Self-monitoring differences in conflict resolution among casual friends were explored. Compared to low self-monitors, high self-monitors were more likely to report that they as well as their casual friend used constructive (e.g., loyalty) rather than destructive (e.g., exit) conflict resolution strategies. Self-monitoring differences were independent of sex differences.
Although much is known about the initiation of close relationships by high self-monitors and low self-monitors, relatively less is known about conflict resolution in the casual relationships of high self-monitors and low self-monitor (Leone & Hawkins, 2006). Some conflict resolution strategies such as voice and loyalty are constructive whereas other conflict resolution strategies such as exit and neglect are destructive (Rusbult & van Lange, 1996). If conflict resolution is a function of social skill and/or knowledge, then high self-monitors should be more likely than low self-monitors to use constructive strategies rather than destructive strategies. If conflict resolution is a function of motivation and/or investment, then low self-monitors should be more likely than high self-monitors to use constructive strategies rather than destructive strategies.
One hundred forty-nine students were asked to indicate how conflict in one of their casual friendships was handled by (a) themselves and (b) their friend. Students indicated separately how frequently they and their friend engaged in constructive behaviors classified as Voice or Loyalty and in destructive behaviors classified as Exit or Neglect (Rusbult & van Lange, 1996). With the exception of loyalty scores (alphas were .59 and .68), scores for conflict resolution strategies were generally reliable (alphas ranged from .74 to .84). Students later completed the 18-item Self-Monitoring Scale (Snyder, 1987) for which scores were reliable (alpha = .76).
Regression analyses were performed using the full range of scores from the Self-Monitoring Scale as a predictor variable and scores for the frequency with which students reported voice, loyalty, exit and neglect was used by (a) themselves and (b) their friend. Scores from the Self-Monitoring Scale were centered before use in all analyses (West, Aiken, Wu, & Taylor, 2007). With respect to their own use of conflict resolution strategies, high self-monitors reported less use of exit strategies, b = - .20, F (1, 147) = 4.33, p < .05, and greater use of loyalty strategies, b = + .21, F (1, 147) = 4.23, p < .05, than did low self-monitors. With respect to their friend’s use of conflict resolution strategies, high self-monitors reported less use of neglect strategies by their friend, b = - .17, F (1, 147) = 3.75, p < .05, than did low self-monitors. Self-monitoring differences were independent of sex differences.
These findings are noteworthy for several reasons. First, constructive rather than destructive strategies of conflict resolution strategies were used more often in the causal friendships of high self-monitors as compared to low self-monitors. In conjunction with the finding that relationship commitment is greater for low self-monitors than for high self-monitors (Snyder & Smith, 1986), our findings are consistent with the proposition that enactment of conflict resolution strategies is a matter of expertise rather than investment. Second, it is unlikely that self-reports obtained from our participants were the product of socially desirable responding (Paulhus, 2002). These reports were anonymous, and participants did not differentially report the use of the most constructive (and socially desirable) strategy of conflict resolution: voice.
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