Case Study Example for Resolving Interpersonal Conflicts

The following sample Psychology essay is 1567 words long, in APA format, and written at the undergraduate level. It has been downloaded 278 times and is available for you to use, free of charge.

The goal of the conflict between Enrique and Monica is a combination of both topic/content goals and relational goals. It is evident from the beginning of the couple's interaction that each person wants something different. When they are trying to decide what to do for their Saturday, Monica seems to already know exactly what she wants to do. The first thing she wants is to spend time with Enrique and suggests that they go get pizza and see a movie later in the evening. The second thing that she wants is some help around the house, which is evident by the way she hints about there being so much to do and that it has been piling up on her for the past two weeks (Davis, 2014). It is not entirely clear what Enrique wants at this point in their conversation, but one thing is very clear. He does not seem to want the same things as Monica. Both of her goals fail to really initiate any kind of reaction from him that suggests he has similar goals for their weekend. His response to going out for pizza and a movie is to say that he is not sure and wants to see how the day goes first. This answer is vague but potentially hints that Enrique either wants to do something different or has something he needs to accomplish before he can commit to a fun evening out. As to Monica’s hint about the housework that needs to be done, he does not acknowledge or respond to anything she says at all.

The relational goals present in their conversation stem from the topic goals. When Monica asks for help around the house, she immediately associates his lack of response with the same kind of arguments she had overheard between her mother and father as she was growing up (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 82-87). During these arguments, her father would declare that he did not understand why her mother needed help around the house. He thought housework was her mother’s job and that they each had their respective jobs to perform in the interpersonal relationship, thus could not understand why he had to help around the house after he had been at work all day. Monica assumes that Enrique may feel similarly about housework and backs off for a moment (Davis, 2014). Enrique’s inner thoughts later in their conversation reveal that he feels like Monica does not see how hard he works or how much he tries and feels that she is trying to manipulate him.

The way Monica speaks to her husband coupled with the way she quickly becomes very angry and upset indicate that she is employing the competing style of conflict in her approach to the problem. Competing conflict styles are also known as the ‘win-lose’ approach in which a person acts in a very overly assertive way in order to achieve their goals. They do not make any attempts to understand the other party’s point of view and therefore do not see a point in cooperating with their goals (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 63-74). Monica makes her wants/needs very apparent from the beginning of the conversation. She wants help around the house and she wants to go out with Enrique later so they can spend time together. However, Enrique’s reactions and lack of clear response to her attempts to initiate plans for the day should have indicated that she needed to talk to Enrique more about whatever was on his mind. She does attempt to change the conversation and ask about Enrique’s job to seem helpful and encouraging to him. Yet, her attempt to be emotionally supportive seems artificial and uncaring by the way she immediately switches the conversation back to what she wants after he starts to open up about the stress he feels about getting a promotion (Davis, 2014). Additionally, she ignores the insightful things he says and accidentally ends up adding to his stress by saying that they could certainly use the money the position would bring.

In comparison to Monica’s competing conflict style, Enrique’s behavior is much more reflective of the avoiding style of conflict. He clearly is not interested in helping Monica achieve any of her goals, but his vague and confusing responses to her are also not helping him pursue his own goals (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 63-81). For instance, after her suggestions about how to spend their day, he rejects them without offering any suggestions of his own or giving a reason for not wanting to go along with Monica’s plan. This is problematic because it sends Monica very mixed signals about his behavior (Davis, 2014). She has no idea if he has other things to do that day, if there is something really bothering him, or if he simply does not care about helping her or spending any time with her. Thus, by being avoidant, Enrique makes the conflict feel much more personal to his wife. Enrique further avoids dealing with the situation by leaving after the two start to argue angrily. He states that he feels like he is trapped in a no-win situation after Monica tells him that she wishes he would listen to what she is saying. This makes him assume that anything else that he says or does now will definitely end up being considered ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ by Monica (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 76-83). Prior experiences with Monica’s temper make him feel powerless in communication any further with her, so he makes the decision to leave and go visit a friend for a while so she can clean the house (Davis, 2014). He tries to employ the compromising style by adding that he will come back to pick her up for pizza and a movie after she finishes what she needs to do (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 76-83). However, his only attempt to compromise with Monica is blocked by her competing style, which is displayed in her angry outburst about not wanting to clean the house alone.

Monica’s assertiveness put her in the position of high power in this conflict, while Enrique’s feelings of helplessness represent a feeling of low power. Of all the RICE currencies, communication skills are mainly what is in play between Monica and Enrique. Without improving the way they are communicating, their argument with each other will continue in circles without getting resolved (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 95-101). Enrique needs to help Monica understand what is on his mind and Monica needs to listen without trying to switch the conversation back to her goals.

Both Enrique and Monica are only thinking of themselves and thus are acting very selfishly. After clearing their heads, they need to talk to each other again but focus on how they are contributing to the situation (Davis, 2014). Using empathetic statements to communicate would be a great way to show each other that they are trying to view the problem from the other’s perspective as well as validating the other’s emotions (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 75-87). Monica needs to help Enrique understand how hard she works around the house while he is at work during the day and explain that she does not want to be stuck doing housework all weekend as well. She could also explain that she is cleaning up after him in addition to herself and that she does not mind doing so if he does not mind helping her with the chores he contributes to, such as laundry or dirty dishes. Similarly, Enrique needs to express why he does not seem willing to help her on the0 weekends as well as why he was not enthusiastic about going out for pizza with her (Davis, 2014). Once both parties have been able to express everything they are thinking and feeling without making accusations or trying to prioritize their goals, they can successfully identify the problem they need to solve. Once the problem has been identified, they can begin the process of collaborating and compromising with each other. For instance, maybe Enrique is very tired from the stress of his job and promotion and needs a day just to relax and unwind. Maybe he has no idea how much work Monica does around the house and they need to make a list of chores that need to get done on the weekends together so they can delegate some of the work to Enrique. Perhaps Enrique can start a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher in the mornings before he goes to work so Monica has less to worry about during the day. Additionally, Monica must respect her husband and show that she cares by listening to him and thinking of how she can make him feel better too. If he is having a tough time with stress from his job, she needs to realize that nagging him to help her on the weekends and becoming volatile is only going to add to his stress. Inevitably, both Enrique and Monica need to find how they can change their behavior to resolve the conflict.


Davis, D. (2014). Eye to Eye. Unit 7: Case Study: Power, 103.

Wilmot, W. W., & Hocker, J. L. (2011). Interpersonal conflict (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.