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William Rosenthal     COMM  4255     14  July  2011             Identity  Theory  and  Negotiation       In  negotiation(s),  people  have  different  ideas  and  beliefs  that  carry  weight  or       significance  for  them  when  they  negotiate  their  identity  through  various  stages  of       negotiations.    For  some  people,  the  key  to  these  negotiation(s)  could  be  how  their       credibility,  their  power,  or  their  self-­‐image  is  viewed  during  the  negotiation  process,  which       directly  correlates  with  identity  theory,  yet  those  with  whom  one  may  negotiate  may  have       a  different  set  of  ideas  and  beliefs  that  may  be  quite  different.    Identity  theory  is  prominent       in  every  negotiation  we  enter  into  in  our  lives,  whether  one  realizes  it  or  not,  as  when  we       negotiate,  we  also  negotiate  with  ourselves  throughout  the  process,  not  wanting  aspects  of       ourselves  to  be  scrutinized  unnecessarily  or  brought  into  question  by  others  as  a  result  of       the  decisions  we  make  and  how  we  look  when  we  make  these  decisions.    Most  people  do       not  desire  to  be  viewed  as  bad  or  looking  “bad”  when  making  decisions.    Identity  theory       can  even  extend  to  one’s  possessions  others  may  view,  whether  at  home  or  at  the  office,  as       possessions  can  also  be  revealing  in  discerning  one’s  identity.    In  this  paper,  I  will  discuss       and  critique  identity  theory  and  how  it  is  relates  to  negotiation(s)  that  we  as  individuals       undertake  in  our  daily  lives  whether  it  is  individually,  culturally,  or  through  our       possessions  or  that  displays  one’s  identity.       One  way  to  examine  identity  theory  and  the  negotiation  of  it  is  to  examine  the       movie,  Death  of  a  Salesman,  and  the  main  character  Willy  Loman,  which  was  created  in       1986,  based  on  a  play  from  Arthur  Miller.    This  movie  illustrates  individuals  enacting  a      


variety of  roles  or  identities  within  the  confines  of  a  day  (Zorn,  1991).    Those  identities  and       roles  can  be  conflictual  in  nature,  as  illustrated  by  Willy,  who  perceives  the  world  to  consist       of  those  that  either  like  or  hate  you  and  that  the  more  refined  and  polished  you  appear  to       be  physically,  the  more  people  will  like  you,  thus  you  will  be  deemed  successful.         Individually,  we  choose  to  enact  specific  roles  that  illustrate  the  desired  way  that  we  prefer       to  be  thought  of  or  are  viewed  through  the  demonstration  of  our  roles  (as  cited  in  McCall       and  Simmons,  1978),  as  we  seek  legitimacy  for  the  various  roles  we  enact  within  our  lives       from  those  who  are  around  us.    In  many  ways,  this  movie  demonstrates  the  blur  between       fantasy  and  reality  in  regards  to  one’s  identity,  as  perception  and  reality  become       intertwined.    We  want  to  please  or  disprove  people  and  their  perception(s)  of  us.    There  is       no  set  right  or  wrong  answer  in  being  who  you  are  and  how  that  is  represented  or  viewed       by  others.    Identity  negotiation  is  an  on-­‐going  process  that  truly  knows  no  end.       Identity  theory  is  an  ever-­‐evolving  theory  that  constantly  changes  throughout  the       passing  of  time.      According  to  Kraus  (2006),  the  development  of  identity  is  an  ever       continuing  process  that  has  no  closure,  but  is  open  to  change  that  is  constant.    It  is  not  a       matter  of  creating  and  realizing  one  specific  identity  that  one  may  consider  to  be  their  own,       but  rather  it  is  the  reframing  of  ourselves  as  an  individual  within  a  society  in  which       circumstances  require  us  to  re-­‐consider  our  identity,  as  we  have  numerous  selves  which       can  not  be  comprehended  as  a  single  entity,  which  requires  an  understanding  of  the  self-­‐     other  relationship  and  how  we  negotiate  our  identity.  Negotiating  one’s  identity  is  a       process  in  which  those  who  are  identified  as  perceivers  or  targets  agree  in  regards  within       the  interaction,  in  which  one’s  self-­‐views  of  individual  identity  are  verified  (Swann,  2005).         This  validation  is  generally  accomplished  through  the  solicitation  of  opinions  from  others,      


which can  include,  but  are  not  limited  to  spouses  or  employers,  who  may  re-­‐enforce  or       validate  views  one  may  already  believe  to  be  truths,  whether  it  be  positive  or  negative.    The       outcomes  of  this  validation  can  have  positive  and  negative  ramifications  on  an  individual’s       identity,  in  which  individuals  may  choose  to  negotiate  and  change  their  behavior(s)  in  an       effort  to  confirm  or  deny  the  perception  or  belief  of  another.    If  there  is  no  one  who       confirms  one’s  identity,  then  individuals  may  choose  to  self-­‐verify,  in  that  they  may  choose       to  remove  themselves  mentally  or  actually.    People  tend  to  accept  those  who  are  perceived       to  be  of  similar  minds  in  their  own  beliefs,  as  if  their  perception  of  self  is  negative,  they  will       gravitate  to  a  person  who  has  a  similar  perspective,  as  it  is  viewed  to  be  more  realistic  (as       cited  in  Swann,  Wenzlaff,  &  Tararodi,  1992).    Individual  identity  is  only  a  part  of  the       equation  that  one  must  negotiate,  as  the  cultural  identity  of  someone  also  has  an  impact       upon  one’s  self  identity.       Individuals  identify  with  a  culture  and  that  culture  can  create  conflict(s)  within  and       for  one’s  self,  as  members  of  different  cultures  attempt  to  reach  out,  yet  hold  back  in  an       effort  to  secure  mutual  validation,  all  the  while  protecting  their  vulnerabilities  (Jackson,       2002,  as  cited  in  Ting-­‐Toomey,  1986).    This  interaction  primarily  occurs  between  those       that  are  white  and  those  who  are  not  white  and  exist  inside  of  every  cultural  or       conversational  encounter  people  have  with  one  another.  (as  cited  in  Giles  &  Johnson,  1987;       Hecht,  Jackson,  and  Ribeau,  2003).    Pieces  of  our  cultural  identity  are  largely  non-­‐     negotiable,  though  belief(s)  can  be  swayed  within  a  persuasive  dialogue  or  a  maintained       relationship  that  plays  a  significant  role  in  how  we,  as  individuals,  see  and  identify       ourselves  as  we  choose  to,  as  we  deal  with  other  people  in  which  we  may  give  or  lose  face       in  communicating  our  beliefs,  values,  and  ideas  and  accepting  potential  wins,  losses,  all  the      


