Understanding Interpersonal Conflict in Television
COM200 Interpersonal Communications
Conflict can be defined in many ways. One definition is having a violent disagreement with
another. Bevan and Sole (2014) defines conflict management as using constructive and positive
behaviors, such as listening and apologizing. Conflict can be between two people, groups of
people, countries, on even just one person (internal conflict). However, it can be characterized with
violence. Conflict is all around us. Dealing with conflict daily creates stress, irritation, anger,
anxiety and depression. Whether this conflict takes pace at work, at home, out in public, or in a
private or personal setting, conflict can negatively affect us all in many ways, causing struggles in
our lives. This is one reason for communication break downs. Learning how to resolve
interpersonal conflicts and develop rational communication skills is critical in resolving
consistent negative behavior and elevate positive physical and emotional relationships.
In the Movie “War of the Roses” starring Michael Douglas as Oliver Rose and Kathleen
Turner as Barbara, the couple take marital conflicts to the extreme. When Oliver’s over-bearing
and in-affectionate treatment of his wife escalates into her wanting a divorce, the two begin a
series of retaliations to get each other to give up wanting ownership of the property that won’t be
settled until the final divorce. The conflict the two share is the negative relationship maintenance
behavior (using negative, anti-social behavior in a destructive manner)) (Bevan and Sole 2014).
Because Barbara believed that their communication was flawed by Oliver’s self-centered attitude
and pompous position, her behavior turned into a vindictive and unhinged person who stopped at
nothing to hurt her husband’s ego and destroy his efforts to take ownership of the house. She
refused to listen to him anymore, even though he still held some hope of them getting over their
conflicts and working things out. By lacking control mutuality (guidelines for measuring trust)
and blaming each other for their unhappiness, the link to communication was broken to the point of
mistrust. The opportunities to embarrass and humiliate each other were endless.
When there is a problem with listening communication a relationship, both parties suffer.
Sole (2011), defines key attributes of a poor listener. These included daydreaming, being
distracted, focusing on the speaker, being emotional, interrupting and prejudging. Oliver and
Barbara shared these attributes on serval occasions. If they would have both been active listeners,
they could have ended their conflicts and focus on the important assets of the relationship that
would filter and reduce the stress and frustration they both carried.
Gaining common ground in relationships involves becoming empathetic listeners. Barbara
wanted out of the martial because of irreconcilable differences. Oliver wanted out because his
wife showed no empathy toward him in the relationship. These differences included failure of
them both listening, respecting, acknowledging, enhancing, assisting, offering, and reassuring
each other of their emotional and social support at the beginning, middle and ending of them
relationship (Bevan and Sole 2014). Instead, they became overly invested in belittling, demising,
spying, becoming destructive, controlling, and eliciting avoidance behavior toward each other to
manipulate the others’ credibility.
Building a relationship through commitment, faithfulness and emotional support would
have disrupted any negative influences in the marriage between the Roses because of the strong
bond they could have developed with each other. They both avoided the problems they created in
the relationship by ignoring each other’s concerns and needs, a connection that could have
provided a positive outlook toward the future. Much could have been avoided if task sharing and
advice had been offered in the communication process of the relationship. If both shared
responsibilities, instead of dominating the roles each played, it might have helped them better
calculate the root of the conflicts they shared in their interpersonal relationship (Bevan and Sole,
When couples share their thoughts, feelings, and responses to each other, the line of
openness and support from family, friends, and others in their social network can be
accessible tools to assists in supporting both when and if needed.
Bevan, J. L., & Sole, K. (2014). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication (2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.