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Conflict: A Personal Experience

03 Aug

Conflict, O’Hair and Wiemann (2012) say, “is inevitable” (p. 220).  It is something that cannot be avoided within a relationship, and sometimes it cannot even be resolved. Between you and me, no matter how much conflict is unavoidable, I still try with all of my might to steer clear of it. However, no matter how much I try to avoid it, conflict still manages to find me on a regular basis. Here’s a just one example of a recent conflict I encountered …

mystory

{background information} Before I share my story, I just wanted to give you a bit of an explanation to help you understand this situation a bit better. My friend, Tony, and I have been friends for years. Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs, but no matter what, we have truly been there for each other. Tony is a bit older than me, but I enjoy hearing his life stories and gleaning from his experience and wisdom he shares with me. Our age difference does not really affect our friendship, however we do hail from two different technology eras. I grew up with technology  and mastered how to use a smart phone, along with text messaging. Tony, on the other hand, has not dealt with much technology, including computers, smart phones, or text messaging. In fact, he just recently upgraded to an iPhone within the past year. I enjoy teaching him how to operate these different tools of technology, and we have been able to engage in regular text messaging over the past year.

{my recent conflict encounter} So, I have been dealing with a rough couple of days that has left me feeling quite down and miserable. On the way to the gym this morning, Tony had texted me, asking if I had slept OK (since I haven’t been sleeping well). I responded back with, “Somewhat yes, but I hate feeling miserable.” Tony, being his normal, positive self, replied with “Well, we all hate feeling miserable.” This comment didn’t sit well with me, as I wasn’t really in the mood to hear how everyone else relates to feeling miserable. I shared with Tony how that comment didn’t really sit well with me.  He was a bit confused, and said “All I said was that everyone hates feeling miserable. What’s wrong with that?” At this point in time, Tony left for about 30-45 minutes (without giving me any prior warning). Tony is notoriously known for doing this. He will start a conversation with me (through text messaging), ask a question, and then go do something else for about 45 minutes. Perhaps I shouldn’t be picky, but this really bothers me. If we were in the middle of a conversation face-to-face, would he just walk away for 45 minutes? No, not likely.

When Tony finally returned and texted back, I was getting angry. I shot my responses back to him like fire, expressing how much I dislike when he leaves a conversation. Tony just couldn’t understand why I was making such a big fuss about it, saying: I would have gotten back to you. He shared with me that he doesn’t see text messaging as a way to have an important conversation, but rather it is just to share short messages. I explained how I place an importance on any conversation I have with Tony, be it in person, over the phone, or through text messaging. Tony replied back, explaining that when he grew up, he just talked to a person if it was important, while I grew up with text messaging. I responded back with a weak “ok” and took a break from texting for a while.

I wish the story ended here, but our rising argument continued in a few hours … Once I calmed down, I texted back Tony about something random. Tony immediately pointed out how he didn’t get upset that I took a while to respond and that he just waited. Well, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My blood was boiling at this point, as I was extremely frustrated that he pointed how he handled text messaging better than I did. I managed to text the words, “I’m done. I’m walking away, and I’m done.” Our conversation turned heated, as I angrily told Tony that I was tired of him always pointing out how he does things differently than I do and how he is always seeing things through his own perspective. He shot back with frustrated remarks that I need to see things through other’s perspectives too. I couldn’t handle the conversation anymore, so I enjoyed one nice feature of text messaging: I just stopped responding. I refuse to engage in any contact with Tony, and I withdrew from the conversation; I stonewalled (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012).

effective

So, I guess O’Hair and Wiemann (2012) were right: conflict is unavoidable. It will track you down, even when you try to escape it. Despite being inevitable, conflict can produce positive results. It’s just a matter of how one handles conflict and utilizes different strategies to resolve the problem. Let’s take my above situation, and apply a few conflict management strategies that could help resolve the issue more effectively.

