Different Approaches in Conflict Management.
The case that is being analyzed is about the power issues between Lenore and Caroline. This paper will assess the power relationship between the two and explain in great detail the power balancing strategies that can be used. Also included in this paper, will be the Wilmot- Hocker assessment guide. The Wilmot – Hocker Assessment Guide will be the basic foundation for this paper. This assignment will explain the goals of each individual and the messages they use to achieve them. This case study will include examples from the conversation in order to back up certain ideas.
Before Lenore and Caroline engage in conflict, Lenore felt she was being shunned from the family. This feeling of being shunned, resulted in Lenore having a hostile attitude toward Caroline and her family. Even though Lenore feels neglected, she will only state a few of the reasons why she ” Feels a non-person in Caroline”s life and her kid”s.” The reason why she will not engage fully into conflict is she afraid of conflict. She views confrontation in a negative way.
If she did not perceive conflict in a negative view, she would then be more direct on how she feels. When Caroline begins to defend herself and her family, Lenore instantly backs away and pretends to forget what she had previously stated. Lenore is denying that something was communicated because she is trying to ignore the existence of power (Interpersonal Conflict p. 87).
Caroline is the exact opposite of Lenore. Although Caroline does not initiate the conflict, she does not back down from conflict. It is obvious that Caroline is not afraid of conflict. Since the relationship between her mother and her is important, she wants to understand why her mother feels the way she does. Caroline realizes in order to do so, a conflict between ideas will occur. She understands if the conflict is handled correctly, the relationship will gradually become stronger with her mother. Both of their ideas about how a family should be raised will brought out into the open in a conflict.
After reading over the case, it was apparent that both Lenore and Caroline use metaphoric images when they are communicating to each other. Lenore states that parent”s are the best role models for children. If you”re not going to provide that model for them, who is? Caroline responds by saying, ” I can not buy what you are saying.” Although this type of metaphoric image is not mentioned in the book, one must assume that this is an example of conflict as a product. By saying I can not buy what you are saying, Caroline is stating the metaphoric message that conflict is a product and can be bought if it is at the right price.
When Lenore told Caroline that she is heading into fairly stormy waters, Lenore is using what is considered to be a negative metaphor. Stormy waters can be extremely destructive by being repetitive, powerful, and inescapable. The book would compare Lenore”s statement as being “Conflict is a Tide.” Both Lenore and Caroline do not use metaphoric images in a positive way. If both parties realized those metaphors can cast a negative tone, it would limit the possibility for productive conflict management. Neither party would have used the metaphors.
Lenore is a senior citizen, which would make her over sixty-years of age. Taking her age and the way she communicates into consideration, one can assume that she is a conservative and an old fashion type of lady. She demands that Caroline and her children show her respect because of her age. It is even mentioned in the case, that Lenore would drop everything when her parents came to visit her. Caroline is thirty- years old, and it is obvious that she is more liberal then Lenore.
Caroline can understand her daughter”s actions a lot clearer then can Lenore. The difference in generations is one of the main ingredients of the conflict. The older generation of people can not adapt to the change in families. For example, people in Lenore”s time were not so busy with ” Car pools, tennis games, and trips that we”re really not crucial to any part of your life style.” This generation of families is on a lot more hectic schedule. Lenore and many other people from her generation, have a hard time adapting to the fast pace life many families endure.
Lenore must understand and accept that Caroline”s parenting style suits the lifestyle of the family. Lenore”s parenting style may have worked in the fifties, but it will not work in the nineties. Until Lenore accepts this fact, there will always be a conflict between them.
The event that triggers the conflict, is when Caroline”s daughter runs right past Lenore and does not say hello. Lenore interprets that the kid is “spoiled”, and that Caroline has failed at raising her children correctly. This is the event that brought the conflict into mutual awareness. Since Lenore is Caroline”s mother, she unarguably believes she knows what is best for Caroline”s family. This first event lead”s into a destructive spiral of more of Lenore”s problems with Caroline and her family. One of the other problems in the past that upsets her, is that she wants to feel a part of their lives. It seems that if Lenore is not the center of attention, then there must be something wrong.
