Some Evident Truths About Conversations in Everyday Relationships All Communications Are Not Created Equal


  • Deborah J. Rutt obtained the Ph.D. degree and is now in private practice, Margaret Hoy Hurst obtained her master's degree, and from which Heather Strcjc holds a bachelor's degree. Theauthors are grateful to Barbara Montgomery, Paul Wright, Joanna Lawson, Susan Sprecher, Terri Orbuch, Charles R. Berger, and John H. Harvey for their helpful comments on earlier drafts or some parts of this article, to Steve Durban for his expert advice on the statistical issues raised in the analysis, and to Karen Dace for her help with the data collection and coding. A previous version of some parts of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association in New Orleans, November 1988


This article presents a program of studies that map out daily conversations and so establish a geography of everyday communication. A new method (the Iowa Communication Record) is offered to extend research using diary methods and focus the researcher on communication in daily life. Three studies collectively show (a) consistent sex differences in the quality and nature of conversations across different types of relationships, (b) a consistent rank ordering of relationship types that differs from that intuitively included in previous models of relationship formation, and (c) a consistent difference between conversations held on different days of the week, with Wednesdays associated with greater degrees of conflictive communication. Self-disclosure is much less frequent in everyday life than assumed on the basis of laboratory work, and the predominant form of communication in intimate relationships is not only nonintimate but not simply distinguishable from communication in other relationship types. Communication quality distinguishes female from male partners, suggesting that previous findings on preference for female partners are truly founded in communication variables, which have previously been underrated. The article shows that closer attention must in future be paid to communicative variations created by daily events and circumstances, and the role of routine communication in daily life must be explored in future studies of social participation.