As social beings we often find ourselves in conflicting situations, more so when our values and beliefs do not align. Like most people, I have had my fair share of conflict even with some of my closest kin. Conflicts arise when there are dissimilarities in the way that people want to accomplish their goals or pursue certain needs, in comparison to the expectations they have of their opponent’s behavior. Sometimes we cannot afford to lose the ties we have with those that we are in conflict with, therefore a resolution strategy must be sought eventually. In the process, we end up discovering our own toxic traits or the misconceptions that arise from misaligned beliefs. When taken positively, conflict can lead to innovations and a better understanding of others.
One of the conflicts that has taken the longest to resolve has been between me and my younger brother. He is a person I hold really dearly, but somehow we do not seem to agree on so many things. Initially, it all seemed like a minor tiff, after confronting him for being so rowdy at my daughter’s third birthday party. We had a few weeks of silence but as days went by, issues between us just seemed to crop up. Being the elder brother, and after intervention from other family members, I always acted the bigger person, seeking resolution options and even calling him out on bad behavior. Looking at the development of our conflict, we have both made use of the five styles of conflict management; avoiding, collaborating, competing, accommodating, and compromising (Benoliel, 2017).
For the sake of rekindling our relationship and the previously tight bond that existed between us, I am determined to work towards resolving this conflict. I don’t think my brother feels good about the nature of our current relationship either, which is why I am hopeful that we can gradually work towards forgiveness and reconciliation. At the beginning, when everything was so heated up, he kept accusing me of meddling into his life choices. Though I still feel that asking him to act more responsibly especially at public functions was nothing close to meddling, I have decided to be less involved in his life. Maybe with time we will both let go of our incompatibility and develop a coping mechanism that allows cooperation.
Compromising is a positive step towards conflict resolution. I feel that it shows that one respects the other party and is ready to meet them halfway. Standing my ground has made it clear that there are certain expectations I have of my brother. Even though they do not seem to match his perception of maturity and responsibility, he is aware that I do not intend to change my mindset and align to his desires which is why collaboration has not yet worked. We are still relaying heavily on avoidance and compromise. Throughout this experience, I have seen out personality traits and life experiences affect how we analyze things. According to Hocker & Wilmot, 1995, p. 150, the conflict resolution patterns we exhibit are pegged on how we have navigated life since childhood. Some people end up being highly combative while others prefer to be calm and composed despite the aggression they receive.
My brother and I have always been different. He prefers to live on the edge, but I on the other hand always deeply evaluate my actions and the consequences that result from them. Differences in personality are inherent, but how we respond to conflict is always as a result of lessons learnt through life’s experiences (Hocker & Wilmot, 1995, p. 150). I think that my brother has always seen me as an authoritative person because I stand my ground even in situations of high persuasion. In that case, he may be feeling that I am more powerful, but without compromise from both of us we are not headed anywhere in terms of resolving our issues. My brother is very strong willed and easy going. He is also very stubborn and equally stands his ground especially when he feels challenged or intimidated.
In any conflict, I take charge of the situation and discuss my dissatisfaction with the other person. My brother, on the other hand, is avoidant and will always sweep matters under the rag. I understand that choosing to focus on one’s goals over pleasing others or refusing to recognize that issues exist may result in one being regarded as a hostile individual (Ing & Gabor, 1988). Nonverbal cues certainly influence reactions in the process of conflict resolution and I often feel that we would have already moved past the issues with my brother had he been less combative and loud. Ing & Gabor, 1988 state that when handled well, conflicts can strengthen family relationships but when handled poorly they can end up creating a series of problems some of which being; power struggles, disharmony, hostility and resentment. Even as adults who have already developed their personality and beliefs, ineffectively resolving conflicts may adversely bring distress to multiple aspects of the family functioning and also affect individuals who were initially not part of the conflict.
This being a repetitive conflict makes me realize that a lot of work has to be done for us to dissolve the ambivalence between us and restore harmony between our individual family members. I am more calm and composed when angry but this does not mean that I am afraid to express myself about it. In fact, I am usually the first person to express my disappointment or dissatisfaction with a situation. My brother reacts aggressively and in a more defensive that solution oriented way. Our personality differences make this situation quite complicated and I feel that the best way we could reach an understanding was if we openly discussed our feelings calmly with the intention of resolving the issues conclusively.
Researchers have found the common need for most people to use direct confrontation in the process of resolving conflicts, but which, in most cases, only makes the situation worse. Similarly, avoidance has proven to be a weak method of conflict resolution that reflects a sense of low concern for others and one’s real feelings. Different types of conflict require different approaches in conflict resolution (Kim & Leung, 2000, p. 227). In our situation, we need to be more creative and engage alternative conflict resolution methods. At some point I was open to engaging a third party to help us iron out issues, but my brother was not amicable to it. Moving forward, I believe that bringing a neutral person on board will be helpful. I have seen this approach working for other conflicts which is why I would not mind giving it a try.
In the future, taking time to understand the other person’s point of view without mainly focusing on my goals might help resolve a conflict faster or even prevent one from developing. I have learned the importance of direct communication, the need for more verbal than non-verbal communication as well as keen listening. At the height of any conflict, perceptions take center stage and this is why it is prudent to watch one’s non-verbal communication. Right now my goal is to see to it that we resolve the existing conflict by making use of productive methods that put our diverse personality traits into consideration.