  • Rather than constantly exchanging negative remarks, we could use the strategy of giving “five positive statements for every one negative” (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012, p. 232). {for example} When Tony and I shift our focus from looking at the negative to incorporating more positive, our conflict may begin to dwindle down, as we would be able to see the good aspects in our friendship.
  • We could engage in the cooperative strategy of steering clear of personal attacks and remaining focused on the primary issue. This would “benefit the relationship, serve mutual rather than individual goals, and strive to produce solutions that benefit both parties” (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012, p. 237).  {for example} During our conflict, Tony and I could both agree to focus on the primary issue of Tony not texting for 45 minutes during a conversation. We could work to just resolve this issue, rather than throwing in past experiences with this issue or other negative faults.
  • We could find a compromise. Through this strategy, both Tony and I would be giving up a little to gain a bit in return. This can help us find a quick solution to our conflict (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2012). {for example} Tony could agree to text within a period of 15 minutes, and I could agree not to get frustrated or upset during the 15 minute period.
  • We could employ different Nonviolent Communication Skills, including:
    – Separating our feelings from our thoughts – This will help both Tony and I refrain from “judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment” (The Center for Nonviolent Communication, n.d.)
    -Being clear and concise about what we both want and make requests, not demands – This will help both Tony and I to be aware of what each other’s desires within this conversation, as well as for the potential outcome (The Center for Nonviolent Communication, n.d.).
    {for example} Tony and I would speak what our thoughts our in regards to the issue, rather than strongly voicing our feelings. In addition, I could be clear about my desire to have him respond back in a timely manner, and he could be concise about his wishes to respond back when he has a chance.
  • We could take the Third Side approach, which will help us see both perspectives, listen “to see from multiple vantage points” (The Third Side, n.d.), and speak in a way that will address both of our needs and wants. Through this strategy, we would be able to reach an “inclusive outcome that addresses the essential needs of all” (The Third Side, n.d.). {for example} Both Tony and I could take time to see each other’s perspectives, which will enable us to reach a resolution that satisfies us both.

your

So, this is where you come in. I outlined several strategies on how I think I could handle this conflict (which has yet to be resolved), however they all stem from my own experiences and knowledge. I am curious what you have learned in regards to conflict management and resolution. Perhaps you have gained an insight that I did not, or maybe you have a different perspective or additional information about one of the strategies I mentioned. What is some advice you have in regards to resolving the conflict I have shared? In addition, how have you learned to be more effective communicator when it comes to conflict resolution skills? Do you have any additional information or insights to share about communication and conflict management?
References:

O’Hair, D., & Wiemann, M. (2012). Real communication: An introduction. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication. (n.d.). The center for nonviolent communication. Retrieved from http://www.cnvc.org/

The Third Side. (n.d.). The third side. Retrieved from http://www.thirdside.org/

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3 Comments

Posted by on August 3, 2013 in Communication, Week 5

 

3 responses to “Conflict: A Personal Experience

  1. Michelle Bronson

    August 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I think it is time for you and Tony to take a time out from texting. It’s time for friends to sit down and have a coffee and really talk about what is bothering you both. Texting and email can be a blessing and a curse. It allows us to take a tone with one another that we wouldn’t take in person and things can get out of hand quickly. I like the strategies you have chosen. Texting allowed for time to stop and think, but your emotions made you heat up. Having a face to face will allow for you to take a few breaths and look into your friends face. What do you see? How are your words affecting him? Understand what you are feeling and listen, but don’t act out your feelings, instead share your needs with Tony and listen to his needs. What do you hear? What can you do?
    That’s what I have learned.

     
  2. sdkny69

    August 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Sorry but I am on Tony’s side and it may be the age difference. I am 44 and refuse to allow technology to rule my intimate world. I don’t even have my phone set to “guess” at what words I am going to text. I tell my relatives that a small mind has small vocabulary and if a PHONE can tell me what I am about to say… then, I’m having the same small conversation too often, using the same language, with too many people. From my perspective, I think you over reacted :). Would you hold a professionally “important” conversation with a parent via text? I only emphasize important because if something is “important”, we usually give it more attention than we do something that isn’t as important. If you value Tony’s friendship and truly accept who he is…the way he is, then your past experiences should have forewarned you about how Tony deals with texting. Your acknowledgement of the difference in the importance of using technology to communicate was evident early in your post. I suggest not using this against Tony, but using it to guide how you choose to communicate with him.

     
  3. Nadia King

    August 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    This was an interesting story. The thing about it however, is that both you and Tony have very strong points on which to stand. I am young, however, I am not open to having serious conversations through text message. This opens up to so much confusion, especially to an individual who may not be text savvy. That person may take 45 mins to text one message. On the other hand, your are right to express your feelings with your friend, that is what a close friend is all about. Taking a step back however is good to do in a heated moment, however, in every relationships should have compromises, and maybe deciding on something that is workable for both of you may bring about more effective communication. Ont thing that I have learnt while studying this course is that communication should not be hostile. Once effective communication is achieved, all parties involved should leave enhanced. I hope that things work out for you and Tony, think about if this is worth your friendship…usually these misunderstandings are never worth the asset of a dear friend.

     

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