants
ranged
from
18-61;
M= 21.82, SD =
5
All.
38 Meluch &
Walter
/
Conflict
Management
Styles and
Argumentativeness
Materials
In
regards to
conflict
management
scales,
studies show that certain
scales
for
assessing
one's
conflict
management styles (such as Hall's
Conflict
Management Survey) are not always
easy
to administer and
do not always
yield
the most
helpful
results (Shockley-Zalabak, 1988).
Vliert
and
Kabanoff
(1990)
assessed
the
validity
of the principles of
managerial
grid
assessments
and
found
that for the most part the
assessments
were applicable. Created by Putnam and
Wilson
(1982),
the Organizational Communication
Conflict
Instrument
(OCCI)
was
utilized
in this study to evaluate participants' CMS due to its
ability
to
write
in particular scenarios,
which
the participants
could
use as a
basis
for
their answers. The
OCCI
is a
30-item,
self-report
measure
that
uses
a 7-point
Likert
scale
format ranging
from
"always" to "never." The
rehability
for the
OCCI
compares favorably to other
conflict
management
assessment
instruments.
Wilson
and Waltman (1988)
reported alpha coefficients ranging
from
.70 to .93 for
subscales,
with
most of the coefficients above .80. The
OCCI
has been
assessed
for
content, construct and predictive
validity;
however, the
OCCI
has not
consistently
shown predictive
validity
over time
(Wilson
& Waltman,
1988).
The
OCCI
alpha coefficient for this study was .85,
which
is
well
within
the range of
previously
tested levels.
For
the
purposes
of this study, the Argumentativeness Scale
(Infante
& Rancer, 1982) also was
utilized
to
identify
whether
individuals
exhibited higher levels of argumentativeness in face-to-face
(FTF)
environments or computer-mediated communication (CMC)
ones.
The Argumentativeness Scale is a 20-item, self-report
measure
that
uses
a 5-point
Likert
scale
format ranging
from
"almost always
true"
to "almost never true."
According
to Infante and Rancer (1982),
the coefficient alpha for the argumentativeness
trait
was to be a .91.
For
this study, that alpha coefficient was .63,
which
is lower than
previously
reported analyses.
Overall,
using
scales
to determine
one's
CMS and
argumentativeness are effective to a certain extent. However,
conflict
occurs circumstantially, especially in new technology where CMC is
employed.
One's
CMS and argumentativeness may not always be
concrete, as the flaws in many instruments have shown. The emphasis
for
this CMS and argumentativeness study is on the medium through
which
the
conflict
occurred. The public nature and widespread use of
Facebook discussions online makes them a useful
avenue
to explore
CMS
and argumentativeness together.
Ohio
Communication
Journal/Vo\. 50-2Q\2 39
Procedure
Participants were assigned to one of two conditions: a computer-
mediated communication (CMC) context or a face-to-face (FTF)
context.
Participants read the
condition
for the CMC or FTF situation
and then subsequently took the survey; however, participants were not
aware at any time of the other
condition.
The
researchers
reasoned that
if
participants saw both contexts (CMC and FTF) impressions
from
one
condition
could
influence survey
response
if a second
condition
was presented. For each
condition
there were two different scenarios
assigned randomly, resulting in
four
separate
scenarios
divided
between the two conditions of
CMC
and FTF.
In
all there were
four
different versions of the questionnaire
distributed
to the participants. Each version of the questionnaire
featured a different topic for the scenario. The CMC versions simulated
a Facebook discussion posting, in
which
an argument
conflict
had
ensued.
The FTF versions simulated a
family
dinner, in
which
an
argument
conflict
had
ensued.
The questionnaire was completed after
the participants read their randomly assigned scenario, and questions
were reconfigured to make them
think
specifically about the scenario
they had read. Then participants completed the
OCCI
(Putnam &
Wilson,
1982)
first
and the Argumentativeness Scale (Infante &
Rancer, 1982) second.
The CMC
condition
was randomly assigned to 64 participants
(51.2%).
The FTF
condition
was randomly assigned to 61 participants
(48.8%).
Results
Participants indicated their
conflict
management style (CMS) and
argumentativeness tendencies (see Table 1). ARGap
stands
for the
tendency to approach argumentative situations and ARGav
stands
for
the tendency to
avoid
argumentative situations. Together, they are used
to
report the
means
for the argumentativeness
trait
(ARGgt)
in Table 1.
The
means
for the
four
reported CMS also are reported in Table 1.
