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Resolving Personal Conflicts
How to Resolve Personal Conflicts

Wilmot and Hocker (2007) describe conflict as "an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals" (p. 9). When working to resolve conflict, it is important to remember the TRIP goals of the parties in conflict:

Topic or Content Goals - "What do we want?"
Conflict about a topic or content falls into one of two categories: 1) people want different things, or 2) people want the same thing. Topic or content goals are a starting point to understand the other party involved in the conflict.

Relational Goals - "Who are we to each other?"
Relational goals are central to conflict resolution and deal with perceptions of how one party should be treated and will treat the other party. Sharing those expectations can help parties in conflict to work out their differences by clarifying expectations and perceptions of the relationship.

Identity or Face-Saving Goals - "Who am I in this interaction?"
Identity or Face-Saving goals will become more important as conflict becomes more intense. These goals involve identity protection and presentation of a particular self-image. If a party's identity is questioned or attacked, it will likely lead to defensiveness.

Process Goals - "What communication process will be used?"
Process goals determine how a conflict will be resolved. Different communication processes may be better in different situations. Conflict parties should consider the  best method for resolving the particular conflict.

Dealing with interpersonal conflict is like taking a TRIP. These four goals can help you determine what the conflict is about, maintain the relationship connection, protect your own identity, and discover the best way to resolve personal conflicts.

Wilmot, W. W., & Hocker, J. L. (2007). Interpersonal Conflict. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

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For more information, contact the Center for Conflict Resolution.

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