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Interpersonal Conflict Essay

This is a sample essay on Interpersonal Conflict:
Interpersonal conflict, is an internal strain that creates a state of ambivalence, conflicting internal dialogue, or lack of resolution in one’s thinking or feeling” (Wilmot & Hocker, 42). Interpersonal conflict has multiple dimensions, but ultimately focuses on the interaction among humans. Although the word conflict has a negative connotation, conflict often helps individuals solve problems and help relationships develop and move forward.

My name is Meagan Smith, and I have experienced several interpersonal conflicts with family, friends, co- workers, employers, and total strangers. Throughout this paper I’m going to discuss an interpersonal conflict that I experienced with my parents and my girlfriends. I will do this by addressing the fundamental elements of a conflict which include the parties involved in the conflict, the actual issue of the conflict, and the context of the conflict and later identifying conflict management strategies, behaviors, outcomes, and the conflict aftermath using the Conflict Lens Model.

First I will begin with an historical overview of how I grew up dealing with conflict in my family. According to Wilmot and Hocker families deal with conflict in one of three ways; they either avoid conflict, discuss conflict in a collaborative manner, or they’re extremely aggressive when they experience a conflict. My family unfortunately dealt with conflict in an aggressive manner. When a conflict would arise in my family we always tried to talk the problem through, but within five to ten minutes of discussing the issue name calling, yelling, and dramatic behavior would always transpire. This would happen because everyone in my family always believed that they were right even if it was blatantly obvious that they were incorrect. The arguing would go around and around with no feasible outcome.

Usually, after a night of arguing everyone would go to bed upset, but wake up the next morning and act as if the big blow up from the night before did not occur. The conflict then would be avoided until it was imperative that it needed to be discussed and managed. Never dealing with conflict in a proper manner has put a strain on many of my relationships, especially with my family.

The interpersonal conflict that I experienced with my parents occurred back in October of 2001 my sophomore year of college. The parties that were involved within this conflict were my mother Sara, my father Greg, my girlfriends Liz, Sarah, Danielle, and Demi and I. The conflict arose when my parents received an alarming phone call from my girlfriends informing my parents that they were extremely worried about my well being at the University of Arizona, because I had been using cocaine almost everyday. My parents immediately phoned me and confronted me about this terrifying issue. I spoke with my father first, he asked my what was going on and if the statements that he heard from my girlfriends were valid. Having no idea that my girlfriends were going to call my parents, I was outraged. How could they go behind my back and tell on me? And why were they exaggerating the truth? I replied to my father in straight denial, I only admitted using coke two times. After I spoke with my father, my mother got on the phone, she was crying and her voice was shaky and weak. My mother asked me the same question that my father had. I gave her the same answer. After I spoke with both of them individually they both got on the phone, and told me that they didn’t believe me, and unless I didn’t accept help from them, then they would basically take everything away from me, my education, my car, and every cent of money that they had been supporting me with. I was livid, and hung up the phone up on them.

Immediately after speaking with my parents, I called my girlfriends to find out why they did this to me. My girlfriends explained to me that they had been watching me use more and more drugs, and they said they saw a severe change in my attitude and the phone call to my parents needed to be made. Once again I was infuriated, and hung up on my girlfriends.

I felt betrayed, how my girlfriends go out and party with me, then turn around and call my family and tell them that I had a cocaine addiction. Two days went by, I avoided all phone calls from my parents and my girlfriends. Finally on the third day after the confrontation my girlfriends Sarah and Liz showed up at my house. I didn’t want to look at them let alone speak with them. Sarah and Liz explained to me that they had spoken with my parents again, and if I went with them to get a drug assessment then I would be able to stay in school and keep everything that my parents had threatened to take away from me. I had already lost most of my trust in my friends but I agreed to go take a drug assessment, because I didn’t want to loose what I had.

The following day Liz, Sarah, Demi, Danielle, and I met with Deborah Cox Howard, a behavioral therapist at the University of Arizona that specializes in drug and alcohol abuse. I spoke to her alone at first, and then I spoke to her with my friends in the room. When I initially spoke with her I told her the same story I told my parents, I only used coke a couple times recreationally, but when my girlfriends entered the room my story changed. Hiding behind my tears, I told more of my story not the entire truth but the most I had told up until that point. Once again I had been set up, my parents as well as my girlfriends both realized that the only way I would agree to go talk to someone was if I was under the impression that nothing would change (in terms of loosing my education, my car and my financial support from my parents).

