chapter  22
Relational Dialectics Theory
Realizing the Dialogic Potential of Family Communication
ByElizabeth A. Suter, Leah M. Seurer
Pages 11

Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is a dialogic theory of interpersonal and family communication. RDT is grounded in the work of Russian cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. Extending Bakhtin's theory of dialogism, RDT offers a relationally oriented dialogic theory grounded in a skepticism of monologue. RDT recognizes the monologic potential inherent within family communication; however, RDT critiques these monologic tendencies, favoring instead a dialogic sense in which a cacophony of multiple perspectives struggles to be heard as the family makes—and remakes—meaning. This chapter discusses foundational RDT concepts, including the utterance, the utterance chain, the centripetal-centrifugal struggle of competing discourses, unfinalizability, and the continuum of interplay. The concept of the utterance chain concretizes Bakhin's central argument that utterances do not exist in isolation; rather, utterances are always in dialogue with both prior and anticipated future utterances. To continue the conversation, the chapter suggests that scholars make more productive use of the proximal sites on the utterance chain.