College Essay Examples

Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal Conflict

According to De Clercq and Belausteguigoitia (2021), humans have accepted that conflict and adversarial disputes have been by-products of human nature for many centuries. The acceptance has led to a focus on analyzing conflict to understand how it can be resolved. In recent times, research has focused on explaining why specific conflicts are resolved in particular ways and the possibility of better ways to solve these conflicts. Making progress toward better conflict resolution requires understanding the etiology of conflict, the perceived incompatible goals between conflicting parties, and people’s traditional reactions to conflict situations (Wickham et al., 2016). A proper analysis of the cause of conflict helps determine the processes that need to be implemented to achieve positive outcomes. Hocker and Wilmot (2018) state that communication plays a significant role in solving interpersonal conflict by helping in the identification of perceived incompatible goals. Therefore, identifying goals is vital in solving interpersonal conflicts. The paper examines the importance of knowing goals during conflict resolution, using the acronym TRIP to identify goals for conflicting parties, and describes a conflict involving two parties. 

The Importance of Knowing Goals When Working with Clients in Conflict

Conflict managers must know clients’ goals in conflict because this determines the success of the conflict experience (Gray, Ozer, & Rosenthal, 2017). Without an understanding of goals, a situation is likely to produce more conflict. Therefore, conflict managers need to carefully specify the clients’ goals to avoid the culmination of the conflict. Moreover, knowledge of goals when working with clients in conflict helps decide which goals need to be identified, those to be traded, and the ones to be maintained (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). For instance, when one party has an unclear goal, and the other’s goal is clear, the conflict manager will decide if it is necessary for the client with an unclear goal to trade it.

Clarifying goals in conflict is also essential in conflict management because it allows conflict managers to decide on the goals worth pursuing to solve the conflict between two parties (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). With an understanding of goals in a conflict, a conflict manager becomes well prepared for the conflict management process. The preparation can encompass comparing the goals of the clients to identify which ones to consider. Additionally, clarifying goals is essential because it allows conflicting parties to show respect to one another. When there is respect during conflict management, discussions can lead to shifts in goals associated with constructive conflict management.

Knowing goals when working with clients in conflict helps keep track of the changes of these goals during conflict management. According to Hocker and Wilmot (2018), goals never stay static during conflict resolution as they transform. The transformation can occur before, during, and after the conflict. Therefore, knowledge of these goals is necessary to help track them. Goals can emerge as one or change to other types; therefore, tracking them allows conflict managers to understand how best to meet the goals of both conflicting parties. Conflict can become challenging to solve without tracking these goals because conflict managers will be rooted in specific goals of the clients that may have changed during the conflict management process.

Knowing goals during conflict resolution is vital in enhancing their fluidity (Gray, Ozer, & Rosenthal, 2017; Baillien et al., 2017). With this knowledge, conflict managers can determine which goals to combine to allow for a fluid pathway to help solve the conflict. With the fluidity of goals, it will be easy for entirely new and fresh goals to come up during the conflict management process. The fluidity of parties’ goals in conflict can only be achieved if the parties are open-minded to their perspectives.

Knowing the goals of conflicting parties during conflict resolution allows conflict managers to understand the dynamics of culture, gender, and upbringing, specifically the role they play during the conflict management process. For conflict managers, the success of conflict resolution will be determined by their understanding of the parties’ biases (Gray, Ozer, & Rosenthal, 2017). In this case, knowing a conflicting party’s goals will help understand the influence of culture, gender, and upbringing on the goals. For instance, a person in a conflict will likely talk about his retrospective goals after the conflict to try and justify his goals (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). The individual can cite his upbringing to have played an essential role in the goals he had. Therefore, knowledge of culture, gender, and upbringing allows conflict managers to understand the motivations behind the goals of the conflicting parties.

Using the Acronym TRIP to Identify the Goals for Each Person in a Conflict

Conflict managers use the acronym TRIP to help them identify the goals of the conflicting parties. The acronym stands for the common types of goals in conflict, which include topic or content, relational, identity, and process (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). Notably, not all these types of goals are evident during a conflict. Conflict managers must understand how to classify goals that present themselves during a conflict to help them know how to approach the conflict. It is necessary to examine a personal example of a conflict to identify the various goals present. 

