Conflict Case Study

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Confused, furious, offended, and besieged are adjectives that best describe my feelings when I was in conflict with Jessica, my boyfriend’s sister. I met Jessica about three years ago, the same time I started dating my boyfriend. We both started off on the wrong foot. After conducting my case study for our assignment, I realized there was very little chance of us hitting it off in the beginning, because we both met with negative pre-conceived notions that were fed to us by other outside parties. Our first impressions of one another were distorted through our own lenses, because we adopted the perceptions of others, which set us up to fail almost immediately. Even though our conflict was resolved a year ago, I found the need to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle that still remained unclear to me. The first tool that I used was Wilmot and Hocker’s Conflict Assessment Guide (Wilmot & Hocker pg 204), which assisted in conducting a careful analysis of specific aspects of our conflict. This tool also guided me in creating a path to understanding the process in which the conflict took place. I was then able to identify various conflict patterns, using two important approaches starting with the use of metaphoric/dramatic analysis and ending with charting triangles. These two approaches operated as a microscope, magnifying specific aspects of the conflict that once remained invisible to the naked eye. Finally, I was able to start putting the missing pieces of the puzzle together. According to Wilmot and Hocker there are two ways in which their Conflict Assessment Guide can be used. I decided to use the guide by “picking several questions from each section that appeared to apply to our conflict (p205).” I broke down the questions into four categories: orientation of conflict, interests/goals, styles/behaviors, and the nature of conflict. In the orientation of conflict section I noticed that we disagreed on our perceptions of conflict. I see conflict more on the positive side and Jessica sees it in a negative way. According to the Conflict Style Inventory Test, I discovered Jessica to be more avoiding and competing when involved in conflict and I am more compromising and collaborating. Even though our conflict styles seemed to be on opposite sides of the spectrum, I was interested in enlarging the patterns and structures involved within the conflict through metaphors. “Often the structure of the conflict is only expressed indirectly or implicitly so that assessment approaches cannot be constructed by asking the parties, ‘What is the structure of the conflict?’ (p 185)” The Metaphoric/Dramatic Analysis was the first method I used to help visually connect the structure of the conflict between Jessica and me. Jessica’s metaphor for conflict is best described as a fistfight. Jessica states, “It can happen between anyone, friends, family, strangers. Sometimes the fight is stupid, and you want to stop it but you can’t because you are already in mid-punch. Conflict is inevitable…conflict will always happen.” Jessica also said she feels she allows the conflict to escalate, because instead of stopping the fistfight/conflict, she avoids talking about the issue, causing the acceleration of the conflict which leaves internal scars and bruises. In comparison, the metaphor that I used for our conflict is the Ferris wheel. I feel our patterns of avoiding communication, continuously circulated, causing the conflict to become bigger. “Avoidance of conflict often leads to a cycle that is self-perpetuating (pg 137).” Wilmot and Hocker describe two cycles of avoidance that may follow different trajectories known as the twin cycles of avoidance. The first path is avoidance leading to more avoidance. The other path is avoidance leading to escalation and back to avoidance. Unfortunately, Jessica and I followed both of these trajectories throughout our conflict. Comparing the two metaphors, Jessica and I realized that...
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