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Psychology of Relationships: Case Analysis

I worked at a small IT company where creativity was valued, but one of my attempts to offer new ideas resulted in worsening my relationship with the boss. We frequently had brainstorming sessions where the thoughts about our product development have been assessed and discussed. The boss valued the openness in our communication and allowed us to be straightforward regardless of the subordination norms. At one meeting, I had an idea for the marketing restructure that was clearly beneficial for us, but after tailoring it to the audience, which approved the strategy, my executive began rephrasing my words seeking the drawbacks. I understood that he did not like the idea but could not explain why, therefore I tried to convince him with more arguments. The course of action I offered was not approved, I perceived it personally, and the boss did not enjoy such a communication. Later I discovered that the reason for rejection was that my idea did not comply with the executive’s vision of the product, which was personally important to him, thus he reacted sharply.

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The miscommunication at work I experienced with my boss was verbal, and the context can be considered low-culture because we used straightforward explanations regardless of the subordination. The conversation was direct and interpersonal, thus the non-verbal signs appeared during the argument. Both of us increased the volume of the voices, the executive stood in the close and defensive position with the crossed hands, and I articulated with higher frequency. The types of noise, psychological, physical, physiological, and semantic, may become the crucial obstacles in communication (Adler et al., 2019). In my workplace, miscommunication the semantic and psychological barriers occurred because we took the argument personally, and the words we used to describe our ideas were not clearly understood.

The experience can be analyzed through the appliance of three communication concepts: processes of perception, self-disclosure, and assertiveness. The main factor that led the boss and me to the miscommunication was the unlike internal understanding of the conversation. Indeed, Adler et al. (2019) state that “conflict can emerge when individuals perceive situations differently” (p. 3-1). The processes of perception are divided into selection, organization, interpretation, and negotiation, and for one identical object, these stages work individually for everyone (Adler et al., 2019). In the selection, a person chooses what to focus on based on their traits and experiences. Organization structures what is being perceived to make it meaningful, and interpretation works to help individuals understand the context (Adler et al., 2019). Negotiation is when the final message is tailored and assessed by the other participants of a conversation.

Self-disclosure is a concept necessary to build interpersonal relationships and create connections. Adler et al. (2019) claim that it is “the process of deliberately revealing information about oneself that is significant and not normally known by others” (8-1f). Self-disclosure is the part of openness–privacy dialectic that is the most applicable for the relationships between two individuals. The concept requires showing vulnerability, therefore people need to develop trust at first.

Assertiveness is a trait valued in business, however, it may disrupt interpersonal relationships, and its influence on communication depends on the participants’ characters and cultural backgrounds. The assertive temperament is congenital, therefore a person needs to overcome the physical tension to regulate it. Moreover, Adler et al. (2019) emphasize the gender-based perception of the trait as “parents viewed assertiveness more favorably when boys displayed it than by girls” (3-2e). In communication, the concept means that the point of view is being provided clearly and directly, with the appliance of arguments and non-verbal signals of persuasion.

The miscommunication incident from my work experience can be explained through the appliance of the concept described above. From the perception processes perspective, my boss and I mistakenly understood the outcomes of our conversation. I thought that such mistreatment is based on the fact that I am younger and have less reliable experience. At the same time, the executive decided that I interrupted his vision and the product’s value. The conflict could not occur if we excluded the personal perceptions, considered that each person has their interpretations, and tried to communicate more objectively.

From the self-disclosure concept side, our conversation lacked knowledge of each other’s backgrounds. I refused to emphasize that it is crucial for my ideas to be valued, and my boss did not reveal his vulnerability regarding the interruption into his product’s future. In terms of assertiveness, both of us seem to overuse that concept and led the situation to the stage that worsened our relationship. It is typical for the working environment to have argumentative conversations to push the ideas through, and as we represent the western culture, it should not insult us. However, interpersonal relationships need to be evaluated beyond the workplace, and as the two individuals, we should have decreased the degree of confrontation.

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Several communication techniques could have been applied in my conversation with the boss to make it more effective and less personally disruptive. Firstly, we could implement the confirming messages to highlight mutual respect (Adler et al., 2019). Secondly, the problem orientation could help us reveal the reasons we overreacted and clearly communicate them. Lastly, the technique of active listening from the boss’s side could help him pause to evaluate if I am genuinely trying to interrupt his visions or only offer a solution that seems to be effective.


Adler, R., Rolls, J., & Proctor, R. (2019). LOOK: Looking out, looking in (4th ed.). Nelson.

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