Interpersonal conflicts are inseparable elements of living in human society and building relations with other people. Even though their scope varies, there are some universal strategies, which can be deployed to solve them, referred to as communication theories. The key to using them successfully is learning to identify the needed theory and finding the ways to adapt it to cope with a conflict on a case-by-case basis. This paper is an attempt to analyze the personal experience of the collision of interests and applying the course material to handling it.
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There were numerous conflicts I was involved in, but I decided to choose for analysis the one, which is the most significant concern to me. Most children have conflicts with their parents without regard to their age and social status. I am not an exception to this overall rule. I often have conflicts with my parents over my choice of lifestyle and spending free time. The parties involved are my father and mother on one hand and me on the other.
The conflict is a lasting one because as long as I remember myself, my parents taught me what I should think that they know what is better for me. As I grew older, I believed that I was adult enough to make similar choices by myself deciding where to spend time with my friends or how to manage my day. Every time I tried to prove it to my parents, we started quarreling. I believe that the reason for the conflict is that they refuse to accept that I have grown up.
Even though my father and mother want to protect me from making mistakes, which might affect my further welfare, I cannot see the reasons why choosing a hobby is a bad thing. The nature of our conflict may come down to the fact that family ties have always played a significant role in making the life decisions of both mom and dad. So, it might seem appropriate to them to direct me throughout my life just the way their parents did.
Interfamily conflicts, i.e. the conflicts between children and their parents, have become the subject of numerous scholarly studies in different areas of research from psychology to communication. I believe that my case is closely related to the course materials and scholarly articles because the newly obtained knowledge might be beneficial for determining the appropriate model of communication with my parents and coping with the problem in our family.
As for the course materials, they are relevant because they serve as the background for identifying the nature of the conflict and identifying the strategies for overcoming it. Speaking of the scholarly articles, they are the sources of additional knowledge necessary to improve the understanding of the initially received information and finding the ways that have proved to be effective in cases similar to mine.
The primary matter of concern in our family is the issue of ineffective communication. The model of communication is often viewed through the prism of cultural norms and ethnic background. That said, there are different dimensions of interfamily dialogues. They are based on the perception of power and freedom to express opinions. For example, my family unit is characterized by what is referred to as vertical-horizontal orientation of power distance.
This type of strategy for building family relations implies more authority of parents to control their children’s lives regardless of their age (Shearman, Dumlao, & Kagawa, 2008). In addition to it, the findings of some investigations point to the fact that interfamily conflicts are often evoked not only by ineffective communication but also the discrepancies in the perception of life and central values as well as the differences in developmental needs, i.e. what is known as generation gap (Birditt, Miller, Fingerman, & Lefkowitz, 2009). These scholarly studies have become a supplementation to the course materials, which have not mentioned similar ideas.
There are different types of conflict resolution styles. For example, some authors identify withdrawal, positive problem solving, and conflict engagement as the primary strategies for solving conflicts. Withdrawal is characterized by ignoring the existence of the problem. It means that the parties involved do not recognize the existence and significance of the problem. The second strategy, positive problem solving, implies conducting negotiations to find the most appropriate and comfortable solution to the challenge.
Finally, conflict engagement is about losing control over situations and emotions and getting involved in the active conflict (Doorn, Branje, & Meeus, 2011). Cahn and Abigail (2014) highlight that people in conflict choose either withdrawal or aggression, which makes conflicts ambiguous and unpredictable. The authors also note that there are only two types of strategies, which can be used for handling problems – destructive and constructive.
Recollecting the findings of the scholarly articles mentioned above, it can be said that positive problem solving is a constructive strategy while conflict engagement and withdrawal are destructive ones. Even though withdrawal is ignoring the conflict, it might lead to its escalation in the future.
Communication is key to establishing a comfortable conflict-free atmosphere in a family unit (Galvin, Braithwaite, & Bylund, 2015). If it is impossible to avoid conflicts, there are different communication strategies, which can be used by family members. Some of them are aggressive, adaptive, protective, and inconsistent communication. Aggressive communication is characterized by overt conflict and verbal violence. Adaptive strategy implies functional dialogue, which is close to reaching constructive solutions. Protective communication is about determining that one parent is a protector of a child’s interests.
Finally, the inconsistent type is simply ineffective. It means that the preference is given to power instead of well-considered arguments (Haverfield, Theiss, & Leustek, 2016). Cahn and Abigail (2014) determine similar types of communication. However, they identify what is known as collaboration and compromise. The first type of communication is similar to adaptive communication while compromising strategy implies trading out the desired conflict solution by providing arguments and something of benefit in return for the demanded changes.
To sum up, while conducting this research, I have come up with several significant conclusions. First of all, I realized that the model of communication used within my family unit was ineffective and inconsistent. The same can be said about the deployed conflict resolution type. In most cases, I chose to ignore the existence of the problem, i.e. withdraw from the conflict. When I tried to make my parents understand me, I got involved in overt conflict using an aggressive communication strategy.
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I believe that there is a perfect solution to my problem. The challenge could be handled if I use adaptive communication. I think it might also be useful to become open in expressing my thoughts and opinions instead of disregarding the issue.
Birditt, K. S., Miller, L. M., Fingerman, K. L., & Lefkowitz, E. S. (2009). Tensions in the parent and adult child relationship: Links to solidarity and ambivalence. Psychology and Aging, 24(2), 287-295.
Cahn, D. D., & Abigail, R. A. (2014). Managing conflict through communication (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Doorn, M. D., Branje, S., & Meeus, W. (2011). Developmental changes in conflict resolution styles in parent–adolescent relationships: A four-wave longitudinal study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(1), 97-107.
Galvin, K. M., Braithwaite, D. O., & Bylund, C. L. (2015). Family communication: Cohesion and change (9th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Haverfield, M. C., Theiss, J.A., & Leustek, J. (2016). Characteristics of communication in families of alcoholics. Journal of Family Communication, 16(2), 111-127.
Shearman, S. M., Dumlao, R., & Kagawa, N. (2008). Cultural variations in accounts by American and Japanese young adults: Recalling a major conflict with parents. Journal of Family Communication, 8(3), 186-211.