Managing Conflict in Relationships

Many, if not everyone, have been in a conflict at some point in their lives with close friends, spouses, family members, and even business partners. I recall when I got into an interpersonal conflict with my best friend, Naomi, over a weekend getaway. Naomi and I always spent time together over the weekends. However, a few of my elementary school friends had visited the town, and I got an invitation for a weekend getaway. One week after the getaway, I invited Naomi over to my house for the weekend, after which she declined, claiming that she had “plans with other friends.” Later that day, I learned that Naomi’s excuse was merely a covert reaction to my previous decision, after which we heatedly argued. Failure to address our conflict effectively cost us our friendship; reflecting on that event, I believe things would have been different if we had addressed the matter using the three steps proposed by Clair Canfield and adopted the VOCAB.

As I reflect on my past interpersonal conflict, I perceive that it could have been handled differently if my friend and I followed the three steps proposed by Clair Canfield. Canfield argues that conflict should be managed by learning what it is about, recognizing when one is stuck, and learning to speak responsibly using the VOCAB (Canfield, 2016). In this context, Naomi and I should have discussed the situation calmly to create a supportive climate and uncover any deeper worries surrounding the conflict. The VOCAB, an acronym for vulnerability, ownership, communication, acceptance, and boundaries, would have helped us handle the situation differently. Arguably, the five elements would have helped us connect, take account of our choices without feeling blameless, and listen and express ourselves effectively. The VOCAB would also have assisted us in embracing the truth, letting go of issues beyond our control, and setting the ground rules for our friendship.

In essence, following the three steps of conflict management proposed by Clair Canfield and the VOCAB would have helped improve the interpersonal conflict between my friend and I. Notably, exploring the deeper issues that contributed to the conflict, failure to justify our mistakes, and speaking more responsibly and constructively would have made the situation different. Although the case may not be undone, the event was a valuable lesson for conflict management.



Canfield, C. (2016, December 1). The beauty of conflict [YouTube Video]. TEDx. Retrieved from

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