Caroline believes that there is nothing wrong with her family. Lenore is overreacting and she should just let her be her own person. However, Lenore feels that there is a crisis in the family. She gets even more upset and angry, when Caroline refuses to agree with her that there is a problem in the family. Because Caroline will not agree with Lenore, it adds fuel to the fire. Caroline will listen to her mother because it is her mother, but that does not mean she will agree or change her tactics. Caroline expresses the struggle in a rational state of mind. She does not ignore her mother; instead, she communicates the message she understands her mother has a problem. The mother expresses the struggle in an over-reacting and unrational state. It is overwhelming to her that her daughter will not conform to what she says. She interprets this as being a sign of disrespect.
In order to understand what the incompatible goals are, we must understand what the relational goals of each party are. First of all, Lenore wants her grandchildren to ” kiss and hug her every time they see her.” She also wants her daughter to show her much more respect. On the other hand, Caroline wants her mother to realize that her grandchildren still love and respect her, even though they do not kiss and hug her every time they see her. Since Caroline wants one thing and Lenore wants another, this leads into incompatible goals. Both Caroline and Lenore want different things and this causes a struggle over goals.
The reason why there is a struggle over goals is because time is a scarce resource. The case study would imply that Caroline”s daughter lives a busy life. She has restraints on her time to play with her friends. When she is not playing tennis or going to school, she wants to spend her time with her friends. This is a normal response for children her age. The grandmother does not understand the time restraints on Tara. The granddaughter would rather spend some time with her friends and have fun, then sit around and listen to outdated theories of Dr. Spock. If both Lenore and Caroline were to engage over what goals are important to them, there would be less of a problem. The situation does not have to be Grandma versus the family.
This particular case study lacks goal clarity. Lenore only discovers her goals during the course of the conflict. She only began to engage in conflict, when Tara ran past her and ignored her. Before this incident, she did not have a plan on how to become a bigger influence in the family. If Lenore really wanted to improve the relationship with the family, she would not have been so individualistic. She could have taken account for the family”s needs as well as hers. Lenore could have mentioned that she thought her knowledge on raising families could benefit Caroline and would also help Lenore feel a part of the family.
Throughout the conflict, Caroline was defending herself and her family. Therefore, she used a lot of self-oriented tactics. She became very defensive when Lenore said that she was not interested in their advice or in their decisions. She was forced to defend herself and her family. By being defensive, it limited her to only being able to respond back. She was unable to make clear exactly what she wanted from her mother.
Although the prospective goal was not mentioned, it was obvious that Lenore was upset with the behavior of Tara and Caroline. Lenore stated that her husband and her “feel like their a non-person in your life and your kids life.” Lenore”s first goal would be an example of a relational goal. Lenore wanted her grandchildren and her own daughter to treat her with respect. The conflict was about who Lenore and Caroline are to each other. If Lenore is Caroline”s mother, she should treat her like a mother. However, Caroline feels Lenore should stop telling her what is best for her and her family. This is also an example of a relational goal. Since Caroline and Lenore have opposing views on their relationship, a conflict developed.
The transactive goals that developed in this conflict happened while the conflict was taking place. Caroline was not aware of how her mother felt about their relationship. Even though this conflict took place, Caroline still does not know how the mother feels about the relationship. In the beginning stages of the conflict, Caroline”s goal was to explain why her daughter did not say hello. That was a relational goal. After Caroline realized that her mother was upset about how Caroline is raising her children, the goal drastically changed from being a relational goal to an identity goal. Who is Caroline to her mother? When Caroline said,” Just because you”re my mother does not mean that we have to think exactly the same,” it showed Caroline was trying to clarify their relationship.
