Short Overview

What is an interpersonal conflict?

Interpersonal conflict happens when there is a disagreement between two or more people, regardless of whether it is expressed verbally or non-verbally. The dispute often stems from the difference in values, expectations, goals, viewpoints, beliefs, and attitudes towards problem-solving. This may be because people have very different personalities, backgrounds and cultural values that come into play in social interactions. Interpersonal conflict may occur in any setting, such as at home, at work and at school, and in personal or professional relationships, such as with spouses, siblings, parents, children, friends and co-workers. 

There are different types of conflict that you can identify in daily life:


  • Pseudo conflict: it comes from misunderstanding and interpreting wrongly of one person’s intention by another person. This conflict can usually be solved quickly with clarification and talking through the situation.
  • Fact conflict occurs when two or more people disagree with the facts of something. For instance, when you disagree with your friend that the cost of an item is higher than when you checked it last week.

    This can be solved easily by checking the fact or information for the truth.

  • Value conflict happens when people have different personal values on things they feel strongly about, such as education, abortion or other religious beliefs. It isn’t easy to resolve because people’s values or beliefs are often deep-rooted. But acknowledging their beliefs even when you disagree with them helps with understanding that it is okay to have different values from each other.
  • Policy conflict happens when people disagree with the solution, policy, approach or action plan in a given situation. It is common to have such conflict, as people may have different opinions and suggestions from diverse educational backgrounds and have different knowledge.
  • Hence, the way to solve it is to reach a common ground in achieving a common goal.
  • But, unfortunately, ego conflict happens when the disagreement gets personal, leading to the situation that the people involved may get emotional and defensive and refuse to back down. Therefore, it is best to step away and de-escalate the situation so that a resolution can be achieved after people are relaxed.
interpersonal conflicts reasons

How can interpersonal conflict be a negative stress? How does it affect us?

Interpersonal conflict is not always negative. In fact, it helps with improving interpersonal relationships if the conflict is managed well. This is because both parties can use the conflict as an opportunity to communicate and understand better each other’s opinions, values and beliefs. It
strengthens the bonding and trust with each other and helps to prevent conflicts happen in the future.

On the other hand, conflict can be unhealthy or unproductive if we react to it without handling it properly and allowing it to impact us negatively. It takes an emotional toll on us when we try to manage and resolve the conflict. After all, we feel negative and need to manage our emotions first when things are not going the way we want. So, it may lead to significant stress when a conflict occurs. But the stress becomes unhealthy if we suppress the negative feelings, such as anger or frustration. The suppressed feelings may turn into Resentment over time if those feelings are not acknowledged, addressed or resolved. Even knowing that unresolved conflicts happen over time makes you think you need to vent your anger in any way necessary to work through the conflict. But, unfortunately, it will only increase the stress and damage the relationship more.

Subsequently, unmanaged stress will put you at risk of developing other physical or mental health conditions, such as sleep problems, digestive problems, burnout, depression, anxiety and so on.

So how to resolve an interpersonal conflict?

Firstly, you must be aware of your feelings as you speak. Be alert of any changes to your body, gesture or voice. If you feel that you start to be emotional, tense up or even raise your voice, stop and take a breath. This helps de-escalate the situation and prevent it from turning into an
the argument that only brings more harm to you and the people involved.

In addition, when you notice that the conversation is turning sour and you are in an argument with another person, remind yourself to use the “I” statement throughout the process. For example, you may say

“I feel frustrated when you did not do the house chores” 


 “I feel angry when you hung up my call”

Suppose you start with a “you” statement, such as 

“you didn’t do what I said”


In that case, it sounds like an accusation that may trigger the other person’s defensiveness in defending their ground. But, using the “”I”” statement helps the person to understand your feelings more specifically and what behaviour or action triggers those negative feelings. Then, you two can work on the solutions more easily with the understanding.

More importantly, be respectful and kind even in a conflict. Interpersonal conflict is not necessarily to be like a dog fight. You don’t have to mock, yell, belittle or name-calling the other person to state your point of view in the argument. Doing those not only cannot help with managing the conflict, but it also harms the relationship even more and dismisses the attempt to solve the problem.

Also, remember to avoid discussing disagreements or trying to solve a problem when you and the other party are not in good condition physically or psychologically. For example, if you or the other person is tired, overwhelmed or stressed, you may need more time to develop practical solutions that meet both parties needs. If you can’t avoid needing to talk through the solutions to resolve the conflict, make sure you take a short break and resume the discussion when both of you are ready, calm or well-rested.

interpersonal conflict resolution
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