In this personal example, John and Brian had been friends for over ten years. On a particular day, John was in a financial fix, which meant that he had to look for a person to loan him $500 to help address his situation. After careful consideration, he decided to approach Brian, whom he had considered a good friend, to loan him the money. Brian loaned John $500 and asked him to repay the total amount in a month without hesitation or any interest. John promised that he would not fail to return the money within a month, as he would get some payment. However, after a month, John failed to return the money. Brian then reached John to inquire about the money, and he was disappointed when John told him to wait for one more month. A conflict ensued between them, with Brian accusing John of failing to honor his promise, while John claimed that Brian did not understand his situation, yet they had been friends for several years. According to Brian, John had failed to honor their friendship by fulfilling his earlier promise of paying the money back within a month. He believes that their mutual friend, Joseph, can help them determine who has wronged the other.

Various goals exist in the conflict example above. For instance, Brian has topic goals, relational goals, and process goals. On topic goals, Brian wants his money back. The main goal is to get his money back, as John had promised him that one month would not elapse before he gets back his $500. On relational goals, Brian is worried about his relationship with John because he had failed to keep his promise, which is not what one expects of a good friend. On process goals, Brian is focused on the communication process involved in solving the conflict; particularly, the involvement of a third party.

Just like Brian, John has various goals in the conflict. He has topic goals and relational goals. On topic goals, John wants Brian to give him more time to look for the money and settle the loan. He wants one more month, on top of the time he had the promise to settle the loan. On relational goals, John is worried about how Brian treats him, yet they have been friends for several years.

Interpersonal Conflict

The identification of each person’s goals involved the use of the acronym TRIP. For Brian, the identification of his topic goals involved considering the question, “What does Brian want?” In this case, Brian wanted John to pay him back his money, making this his topic goal. On relational goals, it was essential to consider the relationship between Brian and John (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). In specific, it was necessary to understand how Brian wanted to be treated by John. From the conflict, Brian wanted John to act like a good friend and pay him back his money as earlier promised. On process goals, it was essential to understand how the parties wanted to conduct the conflict (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). In the case of Brian, it was essential to involve a third party, which qualifies this to be his process goal.

The identification of John’s goals also involved reliance on the TRIP acronym. On topic goals, it was necessary to consider what John wanted. According to John, Brian should give him more time to repay the loan, making this his process goal. On the relational goal, it was essential to look at the relationship between the people. John was worried about how Brian treated him, yet they had been friends for years.

The outcome of the conflict was the full repayment of the money by John within two weeks, as mediated by Joseph, who was a mutual friend. The outcome can be considered negative because both parties had their topic goals merged to help develop the outcome. According to Hocker and Wilmot (2018), topic-only solutions are usually unsatisfying in a conflict. Brian’s topic goal was to get his money back, as the earlier promised period had elapsed. On the other hand, John’s topic goal was to be given one more month to pay the money back. After considering these topic goals, Joseph focused on providing a topic-only solution to the conflict by ensuring that Brian got his money back, but after two weeks. Also, John got two weeks to settle the loan and not the one month he had requested earlier. The outcome was negative because it only addressed topic goals, and the rest of the goals were left unattended.

How Goals Overlap and Influence One Another

Goals overlap when conflicting parties have goals that are closely linked to each other (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). These can be relational goals and identity goals, or any other type of combination. For instance, a conflicting party concerned about how a friend treats him and who he is will likely overlap his goals. For this individual, the goals are somehow closely linked, with one being a relational goal and the other an identity goal. Therefore, the fulfillment of any of the goals will likely lead to the fulfillment of the other. In such a situation, these goals are considered to have overlapped. Goals also influence one another (Somaraju et al., 2021; Dunaetz, 2019). It occurs when these goals are capable of affecting each other. For instance, in a conflict over loan repayment involving two friends, the friend who gave out the loan may have the goal of getting the money back so that their relationship is not broken. In this example, it is evident that the two goals influence one another. The goal of maintaining the relationship, a relational goal, influences the goal of getting the money back, a topic goal. In some situations, goals interact with others, which leads to them transforming (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018).

General Description of the People Involved in the Conflict

The conflict involved two parties, Brian and John. Brian has a well-paying job and is financially stable. He has been a friend to John for over ten years, and they share mutual friends. Brian has numerous well-off friends with businesses across the country. Brian is a medical practitioner with busy weekly schedules.

