Interpersonal Relationship Analysis
Interpersonal relationships are fundamental to human existence, and occur for several physiological, psychological, and social reasons. A natural part of interpersonal relationships is conflict, which arises as a result of (amongst numerous other factors) varying viewpoints or incompatible goals (Wood, 2016). In this essay, interpersonal relationships will be discussed with a central focus on analyzing a personal conflict.
Productive conflict offers several potential positive outcomes, depending on the way that interactions are managed. If both parties are willing to listen to each other and compromise, individuals tend to gain a deeper understanding of both their own and the other person’s feelings, which can strengthen the relationship in question. Unfortunately, unproductive conflict can have strongly adverse effects, such as creating hostility or resentment, damaging the relationship, or even causing the relationship to self-destruct entirely (Wood, 2016).
I am the only girl amongst three brothers and was raised by a very traditional Vietnamese mother who has always been incredibly strict. Which meant that I had a lot of responsibilities and a lot on my shoulders. After a year and a half of community college, I realized that I couldn’t handle all the responsibilities my mom gave me work and school so I decided to take a break from school and just focused on everything else. While I aimed to return to my studies in the future, I felt that the best option for me at the time was to discontinue my studies. This decision unfortunately culminated in arguments with my mother that eventually resulted in months of silence. My mother argued that school is important, that I needed to get an education for the sake of my future, and that I was “making a decision I’d regret” and “being stupid” by choosing to work first. Whenever my mother and I met up, we ended up arguing about the matter and couldn’t come to an understanding. Eventually, my mother gave up on fighting and I assumed that she realized that I’d return to my studies when I was ready to do so.
Reflecting on the abovementioned conflict, I realize that my mother and I found ourselves in a lose-lose orientation. This orientation refers to a situation where neither party really achieves a desired outcome, and more often than not, this results in damage to the relationship (Wood, 2016). While I was able to leave school and start working, my relationship with my mother was severely damaged, which I believe undermines both my and my mother’s aims.
Unfortunately, the result of this lose-lose orientation was an exit response, which meant that we both withdrew from each other and went long periods of time without speaking to each other (Wood, 2016). Since my mother and I had such opposing views on my decision to leave school, I became apathetic towards the situation and did not see the point in engaging as we would just argue whenever we sat down together.
If I am to analyze my and my mother’s communication patterns during our conflict, it is clear that there are a number of ways in which we could have communicated better. The early stages of unproductive conflict tend to be characterized by parties failing to confirm each other (Wood, 2016). By instantly assuming that I was making an irresponsible decision, my mother disconfirmed me. As a response, I disconfirmed her by refusing to listen to her point of view. The middle stage of a conflict entails a lack of effective communication. After our initial dispute, my mother and I refused to listen to each other, which meant that we spoke over each other and were reduced to petty accusations such as “you never think about your future” and “you never let me make my own decisions”. The above two stages left us in a position where we were not able to resolve our conflict effectively. Once it became clear that was the case, my mother eventually stopped arguing with me and the conflict appeared to fade. While this suited me at the time, it is evident that the situation was never really resolved.
One key skill regarding conflict management is taking time to check perceptions. Often when individuals fail to check perceptions in a conflict, it is easy to draw extreme conclusions regarding the other party’s stance. I carried the perception that my mother was being entirely unreasonable, and she carried the perception that I was being immature and stubborn (Wood, 2016). At the heart of our conflict, my mom and I both had my future in mind, which constitutes our point of agreement (Wood, 2016). My mother was concerned that I was making a rash decision regarding my schooling, while I feared that I would continue to be unhappy and decided to work rather.
In retrospect, I believe that this conflict could have been more productive if I had approached this situation from a different perspective. When I made my decision to discontinue my studies, I mentioned it to my mother in a very off-hand manner, without putting much thought into having a constructive conversation. I could have arranged a time to sit with my mother and speak to her one-on-one without interruptions, but I rather participated in mind reading, which involves making assumptions about another person’s thoughts or motives (Wood, 2016). I assumed that my mother would disagree with my decision to leave school and I thus didn’t place any value on setting aside a time to talk to her about it properly. As a result of my decision, my mother assumed the same strategy, claiming that I was being irresponsible rather than listening to my reasoning.
In sum, I was in need of validation and support from my mother, and she needed her concerns regarding my future to be acknowledged. Perhaps if we had discussed the matter properly, we could have reached a compromise, such as me studying and working part-time so that I’d be working on my education while additionally gaining my independence as an adult. As interpersonal relationships form the basis for human connection and attachment, knowledge surrounding effective communication in this sphere is vital in order to encourage mutual understanding and respect in a relationship.
In conclusion, this essay comprised a discussion of conflict in interpersonal relationships. It began by outlining the averse and positive effects of communicative styles in conflicts, and further went on to illustrate these concepts through an analysis and reflection of a personal conflict.
- Joshi, A. (2001). Parents’ and Children’s Perceptions of Interparental Conflict Resolution. Psychological Reports, 943-946.
- Wood, J. T. (2016). Managing Conflict in Relationships. In Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters (p. 224). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.