NCSU COM 112 - COM 112 Chapter 11 (41 pages)

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COM 112 Chapter 11



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COM 112 Chapter 11

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Pages:
41
School:
North Carolina State University
Course:
Com 112 - Interpersonal Communication
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Page 349 CHAPTER PREVIEW 1 2 3 4 1 The Nature of Interpersonal Conflict 2 Conflict in Personal Relationships 3 Power and Conflict 4 Managing Interpersonal Conflict MANAGING CONFLICT THERE S AN APP FOR THAT People in romantic relationships routinely cite conflict as one of the biggest relational challenges they face Although it is largely inevitable in close relationships conflict can lead to hurt feelings damaged trust and even relational dissolution In the digital age however help is never more than a few mouse clicks away An iPod app called Marriage Advice gives users guidance for managing conflict in their romantic relationships The app explains why conflict can become problematic for a relationship how to find a conflict counselor and when to consider leaving the relationship Every relationship is different of course but an app like Marriage Advice aims to offer practical suggestions that most couples can follow to improve their communication Page 350 A lmost every relationship experiences conflict from time to time Managing conflict can be productive but it is also very challenging As you ll see in this chapter though conflict management is a normal part of our interactions with others You can learn to deal with conflict constructively if you have the appropriate skills Several features of this chapter will help you develop those skills 1 The Nature of Interpersonal Conflict What exactly is conflict and what is it like to experience conflict in relationships In this section we will define interpersonal conflict and identify the characteristics all conflicts have in common Then we will take a look at some of the many ways people think about conflict in their relationships Defining Interpersonal Conflict You may recall from Chapter 10 that communication scholars William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker define interpersonal conflict as an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals scarce resources and interference from the other party in achieving their goals 1 According to Wilmot and Hocker an interaction must have all those elements to qualify as interpersonal conflict Let s focus in on the key elements in their definition CONFLICT IS AN EXPRESSED STRUGGLE Having a conflict means more than just disagreeing You may disagree with President Obama s foreign policies or your children s taste in music but you don t really have a conflict until you ve made the other person aware of your feelings Conflict therefore is a behavior Sometimes we express our disagreements verbally but we can also express them through a nonverbal behavior such as a mean look or a harsh tone of voice Conflict is often communicated verbally but it can also be conveyed with nonverbal behaviors that express anger concern or disappointment Page 351 CONFLICT OCCURS BETWEEN INTERDEPENDENT PARTIES Although all conflicts involve disagreements a disagreement becomes a conflict only if the parties depend on each other in some way that is if the actions of each party affect the well being of the other You may have noticed that conflict is particularly common in relationships with high degrees of interdependence such as those you have with your parents children instructors bosses and close friends If two parties are completely independent of each other then even though they may disagree their disagreement isn t considered to be an interpersonal conflict It s possible to have conflicts within yourself as well For example you might occasionally feel conflicted about how you spend your time Perhaps part of you thinks you should spend more time with your friends and family but another part of you thinks you should devote more time to your schoolwork This is conflict but it isn t interpersonal conflict Rather it s intrapersonal because it is occurring within yourself Therefore it operates outside the realm of interpersonal conflict CONFLICT IS ABOUT GOALS THE PARTIES SEE AS INCOMPATIBLE Conflict stems from perceiving that our goals are incompatible with another person s goals Labeling goals as incompatible doesn t simply mean that they are different Rather two goals are incompatible when it s impossible to satisfy both of them You want to change lanes on the freeway but the driver next to you won t let you in You want to spend your tax refund on a new flat screen television but your spouse wants to spend it on a family vacation Note that the first sentence in the previous paragraph explicitly refers to our perceptions that our goals are incompatible In reality it may be possible to resolve the conflict in a manner that allows both parties to achieve their goals See the discussion of conflict strategies later in the chapter The point here is that parties in a conflict perceive that their goals are mutually exclusive even if that perception is not objectively true CONFLICT ARISES OVER PERCEIVED SCARCE RESOURCES There s little sense in fighting over something one has in abundance Rather people tend to have conflict over resources they perceive to be limited Many relational partners have conflict over money for instance When individuals feel they don t have enough money for everything they need and want they can easily have conflict over how to spend the money they do have Time is another resource that people often perceive to be scarce Therefore people frequently engage in conflicts over how they should spend their time Perhaps your romantic partner wants you to split your vacation time between hiking and being with his or her family If you perceive that you don t have adequate time for both activities then you can experience conflict over how you will spend your time CONFLICT INCLUDES INTERFERENCE Two parties might have opposing goals with respect to some issue but they won t have genuine conflict until they act in ways that prevent each other from achieving their goals You might disapprove of your roommate s smoking habit for instance but you won t have true conflict until you behave in ways that interfere with his habit Complaining about his smoking for instance might diminish the enjoyment he derives from it Hiding his cigarettes or throwing them out would make it more difficult for him to smoke In either case you are interfering with your roommate s ability to achieve his goal Page 352 Thinking About Interpersonal Conflict When you think about your own experiences with interpersonal conflict what words or images come to mind It turns out that people often think about conflict


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