Monday, 11 February 2013

#2 Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

Conflicts arise when people start taking matters into their own hands. This is largely due to the lack of communication. When people do not communicate their ideas or intentions clearly, there are bound to be instances where they get misunderstood. Unfortunately, I was caught in a situation before and I told myself I will never let history repeat again.

The incident took place during my secondary school days. I vividly remember that it was around the period when I was about to be elected as the vice-president of the students’ council. It all started out when I decided to run for that position. Firstly, I joined the students’ council because I liked the activities they were involved in. Secondly, it was a place where I can make friends from different classes and co-curriculum activities group. We hit off quite well at the start as everyone get to know more about each other. As such, I decided to run for the executive committee so that I can better contribute to the team. However, as time passed, people start showing their true colours and conflicts started to pour in.

Before the actual election, part of my assessment required me to facilitate a secondary 3 level camp as the logistics head. I was basically the logistic man in charge of ration and materials needed for stations. Alice, the operation head, was in charge of all the manpower and was holding all the keys to the rooms. One room required for a station was locked but Alice was very engage trying to sort of the manpower. I then offered to help since I had nothing to do. After opening the door, I placed the keys back on her table.
Hours later, Alice came over and asked me to return the keys. I thought she was joking with me. I told her it was not funny and I have to get back to work. She then raised her voice and demanded me to hand over the keys. She told me I was being irresponsible and destructive to her work. I was shocked as to why she has such accusation of me when I clearly return the keys and did nothing else. I brought her back to table and found the keys lying underneath a stack of paper. She was not remorseful at all after the key was found even though she knew that it was clearly her fault. This incident strained our friendship. A close friend of mine then told me she started spreading rumors about how irresponsible I am. People in the committee started to doubt my ability and my capability of being a vice-president. I was devastated and demoralized  I did not know what to do at the point in time. I wanted to give up. I asked myself what I have done to receive such treatment. 

However, after much thought, I decided to confront the problem. I had a personal chat with Alice and I was shocked as to what I have found out from her. I realized that some people who were jealous of me told Alice that I was irresponsible, thus she jumped straight into the conclusion that I did not return the keys after not seeing them on her table. I explained to her the whole incident and how I felt about the false accusations. She apologized for jumping into conclusion and spreading those false rumors.

Eventually, the air was cleared and those who were spreading rumors about me being irresponsible were removed from the council. I went on to assume my position and was well-liked by my peers. Whenever I looked back at this incident, I always ask myself what if I were to just walked away and leave the council. What if you were me, what would you have done?  
I guessed everyone has their own way to handle such situation, for me, I chose to confront the conflict. It all boils down to communication. If I have told Alice and signaled to her that I have already returned the keys, the incident would not have happened. Different people have different interpretation of stuff around them. They just have to communicate in order to prevent misunderstanding.


  1. Hello Jack,

    A sticky situation indeed, and in this case, which I think you were lucky, being honest with her resolved it. Gossips, they spread like bushfire, and changing the impression that people have of you after that is definitely not easy.

    How would I have dealt with it? Perhaps not in the best way, knowing myself. Since I would not be aware of her response, and gauging from her nature of jumping to conclusions, I would be very careful about being open with her, since she could have been so convinced that you were wrong that she could have thought that you were spinning this 'sympathy' tale for increased popularity.

    Staying, despite the rumours shows your courage, which is admirable, but it is something I might not have done, despite knowing I was not what they described me to be. In fact, I might have withdrawn from the elections, but that probably is not the best way.

    Communication is important, but I feel it also depends on whether the receiving party intends to listen. If their ears are closed, our words will be pointless in proving us right.

    A few tips:
    Perhaps you could have left the situation unresolved, so we would not develop a bias, when thinking up a way to counter this?

    Also, I notice that you switch to present at times while narrating the incident. I get your meaning, but I believe it would be more engaging if you could check it, thanks.