40 Meluch & Walter /
Conflict
Management Styles and Argumentativeness
Table
1. Means
N
Minimum
Maximum
M
SD
ARGap
121 19,00
50.00
33.67 7.36
ARGav
119 14.00
49.00
28.62
7.03
ARGgt
116
-26.00 33.00
4.68 12.09
nonconfront 122 12.00
76.00
42.37 12.60
collaborate 125 6.00
42.00
27.81 6.94
compromise 125 5.00
34.00
19.38 4.91
control 124 7.00
44.00
27.74
7.18
Valid
N 113
Conflict
Management Styles
RQl
asked whether
conflict
management styles (CMS) are
different
in computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments
compared to face-to-face
(FTF).
Controlling
and non-confrontational
styles did not
seem
to be influenced by the condition (CMS vs. FTF);
however, the compromising and collaborating
strategies
were. A one-
way
ANOVA
was run to examine the differences between the
uses
of
each
of the styles. The participants in the FTF condition (M = 29.19)
were more
likely
to collaborate than
those
in the CMC condition (M =
26.48).
This was statistically significant F(l,123) = 4.917, p = .028.
Also,
those
in the FTF
condition
were more
likely
to compromise (M =
20.59) than
those
in the CMC condition (M = 18.23). This was also
statistically
significant F(l,123) = 7.559, p = .007. There was no
significant
difference between FTF and CMC when using non-
confrontational
or control strategies. The
ANOVA
results are shown in
Table 2.
Ohio
Communication
Journal
/Vol.
50-2012
41
Table
2.
Conflict
Management Styles as they Relate to
Face-to-Face
and
Computer-Mediated
Communication
Sum
of
squares
df
Mean
square
F
Sig.
nonconfront Between groups
125.203
1
125.203
.787 .377
Within
groups
19095.199
120
159.127
Total
19220.402
121
collaborate Between groups
229.768
1
229.768
4.917 .028
Within
groups
5747.624
123
46.729
Total
5977.392
124
compromise Between groups
173.330
1
173.330
7.559
.007
Within
groups
2820.238
123
22.929
Total
2993.568
124
control Between groups
13.242
1
13.242
.255 .614
Within
groups
6334.500
122
51.922
Total
6347.742
123
Argumentativeness
RQ2
asks
how argumentativeness differs in FTF and CMC
environments. The
ARGgt
was found to be moderate
with
M = 4.68
and SD = 12.09 (see Table 1). A one-way
ANOVA
was used to
examine
these
differences. The argumentativeness
scale
did not report
a significant difference in levels between FTF and CMC conditions.
While
the results do not indicate a significant difference, the overall
argumentativeness
trait
shows a difference that is approaching
significance
F(l,114) =
1.874,
p = .174. The results are in Table 3. In
this
situation the mean
score
for CMC
scenarios
had a higher
aggressiveness
trait
(M = 6.18) than in the FTF
scenarios
(M = 3.12),
but
the difference is not statistically significant.
42 Meluch & Walter /
Conflict
Management Styles and Argumentativeness
Table
3. Argumentativeness
Differences
between Computer-Mediated Communication
and
Face-to-Face
Sum
of
Squares
df
Mean
Square
F
Sig.
Between groups 272.109 1 272.109 1.874 .174
Within
groups 16551.090 114 145.185
Total
16823.198 115
Discussion
This
study had two research questions. One research question
looked
at the differences among
conflict
management styles (CMS) in
computer-mediated communication (CMC) and face-to-face (FTF)
communication.
The other research question examined the differences
between argumentativeness levels in CMC and FTF. The results
related to both research questions are interesting and
will
be discussed
further.
Conflict
Management Styles
Results
from
this study indicate that CMS use is different
depending on the context of the communication (CMC or
FTF).
There
does
not
seem
to be an impact on
highly
controlling
or non-
confrontational
strategies. However, an individual's capacity to
compromise or collaborate is more
likely
to happen in FTF
environments compared to
CMC.
Collaborating, and to a
lesser
extent
compromising,
are
difficult
tasks
to undertake in a CMC context, due
to
the heightened communication that must take place between the
individuals.
To collaborate, individuals must be much more
interdependent of each other and have much at
stake
(Knapp, Putnam,
&
Davis, 1988). In FTF interactions there
might
be a perception that
there is more at
stake
in a
conflict.
For example, in a FTF interaction
where the individuals are engaging in
conflict
they may
feel
more apt
to
be
involved
because
of immediacy. In CMC environments,
immediacy
would
be
less
apparent
because
of the spatial and time
constraints placed on the
individuals.
The distance between the two
parties may make them
feel
less
interdependent and therefore
less
likely
to collaborate or compromise
with
one another.
Ohio
Communication
Journal
/
Vol.
