Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Resolving Interpersonal Conflicts

Conflict is part and parcel of most interpersonal relationships. As people form relationships or interact with one another, it is inevitable that sometimes, for good or bad reasons, disagreement and misunderstanding may arise. This is perhaps, largely due to different personal communication styles, particularly between men and women. Here is one famous quote that describes the differences of how men and women perceive speech -Linguist Deborah Tannen notes that, for women, “talk creates intimacy, but men live in a hierarchical world, where talk maintains independence and status.”

A common identified problem that exists in couple relationships is the failure to understand communication between opposite sexes. Often, our ability to communicate and express our true emotions without hurting anyone is put to many tests. In other words, is Emotional Quotient important to keep relationships working?

Let’s imagine this scenario:

Sally, an employee in a company came home feeling down as she was reprimanded by her boss for not meeting up to his expectation in terms of work performance. She went up to her boyfriend, Tim and poured out her anguish, hoping that he would lend her a listening ear and show sympathy towards her situation. However, Tim was not responsive and did not express care for her. Instead, he dismissed her problem and claimed that she was taking her boss’s comments as a personal attack. He told her not to make a big deal out of it.

As a result, Sally misunderstood Tim and interpreted what he said as an insult. But, this is not the case for Tim as he meant no harm. Soon after, the situation quickly escalated into a full blown fight which was not necessary at the start.

How should Sally and Tim have reacted in this situation to avoid a conflict?
What can they do to resolve the issue?

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, so do they see and hear things through different filters too? And when we begin to realise it, we should seek clarity with another by sharing the ‘distortions’ we experience. Therefore, how could it be done to bridge the gap between the sexes? I would like to hear from you as well!


Blogger MdIdris said...

That is an interesting scenario. One that most people would be familiar with, I suppose.

From what I gather from the scenario, it seems that the provocation might have been initiated due to poor non-verbal communication. Perhaps, Tim expressed himself in a tone that might have been interpreted by Sally as being condescending and even cold.

If so, Tim could have listened to Sally's problem, sympathised with Sally by saying that what her boss did was indeed being harsh on her and then tell her not to take the criticism to heart.

From your scenario, it is clear that the way people express themselves could have a significant impact on their relationships. Even though Tim and Sally seem to be a particularly volatile couple.

August 25, 2009 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Kwon Hyuk Jin said...

I just happened to see a scene similar to this scenario after my CCA anniversary thingy yesterday. Although it didn't became a full blown fight, the situation was quite tense, and all I could tell them was that it was the gap between the sexes.

Well, coming back to scenario (which I think is really difficult), I think Tim was just not sensitive enough to understand Sally. Like what Idris had commented, Tim should have listened carefully and agree with her that "boss was harsh on her". Even when Sally retaliated, Tim should have kept his cool and properly explain what he meant so that Sally would understand.

Sally too should have kept her cool. I know that they are couples and she had expected Tim to back her up. I think I also know how she felt when what she heard from Tim was totally different from her expectations.She should not have taken Tim's words as an insult.

To solve the issue, either Tim or Sally should bring up the courage to apologize for the fight. Fighting doesn't solve anything (although sometimes it does).

August 30, 2009 at 12:25 AM  
Blogger Boon Woei said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 30, 2009 at 6:20 AM  
Blogger Boon Woei said...

It is true that man and women understand the same thing differently, and very often things will get even complicated if the two involved in are couple.
From your scenario, I think the conflict arose because of the different perceptions they have. Sally, at the first place thought her beloved will feel the same and she did and hope to get console. In contract, Tim might think that Sally was just exaggerating a small setback she met. Different perception generates different point of view, leads to misunderstanding and finally, sparks the fire of conflict.
Perception varies with one’s gender, background and experience. Perhaps, the first thing to become emotional intelligent is diminish it by put yourself in other’s shoe; which is the same thing to become an active listener.

August 30, 2009 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger spotlessmind said...

Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Does that make us differ in so many ways including the way we communicate? It seems so in this scenario.

From my point of view, Tim was trying to put things back into perspective. Maybe in his opinion, Sally was taking her boss' comments too personally. She might have been a bit too hasty in judging her boss that she could have overlooked the mistakes she made. However, I agree that he could have brought the message across in a more subtle way. He may have used the wrong choice of words and his tone was harsh. Making matters worse, Sally was in a foul mood. She feels that her confiding in Tim was in vain as she had expected Tim to side her instead.
In this case, there was a lack of understanding between Tim and Sally. At the same time, I feel that the situation could have been handled with more maturity with the right choice of words and a more toned down approach.

August 31, 2009 at 12:46 AM  

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