Conflict can arise in any situation, whether one is at work or simply interacting with their family. Tracy and her parents faced a conflict that was brought on by a variable outside of anyone’s control, a disability. Utilizing open communication, collaboration, and trust Tracy and her parents were able to address the conflict they were facing. Conflict may be difficult, especially between family members, because they have a history which can overly complicate a conflict. It may be difficult, but a family conflict can be resolved just like any other conflict.
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Tracy is a single mother of a child under the age of ten. She lives alone but has a disability that is worsening. Her disability causes her to fall regularly, often times the falls lead to an injury. Recently, she fell down a flight of stairs, rendering herself unconscious, with only her and her child at home. Her child called Tracy’s parents, whom managed to get her to the emergency room for treatment. It was the worst fall she had ever endured due to her disability.
After the scare of her falling down the stairs, Tracy’s parents determined that Tracy and her child should move in with them. Tracy does not want to leave her home but her parents are insisting that she moves. This has led to a major family conflict between Tracy and her parents. The conflict only worsens as each day passes, with no resolution in sight.
Tracy’s parents, Carl and Betty are worried that Tracy will injure herself with no way to call for help. In addition, their greatest fear would be for Tracy to fall and die, leaving her child to find her. The fall down the stairs left Tracy with a concussion, and nearly a broken neck. They want her to move back home so that there would always be an adult there with her, in case she should fall. They also want to help Tracy care for her child, due to her disability worsening.
Carl and Betty want to ensure their daughter is safe and looked after, especially if her condition worsens. They are both concerned that their grandchild is being forced to grow up too fast, due to the constant talks their daughter has to have with them about what to do should she fall and not respond. They believe that by Tracy moving in with them they would not only be looking out for the welfare of their child, they would be giving a childhood back to their grandchild. Carl and Betty bring up their concerns whenever they see Tracy and are becoming upset that she is not taking them up on their offer, and instead choosing to remain alone in her home with all the possibilities that brings.
Tracy understands that her parents worry about her, because she herself is a parent. She knows her disability is worsening, but does not want to give up the freedom she has in having her own home. She likes being able to come and go as she pleases, as well as, her child having their own space. Tracy believes that moving back to her childhood home would take away her adult freedoms and her ability to parent.
Tracy fears her parents will take away her ability to parent, and instead parent not only her but her child as well. She believes that she should remain independent as long as she can, making necessary changes in her own home to ensure her safety. In addition, Tracy does not want to give up all of her belongings to move back home. The idea of giving up everything to make other feels safer about medical condition is overwhelming and upsetting her. She does not want to move and becomes agitated every time her parents bring it up.
“Conflict is a term that captures diverging interests or disagreements and is referred to in a number of ways including: dispute, clash of interests, competing interests or simply problem” (Stepanove, Polk, & Saldert, 2019). The conflict between Tracy and her parents could best be described as competing interests. Both sides of the conflict are arguing the best way to handle Tracy’s worsening medical condition. Each side has their own interests, which are different, which is leading to the conflict.
“[Collaborative Learning] is…a philosophy; an orientation or view that conflicts can be managed, disputes resolved, and good decisions achieved through collaborative interaction” (Walker & Daniels, 2019). Tracy and her parents could begin to manage the conflict if they engaged in collaboration. The first step would be speak clearly and openly about all of their concerns. A problem cannot be solved unless everyone is in full understanding of the exact scope of the conflict. Once collaboration begins, they can begin working towards a solution that everyone agrees to. It is important that all parties show one another respect (Shonk, 2019).
“The goal…is to encourage open thinking, good communication and cooperation” (Greengard, 2018). If Tracy and her parents both ‘dig in their heels’, the conflict will not be resolved. Each party must be open to the ideas and concern of the opposing party. Once good communication occurs, Tracy will be able to see the situation from her parents’ perspective and vice versa. The ultimate goal is to ensure that Tracy and her child are safe, and that both parties have peace of mind with regards to that level of safety.
“The basis of conflicts…lies in the perception of incompatibility regarding various issues in the organizations, the interdependent behaviors of organizational members, and the role of interaction that allows expression of incompatibility” (Nordin, Sivapalan, Ahmad, & Abdullah, 2014). Tracy and her parents must feel comfortable in expressing their concerns, as well as, the issues they find to be incompatible with resolving the conflict. For example, Tracy’s parents will not accept that doing nothing will allow the situation to improve. Tracy will not accept that giving up everything in her life to become a ‘child’ again is going to improve the situation.