50-2012 43
Argumentativeness
'* '
In
terms of argumentativeness, it is interesting that the difference
in
levels between CMC and FTF interactions is negligible. It
would
seem
that individuals
would
be more argumentative in CMC
environments
because
of the
sheer
amount of discussions that take
place in CMC environments that
appear
heated. The
resuhs
indicate a
higher
mean
score
of argumentativeness in the CMC environment.
While
this is not statistically significant, we have reason to believe that
future
studies may indicate that one is more
likely
to be argumentative
while
in engaging in
conflict
online than when in FTF interactions.
However,
as stated earlier, argumentativeness is a
trait,
so it
follows
previous research that argumentativeness continues to be the
same
across
different contexts.
Comparing
Conflict
Management Styles
Findings
to
Argumentativeness
Findings
It
is of expressed interest that differences between CMC and FTF
interactions were not
found
in both CMS and argumentativeness. As a
trait,
argumentativeness (Infante & Rancer, 1996)
would
not
differ
across
contexts; on the other hand, CMS,
which
is a style,
might.
To
contrast the two, this research supports the
notion
that CMS varies
depending on the context or situation, as the CMS varied between the
CMC
and FTF context. Argumentativeness did not vary between the
two
contexts,
which
is consistent
with
the
trait
conceptualization.
Limitations
This
study contains
some
significant
limitations.
First, both of the
conditions
were presented to the participants in a textual format. This
may make individuals
less
likely
to envision the FTF interaction
actually
taking place and respond to it in the
same
manner that they
would
a CMC interaction presented in a
similar
format. Further, the
scenarios for FTF were different topics than
those
for CMC. The
different
topics were selected to
ensure
that participants were not being
overly
argumentative or
trying
to
manage
conflict
based
on any one
topic
presented.
While
these
topics were deemed to be equally
controversial,
it is possible that
some
of the results are due to the
topics,
rather than the context difference.
Another
limitation
is the sample,
which
was composed
primarily
of
undergraduates as a convenience. The age range was
from
18-61,
but
the vast
majority
of participants were between the
ages
of 18 and 25.
44 Meluch &
Walter
/
Conflict
Management Styles and
Argumentativeness
This
generation is very comfortable
with
online communication, and
with
Facebook specifically. This sample provides a narrow
scope
from
which
to generalize the results. A
truly
randomized sample of
individuals
may
yield
more significant results.
Finally,
a
limitation
of
this
study is in the use of the Argumentativeness Scale,
which
proved
to
have
a lower
reliability
in this study (.63) than in previous
research
(i.e.,
.91; Infante & Rancer, 1982). As a
trait
scale,
the
Argumentativeness
Scale
examines personality traits,
whereas
this
study was examining context-specific behaviors. Therefore the
Argumentativeness
Scale
may not be as adaptable as the
OCCI
to the
scenarios
presented in this methodology. The low
reliability
impacts
the
validity
of the instrument as
utilized
here.
Directions
for
Future
Research
^
Future studies should take into account the limitations presented
above. Ideally, a replication of this study
with
more real-life contexts
would
be important. Such a study could actually use a Facebook
page
or
either videotaped or role-played interactions, instead of a text-based
script.
In a replication study, it
would
be pertinent to use the
same
argument topic
across
both contexts, so that the topic is not a variable.
Also,
further
research
should
utilize
a more generalizable sample. As
the sample for this study was composed of
university
students,
fiirther
research
should recruit a larger random sample.
The specific styles of
conflict
management should be further
examined to determine if one is
utilized
more often in CMC
environments, compared to FTF. There may be other traits beyond
argumentativeness that may
change
across
the different contexts. Traits
such as nonverbal immediacy and communication apprehension also
could
be studied in much the
same
way as argumentativeness was in
this
study. However, consideration of
a
trait
scale's
inability
to
adapt
to
different
contexts should be
addressed
in future
research.
Further, there
is
reason
to consider examining CMC
versus
FTF communication in
superior-subordinate relationships, as
well
as other types of
organizational
relationships.
Finally,
interpersonal FTF relationships
should
be examined when individuals know one another in the CMC
context. Does the FTF relationship impact how individuals
communicate in CMC, or
does
the separation of CMC breakdown
barriers of
FTF
relationships?
Ohio
Communication
Journal /
Vol.
50 - 2012 45
Conclusion
In
sum, this study concludes that there is in fact a difference in the
way
we communicate online
versus
face-to-face. In
conflict
scenarios
one is
less
likely
to compromise or collaborate when the
conflict
is
engaged
online. It also
appears
as if
those
engaging in conflicts online
are
likely
to use more argumentativeness than
those
engaging in
conflicts
face-to-face.
46 Meluch & Walter / Conflict Management Styles and Argumentativeness
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