Saturday, August 29, 2009

[02] Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Conflict, just like communication, is part and parcel of life. I'm pretty sure every single one of us has experienced disagreements with friends, family members, schoolmates, superiors and subordinates, or even random strangers we encounter. (Admit it, you must have run into at least one rude salesperson who expressed displeasure simply because you were just browsing and had no intention to buy anything.)

Since everyone is wired differently, it is inevitable that we have different views. This discrepancy in perspective and method of handling issues leads to conflict.

What a mess the world would be in if everyone was at loggerheads with each other all the time!

Thank goodness for our innate ability to relate to other people (even if some people are better at it than others are). However, having this ability isn't enough; we still need to learn to utilize it effectively, and the only way to do this is to practise.

Let us consider the following situation, which is probably familiar to many.

Cast - Parent, child.
(Let's just arbitrarily assign a gender to each of the persons involved, say, mother and son.
Alright, for convenience's sake, let's just name the son... Stan.)

Setting - Home.

Plot synopsis- Mother and son got into an argument because he wanted to go out with his friends, but she wouldn't hear of it.

Stan: Mom, can I go and play basketball with my friends?
Mom: No, your 'O' level exams are coming. You should be studying at home.
Stan: I've already finished my homework and revision for next week!
Mom: No, you'll be too tired by the time you get home, and you still have school tomorrow.

(The exchange goes on until Stan gives up and storms off to his bedroom.)

Disclaimer - This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Looking at this issue from an outsider's point of view, we can see that the parent is just trying to show concern for her child, who seems unable to appreciate her efforts. Both parties are probably frustrated that their point isn't getting across, but are unwilling to come to a compromise as well. (I've been in Stan's shoes before; this kind of situation just results in an unhappy atmosphere at home.)

So. What do you think? Suggestions to resolve this issue will be most welcome! (Yeah, please save me from watching this scene on replay every week at home. Hahah.)


  1. Hi! In my opinion, this issue can only be resolved if both Mom and Stan stop to rationalise and reason things out with one another.

    In this case, Mom fails to realise that Stan has put in some effort in preparing for his upcoming exams and feels the need to reward himself. Although it is not wrong to think only of the best for him, she completely neglected the needs and desires her son might have. She is not aware of how Stan feels and thus fails to understand Stan's needs. And so, she gives Stan the idea that she is being unreasonable. What she could have done is to explain clearly to Stan, by being rational and calm instead of hastily judging the boy's actions, showing a little paranoia on her part. She could have layed out the Pros and Cons, for example, to make Stan understand her stand.

    What about Stan? He should think over, why his mother is so concerned about him staying home. He shouldn't have rebutted the way he did because the tone of his voice could easily have been mistaken as rudeness. This could have offended Mom, making her feel undermined and not respected, thus, no room for negotiations. What he could have done is to suggest the idea earlier in the week, or even rephrase the question in a more polite way. He could have asked, "Mom, since I've done my work, I need a break. So may I go play Basketball with my friends?" By being polite and less demanding, he gives Mom the confidence that he knows what he is doing and maybe Mom reconsiders agreeing to the idea.

    So, in short, I think that the way we speak, phrasing our questions and stating our opinions, should be clear, polite and with reason. When listening, we should not jump to conclusions or judge each other without empathy. If we do, we may give the impression as being cold, unfriendly and unreasonable or highly temperamental. So the use of the right tone and the rigt choice of words are important.

  2. i defintely do not think that there is a resemblance to anybody in this article. The real stanley in life defintely do not have an issue with his parents.

    Now let's proceed to the article. It's in chinese tradition that children should obey their parents out of filial piety. However, this value has a different meaning throughout different generations. One might expect total obedience to their parents during the Qing dynasty.That include marriages. Now doesn't a basketball game sounds inferior compared to marriages?

    Beside i believe if you reason with your parents, i believe that they will understand your needs. You must show your parents that you have grown up and know how to take care of yourself already. You must portray a matured image such that you know what is best for yourself.

    Getting angry and stomping off defintely prove your mother right that you are still a child and need her to make decisions for you. Furthermore, if you are able to produce good results for your parents as a proof of your ability to handle your academics, i am sure they will have more trust in you and allow you to do what you want.

    Believe me, it's hard to convince parents that we have grown up and we can take care of ourself. Nonetheless we must try hard all the time to upkeep a mature and responsible image. In this way, it will be easier for us to do what we want. :)