    Conflict arises --> A conflict arises/ Conflicts arise

    I told myself never that I will not --> Think you meant to write 'told myself that i will never'

    I like the activities they were involved in --> I liked the activities

    part of my assessment requires me --> part of my assessment required me

    (Alice) is holding all the keys --> was holding the keys

    I then offered to help since I have nothing to do --> Since I had nothing to do.

    I realized that some people who were jealous of me told Alice that I am irresponsible, thus she jump straight into the conclusion that I never return the keys --> I realized that some people who were jealous of me told Alice that I was irresponsible, thus she jumped into the conclusion that I did not return the keys

    I think you get the point yeah. Since you are narrating, if you started with past tense, its right to stick with it throughout, especially within a sentence.

    I was irresponsible and was being destructive to her work --> I'm not too sure, but I think we were told not to use was twice in this way, rather write it as such; 'I was being irresponsible and destructive to her work'

    Intuitively I feel that when u have ALWAYS, it should be followed by an action in the present so 'I always asked myself' should be 'I always ask myself'. If I'm not wrong that is the case for adverbs.

    Personally I do not see the need to remember the grammar terms, but I definitely believe that we should all apply it correctly. It makes a difference.

  2. Hey Jack

    I'd imagine being the vice-president of the student council would require having good relationships with fellow students. I truly empathise with you, learning that there were students who were spreading false acuusations. It is good to hear that the conflict was resolved before it got too messy.

    If I had been in your situation, I'd definitely feel the need to clear the air with Alicia. It can get really irritating when you know that the person, whom you have to work closely with, has a false pre-conceived notion of you. Thus, I agree with how you felt the need to confront her. It would have been difficult to work with her and ignore the issue. It also would not have served well to have conflicts within the council itself, given that the council has to manage the rest of the student population.

    Well, I say all this now, but I am not sure if I might have had the courage to do so when I was in secondary school. So, kudos to you! There were a few grammar errors which Hiranya has already pointed out. Overall, it was nice reading your post and how you manageed to resolved the coonflict, even at an early age.


  3. Hey Jack!

    I like the way you settled it out with Alice in the end. I think it is great you two got back to being friends after such a incident. This sort of incidents are common in event management and often lead to ruined friendships, especially in school events, which are unlike work event management where there are not as many preexisting friendships.

    In my opinion, in the madness of such events, I will always try to inform the person I am returning something to in person, when I am returning something, rather than leaving it at a place where she will find it. It sure takes extra effort to do so, but it eliminates potential explosive misunderstandings. The personal touch in informing the other party should usually help as the other party will not need to frantically search or guess where I left it. But then again, in this realm of event management, even if we eliminate this source of trouble, another one will arise amid the madness of running the event. As you posted, the presence of jealous members will only exacerbate the situation. That is where your solution about speaking to the other party in person is important and is shown above to be effective.

    Anyway, I am not too sure if it appears the same way on your computer but at my end, there seems to be some random switching of fonts and font sizes within this post. It might have been some Google Blogger quirkiness causing this and it doesn't do this post a favor.

    Apart from that, I feel this is a very honest post and definitely a good read. It covers the interpersonal issues between friends working together in a event, competing to prove themselves better than each other. This competing amongst friends might be a strange concept to swallow, but whether we like it or not, we will find ourselves in this situation from time to time. Thanks for sharing the experience and serving to give some hope in settling such problems!

  4. Dear Hiranya,Darsha and Austen,

    Thank you for all you inciteful feedback. I appreciated them very much as it helped me to improve. I have done the necessary changes and updated the post. I guessed everyone has their own ways of dealing with conflicts and there are no model solutions. At the end of the day, I think it is always better to nip the conflict in the bud before it escalates to something beyond imagination. Thank you all once again for taking time of to read my humble post.

  5. As one of your other readers noted, Jack, what a 'sticky situation.' You were clearly wronged, even though engaing the conflict might not have been so advisable, and so you had to endure the greater slight of Alice not even apologizing.

    This is a complicated scenario, with a real-world flare to it. The ere are language problems that obstruct an easy reading at times, and it is less than concise, but I appreciate your sharing and your effort.