Monday, January 30, 2012

Constructive Conflict Process

At some point in everyone's life, we will experience conflict. Conflict can occur between family members, friends, and coworkers. How people handle conflict is important because it can either make the situation better or it can make it worse. People can lose friendships, get fired, and cause tension with in the family. Another thing to note is that conflict is unavoidable. I think in some ways it can be beneficial because it teaches us to share viewpoints and be openminded with the individuals involved. It can make two people come together to come up with a solution that can satisfy everybody.

            Conflict is something that everybody deals with more than once in their lifetimes. Conflict is unavoidable and people need to feel more comfortable dealing with and confronting it. “Conflict arises from differences – it occurs whenever people disagree over their values and assumptions, motivations and perceptions, ideas and desires” (Pakita, 2011). There are many different ways to deal with conflict, but it is important to look at ways in which dealing with conflict can result in a positive way. The processes that can occur in the dynamics of conflict can have many different resolutions. The process I am going to focus on is the Constructive Conflict Process. This process consists of a series of five steps, and can help to successfully resolve conflict. (Abigail & Cahn, 2011) The five steps are: the prelude to conflict, the triggering event, the initiation phase, the differentiation phase, and the resolution phase. Through a personal experience I will explain how my conflict goes through these steps and is successfully resolved. I will be sharing with you a Constructive Conflict process and how I have been able to apply it to a conflict that I had with my sister.

Constructive Conflict Process

1.      The Prelude to Conflict: (make conflicts possible, by the relationship, the individuals involved as well as bystanders, and the environment)

My sister can sometimes appear to be selfish and ungrateful. For several months after I had moved to Madison, I would ask her to come visit me. My sister would state that she would visit me only if I paid for her gas money because she did not have enough to buy gas.  Once she got there she would always expect me to buy dinner or lunch for her. I was happy to have her visit me because I missed her a lot and we always had fun together. Sometimes my sister would want me to come visit her in Milwaukee and I would drive there and still have to pay for lunch or dinner.  The last time I was in Milwaukee I asked her to pay for dinner.

2.      Trigger: (behavior that creates, “the beginning of the problem”)

My sister than “sighed” and made a big deal about paying for the dinner, and then said, “Well you can pay me back!” When I heard this I began to see red and wanted to punch her in the face. (This was my thought, I would never do that). I just was so angry because I always paid for her lunch/dinner and would offer to pay for gas when she came to visit. My sister has never offered to pay for anything.

3.      Initiation: (when a person brings the problem/conflict up to the other to make them aware)

I then told my sister that I was upset and told her that I never made a comment like that before when I have paid for all of her meals and gas when she came to visit.

4.      Differentiation: (The ongoing interaction process in which both sides are brought up and explained through different tactics. They can be destructive/constructive or escalate/deescalate)

At this point my sister became defensive and stated that she did not know that I had felt that way. She pointed out that I had always offered to pay and never said anything to her about it. My sister also indicated that I have a job that pays better than her, and that she is struggling with money. I told her that it would be nice for her to offer once in a while.

5.      Resolution: (The end outcome in which both parties agree to with solution)

We both apologized to each other, and I told her that I should have told her earlier. My sister stated that she did not realize that I had felt this way and indicated that she was not trying to take advantage of me. We both decided that we would take turns for paying for dinner/lunch and that she would pay for her gas money when she came to visit.

The last time I came home to Milwaukee and I stayed over for two nights, she paid for both dinners, both nights and I paid for lunch. There was no issue and it was really nice. Conflict Resolution when used effectively can create positive results when going through the process.

Abigail, R. & Chan, D. (2011). Managing conflict through communication. 4/e, Boston: Allyn &
Pakita, S. (2011). How to manage conflict. [Web]. Retrieved from:

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