Conflicts are part of interpersonal communication.

Conflicts are part of interpersonal communication. You will not be in lock-step agreement with a person all of the time. The best approach to handling conflicts is head-on. Conflicts can be healthy and hold positive possibilities.

First, let’s examine the concept. Conflicts are personal. Make no mistake about it. That is why some of the most damaging conflicts happen between people who are close (e.g., family, friends, and spouses). When conflicts go undetected, interaction can become poisonous, rotting away necessary elements like fairness, empathy, trust, and honesty. Combatants become vengeful and judgmental, focusing only on winning the conflict. In the worst cases, people will continue a conflict to such lengths that both sides remain miserable indefinitely.

Disagreements often become conflicts under these circumstances:
Two people are interdependent; they each need something from the other.
Both parties blame the other or find fault with them for causing the problem.
One or more of the parties is angry or emotionally upset.
The parties’ behaviors are affecting their relationship with each other and/or their relationships with others.

You have been working on a group project with several other students. The project has generally been going well, but one person on the project has not been pulling his or her weight, relying on everyone else in the group to complete the project. The group has discussed this problem, and you have elected as the person to communicate with the student who has not been helping on the project. Using Microsoft Word or a similar program, draft an email to your fellow student discussing the issue and what you think can or should be done to resolve it. You will want to communicate carefully, being clear on the problem as you see it without being aggressive or angry. Proper language and tone will be extremely important. On the same document, in 2-3 paragraphs, discuss how you came to the solution for this issue. In this discussion, include what would constitute a good resolution for the problem in your opinion and what actions (or non-action) by the offending student would cause you to contact the instructor for additional help in resolving the problem.


Email is clear and direct, and discusses the problem with significant detail.

Email is carefully moderated in tone and discusses the problem calmly and clearly.

Discussion is clear in bringing in more authority and also offers a rationale for how and why more authority may be needed to resolve the issue.

Email and response are professional throughout. Tone, language, spelling, syntax and other aspects of communication are accurate and effective.