Once communication is opened and both parties feel comfortable in sharing all of their concerns with one another, the conflict can be resolved. In this particular case, the main issue is Tracy’s safety. Tracy’s parents are right to be concerned for their daughter and grandchild, however, only Tracy knows how her medical condition is truly impacting her. Tracy could make some concessions, such as spending time at her parents or having her parents spend time with her at her home. It is also a possibility, that if her insurance covers it, she could look for an in-home health aid to come daily to help her. Either way, an adult would be present most of the day with her. In order for Tracy to keep her independence, she may also offer to get a life alert necklace in case she falls, so that 911 can be alerted.
Tracy’s parents also want to ensure that their grandchild is not put in a terrible position, should Tracy fall and severely/mortally injure herself. They may want to discuss the child spending nights with them several nights a week. In addition, it may be an option for them to offer to pay for a cellphone for the child (age appropriate firefly phone that only allows the child to call certain numbers). Tracy also must come to terms with the fact that her medical condition is worsening. While she may want to maintain her independence, her disability may not allow her do that. One part of conflict resolution is accepting certain aspects of the conflict that are simply out of everyone’s control.
Once Tracy examined all of her options and spoke with her parents, they collaborated. In addition, Tracy’s child was asked how they felt about their mother falling and what they hoped for in terms of their mother’s safety. Together they decided to rent a storage space for Tracy, so that she would not have to sell all of her belongings. Tracy agreed to move in with her parents, under the agreement that she would be afforded the right to be an adult and that by moving back into her childhood home, she is not agreeing to be treated like a child. They worked together, in collaboration, to determine the best route to take, resolving the conflict.
Conflicts can be difficult to overcome and resolve. In the case of Tracy and her parents, there were additional factors that made resolving the conflict much more difficult, and that is the fact they were family. Conflict in family can be especially difficult because there is a storied history that is shared between those in the conflict. History can be brought up causing a cloud in judgement in regards to resolving the conflict. Intergenerational familial conflicts can be among the roughest, due to feelings of not being respected or being condescended to.
Tracy and her parents were able to sit down and open their lines of communication, as well as their minds. In order to resolve this conflict each party had to be empathetic to the other party. It was important that each party felt listened to. Tracy was encouraged to explore all of her options in regards to remaining independent. It was also important for her to recognize that her disability was having a major impact on her life and the life of her child. Ignoring the problem was not going to make it go away.
It was important for Tracy’s parents to understand how difficult the choice to move home was for Tracy. Her life is already being altered dramatically by her medical condition, and moving home was making her fell helpless. Tracy’s parents had to see the situation through her eyes. Once they were able to understand the conflict from Tracy’s perspective they were able to determine what they were able to do in order to make the situation easier for Tracy.
Due to the circumstances that led to the conflict, collaboration had to be utilized to resolve it. This conflict included someone’s health, the welfare of a child, and residence. Tracy and her parents had to collaborate to solve the conflict because it was the inability to collaborate that caused it. Tracy had one mindset her parents had another, neither side were wanting to give at all. Had they engaged in collaboration from the beginning the conflict may have never arisen to the point it had. The most important part of the collaboration is that the child’s point of was taken into consideration. Everyone who is or will be impacted by a conflict or the resolution of that conflict should be heard with regards to their fears/concerns, hopes, and/or ideas.
- Greengard, S. (2018, September 21). How Leaders Can Turn Conflict into Improvement. Retrieved from American Association for Physician Leadership: https://www.physicianleaders.org/news/turning-conflict-into-improvement
- Nordin, S. M., Sivapalan, S., Ahmad, H. H., & Abdullah, A. (2014). Organizational Communication Climate and Conflict Management: Communications Management in an Oil and Gas Company. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 109: 1046-1058.
- Shonk, K. (2019, September 17). 3 Types of Conflict and How to Address Them. Retrieved from Program on Negotiation: Harvard Law School: https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/conflict-resolution/types-conflict/
- Stepanove, O., Polk, M., & Saldert, H. (2019). Understanding mechanisms of conflict resolution beyond collaboration: an interdisciplinary typology of knowledge types and their integration in practice. Sustainability Science, 1-17.
- Walker, G. B., & Daniels, S. E. (2019). Collaboration in Environmental Conflict Management and Decision-Making: Comparing Best Practices With Insights From Collaborative Learning Work. Frontiers in Communication, https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2019.00002.