During the conflict, Caroline was trying to save face. In order to do so, she had to stick up to her mother. Her mother ,however, wanted to still have control of Caroline and the way she raised her family. When a valid point was made, her mother would find a way to change it around. For example, when Caroline said, “You brought me up to understand that I am my own person,” her mother responded by saying, ” I hope I threw in some training sessions on respecting other people”s authority.” Lenore was accusing Caroline of being a poor mother and having a poor daughter. Lenore could not accept that her daughter could make good decisions, without her assistance.
Since it is not known what exactly the retrospective goal is, one must assume that Caroline realized she should have handled the conflict differently. If the goals in the beginning were clarified, there would not have been such a dispute. Neither party specialized in any type of goal. By the end of the conflict, both parties still did not know what the other party wanted.
The power issue between Lenore and Caroline is not discussed. Lenore, who has less power then Caroline, is trying to take away Caroline”s power. Lenore uses an either/or approach. Caroline is trying to move Lenore against her will. What this means is she is trying to force Lenore to do what she says. If Lenore says that Caroline is not raising her family correctly, she better change something.
Caroline and Lenore are in a conflict over who should have power in the relationship. The mother believes that she knows best on how to raise children and Caroline should listen to her. French and Raven would describe this source of power as expertise. Since Lenore is the mother of Caroline, she believes she has the wisdom, knowledge, and expertise on how a family should operate. Caroline refuses to accept her mother”s opinion and that leads into a struggle over power. When Caroline was younger, her mother was able to punish (coercion) her when she did not like her behavior. Now that she is older her mother is unable to do that and it causes Lenore to be less powerful. Her mother can only verbally attack Caroline, and that is exactly what she does.
A currency that Caroline did not realize she had was her interpersonal linkage. She serves as the bridge between Lenore and Tara. Lenore would not know how Tara felt if it was not for Caroline. If Caroline choose not to tell Tara how Lenore felt, there is nothing Lenore could do about it. This would make Lenore even have less power.
Lenore and Caroline have a power imbalance. Lenore”s goal is to strive for higher power. She even mentions if she was the mother, the children would not be acting this way. Lenore communicates to Caroline in what is called competitive symmetry. This means that she uses a repeated pattern of one-ups. An example of this would be when Lenore said, “This your mother talking.” Lenore attempted to have Caroline be submissive and to agree with her by communicating with one-downs. Instead, Caroline attempted to communicate in what is called a complementary pattern. She would say, ” Your are twisting this all around to make me see your point of view. So what if we disagree with minor things.” She was using a one-up pattern at first by saying how she truly felt, but she then use a one-down pattern when she explained her reasoning and she hoped her mother would agree.
The type of style that Lenore uses is called competitive. She is highly concerned for her own needs and she really does not have a high concern for others. For example she says, “We just have begun to realize that we are going to start looking out for our own needs-alone.” This statement is implying that her needs must be meet first and foremost.
What makes this case interesting, is that Lenore also uses an avoidance technique throughout the argument. When Lenore said, “Nonsense! I”ve never ever told you what to do or when to do it.” This remark indicates that Lenore decided that she would avoid continuing in the argument. She is using what is called a nonconsensual avoidance. She is ignoring everything that Caroline has to say.
Caroline uses a collaborative style when she communicates with her mother. She has a high concern for her needs, but she also has a high concern for her mother”s needs. The problem is her mother and her can not clarify what they want. So it makes it impossible for Caroline to find an integrative solution that will satisfy them both. What results from this is a symmetrical “attack-attack” patterns, were they are trying to one-up each other.
Caroline, Lenore, and Tara are involved in what is known as a toxic triangle. Tara and Lenore are at the top corners, while the grandmother is at the bottom corner. The results from a toxic triangle can be devastating to the relationship. If the grandmother would accept Tara withdrawing from the triangle, it would give Lenore and Caroline time to discuss their current relationship. The focus would not be about Tara, but instead them. This one to one communication could result in the two collaborating.
All and all, both parties need to realize in order to accomplish their goals, they need to know exactly what their goals are. Lenore uses the avoidance and competitive style, while Caroline uses the competitive and collaboration style. They will only further damage the relationship if they keep competing with each other over who has power.
Different Approaches in Conflict Management