Friday, August 28, 2009

Resolving Interpersonal Conflicts

I don’t like conflicts. One of the reasons why I’m quiet most of the time is: I don’t want to get into interpersonal conflicts. However, from my own experience, even the silence may cause conflicts.

Let me share one very sensitive hypothetical situation.

Jane Doe has been good friend with John Doer for more than 4 decades. Now, Jane has severe financial problem and after a week of consideration, she wants to borrow some money from John, who is known as the richest man in Doers Town. However, John rejected to give a helping hand, saying that he has no immediate cash in hand.

Jane is deeply hurt by the fact that John rejected her request for help when he had been generously lending money to other people for past 5 decades and it was her first time asking for help. She then starts to avoid John.

The truth is that due to recent economic downfall, John was also suffering from severe financial problem. The price of his stocks dropped by 99.9% and his business was on the verge of bankruptcy. He had not been able to pay his workers for 2 months now and they have gone into strike. He does not want to let anyone else know about this problem as it might drag his pride down

Here’s a question: How should they resolve this problem so that their relationship can return to normal?


  1. There is only one plausible way to resolve such conflicts. Firstly, John would have to put his pride aside and explain to Jane exactly why he is unable to give Jane any financial support. This would clarify any misunderstandings that Jane might have.

    Secondly, if Jane felt hurt, she should have talked to John about it. If they really have been friends for four decades and if they value their friendships above their financial accument, both parties should be understanding to each others situation.

    Certainly, this scenario portrays the need for clarity in communication.

  2. I agree with Idris that John should put his ego aside and explain his situation to Jane if he really treasure the his friendship with Jane. Silence is not the best solution to all conflicts. It might avoid hostility in some situations but in other situation, such as the one you mentioned, it would only cause unnecessary misunderstandings. Assumptions and misunderstandings are the main killers of relationships and should thus be avoided.

    I used to keep quiet whenever a conflict occur between me and my friends, thinking that the problem would slowly fade away after a period of time. But after several bad experience, I realize that voicing out your disagreement and listening to the other side of the story could actually strengthen my relationship with my friends as you would now understand them better than you used to.

  3. This is a clear example of a misunderstanding between friends.

    I think the issue of male ego is highlighted very well here; no pun intended. It is true that alot of males (as proven or confirmed by my male friends) do not like to show weakness for fear of losing their pride. I agree that if John values the friendship, he needs to put aside some ego, ask Jane out and clarify to Jane why he rejected her request. It would certainly strengthen and reaffirm the mutual value of their friendship.

    For myself, I believe in honesty and transparency in my relationships with friends, exactly because misunderstandings arise when we are not open to one another, and such misunderstandings may lead to serious consequences and hence should not be undermined.