Very few people enjoy conflict, but we can better understand how to approach and improve moments in which we experience conflict by understanding if it is an intrapersonal conflict or interpersonal conflict.

Intrapersonal conflict is conflict we experience within ourselves. While it involves only the individual it can often lead to interpersonal conflict if the internal conflict is not identified or mitigated. An example may be an individual who is asked to go out to dinner when they would rather just stay home and take a nap. No one else is involved in making the decision except for the person who is faced with making the choice.

Interpersonal conflict is a conflict that involves two or more people. While it involves the connections we make with others it can also lead to intrapersonal conflict if what is being presented by an individual challenge our fundamental intrapersonal and internal dialog.

Fundamentals of intrapersonal conflict and interpersonal conflict

When one has intrapersonal conflict it involves one’s emotions, beliefs, attitudes and values. These fundamentals contribute to one’s self-awareness, perception and individual expectations. Intrapersonal conflict arises when we begin to challenge how these fundamentals interact and help us make decisions about people or events.

Our ability to analyze and clarify ideas and concepts as well as utilize oral, written and digital expression effectively are fundamental to interpersonal conflict; they revolve around our ability to communicate and the methods by which we communicate. Whether we are speaking, writing or texting we exploring interpersonal connections.

intrapersonal conflict - Intrapersonal Conflict Vs Interpersonal Conflict

Where does the conflict begin?

George, a finance specialist, has been requested to present at his companies board meeting. The night before he is full of doubt; he is worried that people won’t like his voice, what he is wearing, and that they will question his presentation just because he is younger in age. George is experiencing intrapersonal conflict with how he speaks, his external appearance and his competency.

The next day at the presentation, George accidentally makes a verbal error that contradicts his data. When a board member asks for clarification, George immediately becomes defensive and his intrapersonal conflict from the night before is in jeopardy of creating interpersonal conflict because of internal self-doubt; the inability to communicate effectively during the meeting breaks down. The board member was not challenging George he just simply wanted clarification.

Susan is invited to a party with her co-workers. The party involves a barbecue where steaks, hamburgers and hotdogs will be served as the main dishes. Susan is vegetarian and immediately communicates that she would not have attended if she knew the party involved consumption of meat. The party invitations sent out to the coworkers including Susan did not communicate that the party involved meat dishes. Susan did not inquire about the menu thus this created conflict for Susan at an intrapersonal conflict level and interpersonally with her relationships with others who do not fit her beliefs.

Resolving intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict

Intrapersonal conflict can be mitigated or resolved by involving another person, family, friend or coworker to help us sort through thoughts and ideas that cause us internal conflict. George could have sought advice on what to wear or practice his presentation in front of others to receive feedback, improve confidence and reduce his internal conflict.

Intrapersonal conflict is our responsibility. It requires that we examine our own thoughts and beliefs. Interpersonal conflict is also our responsibility, at least for our part in the communication process. Listening to one’s self, understanding one’s self, and taking the same to do that with others reduces both types of conflict. These are skills that can be acquired and practiced to reduce both intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict.

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