while being  able  to  construct  our  own  reality  (as  cited  in  Ting-­‐Toomey,  1999).    For  one’s       individual  identity  to  take  root,  that  identity  has  to  have  meaning  when  it  is  initially       negotiated  personally,  meaning  one  has  to  accept  the  meaning  of  their  own  identity  before       they  believe  it  to  be  true,  and  recognize  there  are  differences,  whether  those  differences         are  individual  or  cultural.    Being  able  to  recognize  difference(s),  is  important  to       understanding  one’s  identity  and  relating  to  it,  as  it  can  have  the  ability  to  directly  relate  to       those  with  not  only  whom  one  interacts  with,  but  it  one’s  identity  can  even  be  on  display       through  the  possessions  we  own  and  display  for  others  to  view,  many  of  which  we  take  to       our  jobs  or  place  in  our  homes.       One’s  home  or  office  space  is  an  extension  of  one’s  identity,  specifically  with  the       possessions  one  might  choose  to  display,  which  can  be  quite  revealing,  such  as  family       photos.    Possessions  can  say  a  lot  about  someone  and  their  identity  without  the  individual       so  much  as  uttering  a  single  word.    What  we  see  and  what  another  might  see  by  looking  at       one’s  possessions  brings  about  a  totally  different  perspective(s)  that  one  must  negotiate  in       regards  to  their  identity  and  how  one  chooses  to  display  it.    (Tian  and  Belk,  2005).         Possessions  can  also  be  viewed  as  an  invitation  to  understand  someone,  though  that  person       may  not  realize  that  displaying  personal  items  in  a  working  environment  might  convey  that       message,  thus  we  also  conceal  parts  of  ourselves  when  at  work.    These  displays  are  also  can       be  viewed  as  attempts  for  employees  to  reduce  the  guilt  they  feel  by  having  those  photos       on  display,  reminding  them  of  their  identity  beyond  the  job  and  the  “sacrifices”  they  are       making,  justifying  it  as  necessary  to  better  the  lives  of  themselves  and  their  families.    These       displays  also  help  one  think  of  work  as  an  extended  family  environment  in  which  co-­‐     workers  take  on  the  role  of  being  extended  family  members.    The  extended  self  is  also  a      


continually evolving  process  that  changes  as  well  (as  cited  in  Mick  and  Buhl,  1992,  and  Belk       and  Watson,  1998).       In  closing,  everyday  there  are  challenges  as  it  pertains  to  our  identity  that  we  have       whether  it  is  individually,  culturally,  or  through  our  possessions  that  display  one’s  identity.         People  perceive  identity  and  the  negotiation(s)  of  their  identities  differently,  as  people       have  different  ideas  and  interpretations  that  may  carry  more  weight  or  significance  for       them  when  they  negotiate  their  identity  as  compared  to  others.    Identity  theory  is       prominent  in  every  negotiation  we  enter  into  in  our  lives,  whether  one  realizes  it  or  not,  as       its’  influence  is  not  always  readily  apparent.    Individuals,  for  a  myriad  of  reasons,  negotiate       their  identity  utilizing  different  methods,  as  everyone  have  different  wants,  needs,  and       desires  that  they  have  to  determine  within  themselves  throughout  the  process  as  to  what  is       important  to  them  and  how  those  decisions  may  be  perceived,  not  wanting  specific  aspects       of  one’s  self  to  be  overly  scrutinized,  unnecessarily  criticized,  or  the  decisions  we  chose  to       make  questioned,  especially  for  the  majority  of  people  if  it  paints  them  in  a  negative  light.         It  is  important  for  most  people  that  their  appearance  not  be  tarnished,  as  how  they  look       when  making  decision(s)  or  expressing  their  beliefs  is  important  to  them.    Most  people  do       not  wish  to  be  viewed  negatively  nor  do  they  desire  to  look  “bad”  when  making  decisions.         Identity  theory  can  extend  to  one’s  possessions  others  may  view,  whether  at  home  or  at  the       office,  as  those  possessions  can  be  open  to  interpretation  by  others,  personally  or       professionally.    Cultural  relations  challenge  our  identity  as  well,  as  there  can  be  numerous       individual  identity  hurdles  to  overcome  when  dealing  with  other  cultures,  as  those  hurdles       challenge  our  beliefs  and  values  that  we  have  had  instilled  in  us  through  our  own  culture.         Accepting  and  understanding  our  identity  can  help  us  understand  the  identity  of  others  as      


well.  We  might  be  different  as  individuals  through  our  identities,  but  ultimately  we  are  all       people.                    

Identity Theory and Negotiations  

same as above

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