Interpersonal Conflict Essay
My friends and I play poker on a regular basis. One of my friends, let’s call him Tim, constantly plays bad hands and often catches lucky breaks. Tim and I have been friends since middle school, but one night we got into a very big argument which almost became physical.
In one particular hand, Tim made what was in my opinion a horribly bad call. Ask most poker players and they will tell you that they would have folded in this situation. Nonetheless, he got incredibly lucky and ended up knocking me out of the tournament. Having lost my money, I was extremely upset and I very angrily asked him why he called my raises. He gave a weak shrug, a half-smirk, and said something along the lines of “I thought I had you beat.” To me this came off as very sarcastic, and I took it offensively and started shouting at him. We exchanged verbal blows and the argument was fast becoming physical before our friends restrained us.
In this conflict, there was a great deal of missteps in communication, or “the process of creating and sharing meaning through the use of symbols” (Dobkin and Pace, 7), by both Tim and I, and the whole ordeal could have easily been avoided if either of us had used slightly better judgment. To begin with, I was the initiator, or “one who begins or advances the communication process by generating a message” (12), of communication and had I not said anything in the first place, this conflict would be nonexistent. Had I simply walked away and “cooled off” before speaking to Tim, I would have not been so offensive and the conversation would not have escalated to such dramatic extremes.
I also made a few errors as an interpreter, or “one who perceives and attempts to understand a message” (12). I may have misinterpreted Tim’s nonverbal communication, or “messages expressed through symbols other than words” (14). I registered his smirk and the inflection in his voice as symbols, or “words, images, gestures, and expressions that we use to represent our thoughts” (9), of sarcasm and arrogance. This infuriated me, but I may have exaggerated his actions. The smirk may have just been a suppressed smile because he was happy to have gotten so lucky, and it is possible that I just imagined that sarcasm in his voice. Had I made better judgment of Tim’s feedback, or “response to a message” (18), the argument would have never began in the first place.
Perceptual constancy, or “the tendency to maintain the same perception of people over time” (73), may have also played an important role in the breaking out of this argument. My perception, or “process of assigning meaning to sensory information and experiences” (66), of Tim as a bad player who often gets lucky may have made me judge his actions quicker and with more scrutiny. If I would have perceived Tim as someone who likes to take...
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Understanding interpersonal conflict can improve your relationships as well as offer an interesting research paper topic if you are interested in psychology or behavior.
Interpersonal conflict creates issues in all types of relationships. (Credit: HR Backstage)
Interpersonal conflict results when two or more individuals who need to collaborate together on something have different perspectives, interests, or objectives. Interpersonal conflict can have various origins and points of focus.
Behavioral, Cognitive, and Affective Aspects
- The behavioral aspect refers to someone who, due to the conflict, interferes with the goals of another through their behavior. An example of this is someone who might try to trip up a project you are working on at the office to prevent you from getting a promotion.
- The cognitive aspect of disagreement between people includes a clash between the two sides that shows their different views, interests, or goals. An example of this is when the product development manager of a company disagrees with the manager in charge of production about how resources should be allocated due to having different goals for his department.
- The affective aspect addresses the negative emotional impact on the conflicting individuals such as stress, anger and frustration.
Types of Interpersonal Conflict
Interpersonal conflict can be people-focused or issue-focused and can arise from various causes such as personal differences, lack of information, environmental stress and role incompatibility. A few examples are listed and described below.
- Lack of Information: Conflict may arise when information is not received, or the information is not interpreted as intended. To help avoid this type of conflict, it is good to be as clear and thorough in your communications as possible.
- Power Struggles: Possessiveness, jealousy, and too many expectations or demands can create power struggles among people. For example, you may want your spouse to give you too much of his or her attention.
- Trust Issues: Trust forms the foundation of a good relationship and disputes can arise when one partner in a relationship does not trust the other with telling the truth or with the relationship being exclusive.
Resolving Interpersonal Conflict
Interpersonal conflicts are a part of everyday life and can surface with just about anyone we deal with on an ongoing basis such as spouses, siblings, parents, children, coworkers, students, or teachers. This is natural and unavoidable. It is a chance for personal growth, the understanding of others and ourselves, and for developing relationship skills. When dealt with in an assertive and sensitive manner, conflict can provide opportunities for creating improved relationships.
Interpersonal conflict at work can interfere with business operations, and interpersonal conflict in personal relationships can have a negative impact on the relationship and its lasting power, so it is important to learn to recognize and deal with this type of conflict to minimize its negative effects. Also, when the conflict becomes too serious, it can be a good idea to get a mediator involved to have another point of view and to help resolve the dispute.
Conflict Resolution Tips
Most conflicts happen at two levels at the same time: the content level and the power level (relationship level). The content level is the general issue such as the dishes needing to be washed. The power level involves components such as prestige, hierarchy, and saving face. The outcomes of conflicts can be win-lose, lose-lose, or win-win. In the win-lose outcome, one party in the conflict is satisfied in the short run but eventually the situation becomes a lose-lose for both parties. Approaches to manage or resolve conflict can include finding ways to diminish feelings of discontent by helping people to see things for the other person’s point of view.
- Use “I” Language: When dealing with disputes, avoid using words that exaggerate such as “never”, “always”, “can’t”, or “nothing”, or using negative language such as “trapped” or “picked on”. Use “I” language, even when referring to the other person’s behavior, and describe how you feel instead of attacking the other person. For example, instead of saying “you just don’t care”, say “I feel that you don’t care about this issue.” Using “I” language makes it less likely that the other person will get defensive and will allow you to reach a resolution faster.
- Use Probing Questions: Ask questions to find out what the other person is thinking and feeling such as “What thoughts would you like to share with me?” Encourage the person to completely express what they think and feel. This will allow you to see the full situation.
- Stay Positive: Stay as positive as possible and look for encouraging things to say about the other person even if one or both of you is angry. For example, you may say “I respect you for bringing this problem to my attention.”
If you are looking for a research paper topic related to psychology and human communication, try using Questia’s Topic Generator to look for other ideas and get a head start on identifying some primary sources.
What examples of interpersonal conflict can you share and how was the conflict resolved?