My parents had already spoken with Deborah Cox Howard before I met with her, and they had discussed the best way to deal with this problem. My parents, girlfriends, and Deborah Cox Howard, all agreed that I needed to go away for a while to a rehabilitation center, which specialized in drug addiction and abuse. After I walked out of the meeting with Deborah, my parents were in the waiting room ready to move me out of my house and into rehab. I was an emotional train wreck; I was yelling and screaming at my parents and my girlfriends. I felt trapped, my parents were my life support, so I really had no choice but to agree to what they believed was right. I withdrew from all of my classes and moved into Cottonwood de Tucson a rehabilitation center for drug, and alcohol addiction, depression and eating disorders. I ended up staying in rehab for a total of nine months.

The conflict goals in this interpersonal conflict with my parents and my girlfriends are quite simple, each party me being party number one, and my parents and my girlfriends being party number two were trying to accomplish different goals. Party number one (me) wanted nothing to change; I didn’t want any help from anybody, and I was going to go to all measures to make sure I did not loose anything that I already had. Whereas party number two (parents and girlfriends) were deeply concerned about my well being, and were willing to go to all measures to change my life style even if it meant bending the truth. These conflict goals can be analyzed through many conflict models and theories.

The Lens Model of Conflict discussed by Wilmot and Hocker, represents the building blocks of a conflict. We can easily compare my interpersonal conflict with this model. The model consists of the two most important aspects of a conflict, communication behaviors, and the perception of those behaviors. The communication behaviors that existed within my interpersonal conflict were obviously different between both parties. I felt attacked and betrayed by my friends and family, so my communication was very selective. When I would speak to the other party (friends and family) I would lash out by yelling and screaming. Whereas, the communication behaviors among my friends and family was claim but aggressive. They showed their true emotions even though those emotions hurt me severely. They did not back down, and were brutally honest. They made sure that their message was sent.

The second aspect of the Lens Model of Conflict is the perception of the communication behaviors. Perception is always viewed differently between parties and is attributed to each person’s view of self, and each person’s view of the other. These attributions are also linked to the context of the conflict; past events, current events, and future projections (27). “Each person has lens that gives that person a particular perspective; they are looking at the conflict with a different lens, just as people use different types of glasses to see”(27). I perceived my friends and family confrontation as a negative attack on me. I assumed that my friends hated me and wanted me out of school, and my parents did not trust me and were going to believe my friends over me. Whereas, my friends and family perceived that situation completely different, my friends noticed a change in my behavior and knew about my drug use, and out of love and deep concern told my parents. My parents then became worried, and called me out of concern and love as well. I didn’t understand why I needed help and my friend and family didn’t understand why I didn’t want to get help, therefore my lens and their lens distorted the situation in opposite ways (27).

After comparing this interpersonal conflict with the Conflict Lens Model, I realized that my identity goals were being threatened by my friends and my family during this particular interpersonal conflict. It was clear in my mind that my friends and family had lost all forms of respect for me because I used drugs, and I was looked down upon as a druggy. Given that I believed they felt that way about me, I lost the power in the conflict. Power is defined as the “ability to cause or influence an outcome” (Dr. Dues, lecture). Power is needed to fulfill an identity need. I lost power during this interpersonal conflict, therefore my identity goals were lost, and the outcome of the conflict process ended up favoring my family and my friends desires.

My friends assessed my behavior and realized that I was suffering because of drugs; they then called my family who assumed that I really did have a problem. Those behavioral acts that were based on assessments and assumptions about my drug use that were made by my friends and my family were geared toward resolving the conflict, using conflict management tactics and goals.

In retrospect, my friends and my family had a true interest in achieving a major goal. That goal was to get me off cocaine. Although, when I was confronted about the problem I took a solid position to try and negotiate their claims. In the end I lost my self identity, which in turn made me loose power during the conflict process. Whereas, my family and friends gained power and their ability to influence the outcome was stronger then mine. I ended up where they wanted me to, rehab.

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Nov 19, 2010