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Complimentary Schismogenesis-Creation of Reactive Division in Dyadic Exchanges

Complimentary Schismogenesis (CS) is usually used to explain a conversational effect. Imagine you culturally fill all periods of silence with a remark, something very typical of the northeastern United States. If you finish speaking and no one joins in immediately, cognitive dissonance prompts you to fill the silence. In many Eastern cultures, participants respect the silence between statements as thoughtful reflection. When Westerners attempt to fill this gap, eastern participants perceive rudeness. The more one speaks, the more the other party refrains, creating the awkwardness of Complimentary Schismogenesis.

Another way CS is expressed is in conversational volume. When a person from a louder, more vocal culture blows through a conversation, someone who culturally projects a quieter countenance is often taken aback and may even avoid further engagement. The avoidance reaction often creates emergent conflict due to the differing styles of normal engagement.

CS is a behavioral obstacle to understand if one works in multi- or cross-cultural environments. Your norm is not everyone’s norm. When exploring CS, it is possible to discern the effect within everyday conflict as well.

During my bowling career, competitors offered opportunities to bend the elbow with an adult beverage they purchased. I haven’t consumed alcohol for over 40 years, so I usually declined out of habit. Most of the time this was acceptable, but some competitors took this as refusing to be sociable, which led to conflict. The more I insisted it was my nature to remain sober, the angrier these people became. Research suggests this is an obvious externalization of CS in play.

To reiterate, when language, cultural differences, habitual norms, or expectations become exaggerated in dyadic exchanges, the result is CS. The misunderstood behaviors can explode and push otherwise reasonable people into solitary dances of reactionary opposition.

A related projection of CS creates differences in comfort zones. When someone prefers to lean in during a conversation encounters someone more comfortable with more space between participants, CS rapidly emerges. One moves closer while the other dances away. This form of CS is foundational to the science of Proxemics, the study of how people use space within their sphere of influence.

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