On the other hand, John is struggling with employment, as he has on and off jobs. John is not financially stable and struggles with paying his bills. He shared mutual friends with Brian due to their long friendship. John has conversational skills, persuasive ability and can quickly form close bonds with others.

Analysis of Each Person’s Power Currencies using the Acronym RICE

According to Hocker and Wilmot (2018), power currency relies on how much a person values the other person’s particular resources in a relationship context. The acronym RICE is typically used to recall interpersonal power currencies, the most important aspects of interpersonal conflict. In the conflict described above, Brian has resource control because he has a well-paying job and is financially stable. The power currency is vital in the conflict because it explains John’s dependence on Brian for financial security. Also, Brian has interpersonal linkages in professional connections that can help John secure a job. The power currency is important because it allows Brian to recommend John to some of his well-off friends.

On the part of John, the only power currency he has is communication skills. John has exceptional conversational skills and persuasive ability. The power currency is important because it helps John form and maintains relationships with others.

How Each Person’s Perception of the Other Person’s Power Affected the Conflict

Power currency plays a significant role in the conflict. According to Hocker and Wilmot (2018), power asymmetries in conflict are characterized by predictable effects on both lower-and higher-power parties. The power imbalance between these parties often leads to systemwide effects on their relationship. How every party perceives the other’s power determines the resolution of a conflict. In the case of Brian, he perceived John as a lower-power party, which had a significant impact on the conflict. For instance, as a higher-power party, John would rely on him for other favors in the future, which is why it was vital for him to repay the money as earlier agreed. Without repaying the money, Brian believed that John would have closed all chances to get similar assistance in the future. On the part of John, he perceived Brian as a higher-power party, which significantly affected the conflict. John knew that Brian would assist him again due to his power currency, and it was necessary to meet his end of the bargain, despite the financial challenges he was facing. Therefore, he felt helpless, which meant that the conflict resolution would only benefit Brian, the higher-power party. A therapist can work with these individuals in this conflict in terms of power by encouraging collaboration and balancing power constructively (Hocker & Wilmot, 2018). It will involve ensuring that Brian, the higher-power party, is not abusing power so that he has all the influence in the conflict. The therapist will work to ensure that the two parties share power by encouraging collaboration between them.

Interpersonal Conflict

In conclusion, an understanding of goals is vital in resolving interpersonal conflict. Conflict managers should know clients’ goals in conflict because this determines the success of the conflict experience. Without an understanding of goals, a situation is likely to produce more conflict. Knowing goals during conflict resolution is vital in enhancing the goals’ fluidity. Conflict managers use the acronym TRIP to help them identify the goals of the conflicting parties. The acronym stands for the common types of goals in conflict, which include topic or content, relational, identity, and process. The conflict example provided in the paper involved the application of the acronym to identify the conflicting parties’ goals. Power currency is essential in conflict resolution because it helps understand how a person in a relationship context values another’s resources.


Baillien, E., Escartín, J., Gross, C., & Zapf, D. (2017). Towards a conceptual and empirical differentiation between workplace bullying and interpersonal conflict. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology26(6), 870-881.

De Clercq, D., & Belausteguigoitia, I. (2021). The links among interpersonal conflict, personal and contextual resources, and creative behaviour. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 38(2), 135-149.

Dunaetz, D. (2019). Constructively managing program-related conflict in local churches. Christian Education Journal: Research on Educational Ministry, 6(2), 259-274.

Gray, J. S., Ozer, D. J., & Rosenthal, R. (2017). Goal conflict and psychological well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research in Personality, 66, 27-37.

Hocker, J., & Wilmot, W. (2018). Interpersonal conflict (10th eds.). McGraw Hill Education.

Somaraju, A. V., Griffin, D. J., Olenick, J., Chang, C. H. D., & Kozlowski, S. W. (2021). The dynamic nature of interpersonal conflict and psychological strain in extreme work settings. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Wickham, R. E., Williamson, R. E., Beard, C. L., Kobayashi, C. L., & Hirst, T. W. (2016). Authenticity attenuates the negative effects of interpersonal conflict on daily wellbeing. Journal of Research in Personality, 60, 56-62.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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