Television Conflict: Understanding Interpersonal Conflict in Television

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 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.