Interpersonal Conflict in Television

Interpersonal Conflict in Television

COM 200: Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is a central aspect of our every day lives. However, along with that aspect comes the burden of conflict. Interpersonal conflict is unavoidable, but with the right strategies, one can resolve conflicts effectively. Television serves as the perfect practice to develop active-empathic listening skills. In every movie or television series we watch, there is always some form of interpersonal conflict. The show Modern Family revolves around multiple married couples and their families, so we see a lot of interpersonal conflicts that were not handled correctly. Through analyzing a conflict from the episode of Modern Family entitled “SuperShowerBabyBowl,” we can understand why the conflict was not handled effectively and what strategies could have been utilized to resolve the conflict.

In the episode of Modern Family entitled “SuperShowerBabyBowl,” Cam and Jay experience an interpersonal conflict that was not handled correctly. In the episode, Cam and Jay are upset with each other because they each think that the other forgot an agreement that they made the previous year to wake up early and cook chili for the super bowl. Throughout the episode, they each harbor resentment towards the other. Jay continually gloats about his famous chili, while Cam pretends that he didn’t know that Jay makes chili and then he even insults Jay’s chili. They continue their passive aggressive attitudes until the end of the episode where it leads to a confrontation.

When conflict occurs, it is how the conflict is handled that impacts the relationship. As cited by Comstock and Strzyzewski (1990), “How family members interact during conflictual situations determines the quality of their relationship” (Calvin & Brommel, 1986; Montemayor, 1986). Although Jay and Cam eventually worked out their conflict, their relationship was strained, at least for the episode, because they did not handle their conflict appropriately. Cam and Jay both demonstrate an avoidance conflict style in this episode. Bevan and Sole (2014) state that those with an avoidance conflict style “likely communicate by being evasive, denying that the conflict exists, changing the topic, using humor to deflect the conflict, or physically or emotionally withdraw from interacting with you” (sec. 9.2). Both Cam and Jay avoid talking about the conflict between them, they were withdrawn from each other, and they were evasive with each other. Additionally, they also demonstrated deception because when they both believed the other forgot about their agreement, they each pretended that they were not bothered by it and that they forgot about it as well because they did not want to be humiliated that the other forgot something that they viewed as important and meaningful. Social aggression was also demonstrated when Cam and Jay alternated between ignoring the other and making insults at each other.

There are several strategies that could have been utilized to resolve the conflict between Jay and Cam. First, if they would have just been honest with each other and expressed themselves, they would have found out that they both remembered and looked forward to their plans and they could have avoided hurting each other further. According to Bevan and Sole (2014), effective communication begins with articulating your views and emotions in a positive or productive way. Jay and Cam could have utilized “I” statements to establish responsibility for their own role in the conflict and respectfully allow the other to know how they felt and why. Finally, both Jay and Cam could have monitored and regulated their nonverbal communication behaviors, perceptions, and emotions during the conflict. Not managing nonverbal communication appropriately can escalate a conflict rapidly.

In summation, with interpersonal communication, the burden of conflict is unavoidable. Utilizing the right strategies can allow an individual to properly resolve interpersonal conflict. In the example shared from the series Modern Family, the characters Jay and Cam experienced interpersonal conflict and did not handle it appropriately. Jay and Cam demonstrated an avoidance conflict style, deception, and social aggression. Jay and Cam could have resolved their conflict more effectively had they expressed their feelings constructively, used “I” statements, and managed their nonverbal communication. Conflicts can be damaging to relationships if they are not handled effectively, so it is imperative to learn how to appropriately manage interpersonal conflicts.


Bevan, J. L., & Sole, K. (2014). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication (2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from

Comstock, J., & Strzyzewski, K. (1990). Interpersonal Interaction on Television: Family Conflict and Jealousy on Primetime. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 34(3), 263–282.

Lloyd, C., & Levitan, S. (Creators & Producers). (2009-2018). Modern Family. [Television series]. Retrieved from