Letting Go

A Practical Theory of Relationship Disengagement and Re-engagement

By Dudley D. Cahn

Subjects: Communication
Series: SUNY series, Human Communication Processes
Paperback : 9780887064548, 243 pages, July 1987
Hardcover : 9780887064524, 243 pages, July 1987

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Table of contents



Part One

Overview of Part One

1. Feeling Understood in Interpersonal Relationships


Feeling Understood as a Measure of the Normative Force of a Rule
The Lack of Feeling Understood in Relationship Disintegration
The Need for More Meaningful Interpersonal Relationship
The Measurement of Perceived Understanding


2. On Maintaining One's Integrity in Developing Relationships


The Nature and Scope of Self-Concepts
Interpersonal Communication and The Role of Self-Concept Support
Self-Concept Support and Types of Role-Taking
Self-Concept Rules: Guides to Communication and Relational Development
Specific Recommendations


3. Communication Skills


Key Communication Skills and the Communicator's Mental and Emotional Outlook
Behavioral Orientations
Advantages and Phases of The Collaborative Behavioral Orientation
Specific Recommendations


4. Commitment Versus Letting Go


Quality Communication and the Nature of Relationship Satisfaction
Availability of Alternatives and the Nature of Commitment
System Constraints
Investment Size
Relationship Reassessment: When to Stay and When to Let Go
Specific Recommendations

Part Two

Overview of Part Two

5. Interpersonal Relationships as Rule-Bound Communication Systems


Relationship Rules
Relationship Stages
Implications of a Rules Analysis for Relationship Growth and Deterioration


6. Friendship


A Quality Friendship Communication Environment
Friendship Self-Concept Support in General
Friendship Self-Concept Support: Males and Females
Friendship Development and Communication Competence
Friendship Reassessent: Key Communication Factors in Friendship Development


7. Marital Relationships: Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage


A Quality Marital Communication Environment
Marital Self-Concept Support in General
Self-Concept Support in Traditional and Nontraditional Marriages
Mateship Development and Communication Competence
Marriage Reassessment: Key Communication Factors in Marital Development


8. Supervisor-Subordinate Work Relationships


A Quality Work Communication Environment
Supervisor-Subordinate Self-Concept Support in General
Self-Concept Support in Traditional and Nontraditional Organizations
Relationship Reassessment: Key Communication Factors in Relational Development
Paradigm Tests


9. Teacher-Student Relationships


Quality Teacher-Student Communication Environment
Self-Concept Support in Traditional and Nontraditional Classrooms
The Role of Perceived Understanding in Teacher Evaluation by Students


10. The Renegotiation of Interpersonal Relationships: A Theory of Reengagement and Relationship Development


An Integrated Approach to the Study of Human Communication
An Interpersonal Communication Model of Relationship Development
Relationship Reassessment: Key Communication Factors in Relationship Development



Author Index

Subject Index


While many books in the popular press deal with relationships, Letting Go is among the first to draw upon scholarly research to offer a theoretical perspective with practical implications. Cahn examines interpersonal relationship disengagement and reengagement by tapping the resources of social science literature. The result is a model for communication which seeks to achieve and maintain interpersonal understanding, while promoting communication behaviors that encourage growth of the individual and relationship satisfaction.

The author's integrated approach combines three models of relationship development; namely, quality communication, recognition and availability of more desirable alternatives, and degree of personal investments. He also surveys the literature on friendship, mateship, supervisor and subordinate relationships, and teacher-student relationships, and demonstrates that a quality communication environment, as measured by the Perceived Understanding Instrument, is crucial for understanding relationship disengagement and reengagement.

Dudley D. Cahn, Jr. is Associate Professor of Communication at State University of New York at New Paltz. He is co-author of Communication in Interpersonal Relationships, also published by SUNY Press.