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Relationships are a very important part of people’s lives. However, when conflicts arise, relationships become unhealthy. Therefore, there is a need to understand basic principles and ways of enhancing interpersonal relationships. One of the ways of positive interpersonal relationships is through effective communication. This paper centers on interpersonal relationships, shedding more light on how to positively affect interpersonal relationships through effective communication.

Joining high school was a great achievement for me .It implied that I had attained guaranteed freedom to do what I wished, since I would spend most of my time away from my mother. She had raised me being a single mother and treated me as her greatly treasured son. However, I viewed her great domineering concern on my every move and, therefore, I wanted to prove to her and everyone else that I was an adult and should not be regarded as a child any longer. I also wanted to be considered a hero by my peers. Therefore, I had to figure out a plan on how to hang out more with my friends without the knowledge of my mother who was opposed to such habits. Although most of my friends were drug addicts, I always ensured that I restrained myself from such habits. However, through a peer influence, I eventually gave in to drugs. It was during one of the parties that a teacher spotted me and reported a case to my parents. I tried to create a story that could act as a cover up to avoid a lot questioning concerning my abrupt change of behavior. To my surprise, my mother was so smart and, in fact, she was mad about me, because of being a disappointment to her. Since then, our relationships and almost everything about my life changed.

She greatly condemned relationships with my peers, regarding it as being unhealthy. She even threatened to reduce the amount of money she used to giving me for daily expenses. What offended me greatly was when she hired a private teacher for me. I was greatly irritated, since I knew she did so intentionally to break my contact with my friends. She also instructed me to use my leisure time doing homework and other unfinished assignments. I felt hated and neglected. My friends pointed the finger of scorn at me. Sometimes, I had to sneak out in her absence without her consent and to spend time with my friends. In case she found me with one of the friends, she reprimanded me in front of them. I felt so much humiliated and embarrassed. At one instance, I was about to hit her, but one of my friends restrained me. When she found that I had sneaked from home in her absence, she drove straight to the place, where we used to hang out with my friends. She scolded me in the public and I felt so much hurt by her insensitivity to my feelings and, therefore, I wanted to retaliate.

As a result of this incident, I realized that there were difficulties that existed between us. It was clear that a problem or a set of problems existed, which required immediate intervention before the situation became worse. Apparently, both of us were self-centered in one way or another. A problem existed, since no one was willing to listen to the other. Both of us were defensive in the way we behaved towards each other. I was adamant that things had to go my way. Similarly, my mother was also resolute that whatever she wanted had to go her way. Also, there was no time and room for effective communication, so that everyone would understand the feelings of the other. Although both of us were hurting on the inside, none was willing to disclose to the other. For instance, I could not tell her that I was uncomfortable with the way she dictated the kind of friends I should move with. On the other hand, she did not inform me that the reason as to why she acted the way she did was because of her love for me. Instead, I interpreted that she hated me and that she did not want anything good for me. We did not feel free to express our feelings over the whole matter, even though we were not comfortable.

It is worth while noting, that emotional feelings exist, when people communicate and intermingle with each other creating communication climates in the process. Communication climates are descriptions of emotions that people have when interrelating with each other. There are four major relational communication climates, which are characterized as stormy, cold, sunny and warm.

A communication climate is identified by a manner, in which people speak and behave with each other. Also, a manner, in which people feel they are valued by the other person, indicates a type of climate existing between them. Moreover, a manner, in which people treat others, indicates a kind of feelings existing between them. During a conversation, people display confirming responses. These are messages that indicate how a person is valued by the other party. They can be communicated verbally or non-verbally.

In one instance or another, conflicts do occur in a relationship. Communication climates are built on individual responses and messages from one party to another. This kind of communication is referred to as a spiral and can either be positive or negative. Negative spirals results in conflicts. Two types of conflict spirals are escalatory conflicts, whereby one assault leads to another and grows on that premise. The other type of conflict spiral is de-escalatory, when both parties in a relationship withdraw thereby reducing communication and involvement.

During a conflict, de-confirming responses aggravate a problem creating more harm than good. Gibb analyzed these responses in a format with six categories, which he collectively termed as a defensive behavior. He called them defense arousing behaviors since they occur when a person perceive or foresee threat in a relationship. The first one is known as evaluative communication, when one party accuses the other one putting him or her on the defensive side. The second is control communication, when one party provides a solution to the other irrespective of their feelings. Strategy communication involves manipulating a person so that he or she acts in a certain manner. Another defensive behavior is neutrality, which involves an attitude that lacks concern for the other. Superiority is evident when people behave like they are better than others. It can be said that my mother applied superiority in her reaction towards my change of behavior. Lastly, certainty is a defensive behavior that involves sending a message to inform one party in a relationship that the other has already made up his or her mind. All these defensive behaviors are disastrous and retrogressive, as far as maintaining a healthy relationship is concerned.

A defensive behavior approach to resolving conflicts leads to a win-lose situation. Other end results of defensive behaviors for conflict management include lose-lose scenario, when both sides lose and are dissatisfied. Compromise is another eventuality, which leaves the parties dissatisfied. However, there are better ways of resolving conflicts, which leave both parties satisfied. Such an approach is termed as a win-win situation.

In order to resolve a conflict through a win-win approach, there are several steps to be involved. Firstly, both or all parties involved should determine their problem as well as their unfulfilled needs. Then, they should initiate and encourage a positive communication climate by deciding the specific time to resolve a conflict. They should place all their problems and requirements on a table. The time to check back with each other should be accorded to ensure there is a mutual understanding. Every party should enquire the needs of the other and paraphrase them in order to ensure they are well-understood. Afterwards, a solution is negotiated and later, a follow up should be made on the solution that was settled on.

Supportive behaviors center on listening and understanding the feelings of other people rather than judging them. It is a practice that can be learnt and adopted as a way of improving relationships. Listening to each other creates a warm climate between communicators and a healthy relationship. Through supportive approach, people can put emphasis on their ideas in comparison with other ones to acknowledge a different perspective of an idea from your own. It also encourages an open mind.

Negotiating a solution should be done in a systematic way to avoid unnecessary compromise. Firstly, a conflict is determined and defined precisely. Then, probable solutions are developed and collected together. The evaluation of substitute solutions is included so that the best solution is chosen. Conflicts should not always appear as win-lose scenarios; most of the time there is a win-win solution available. People should adopt assertive behaviors to be able to express their feelings effectively without hurting themselves and others.

I intend to apply this game plan to resolving a conflict that exists between me and my mother. According to the conducted research, we applied defensive behaviors in the conflict and this accounted for worsening the situation. Through the use of Gibb’s supportive behaviors, I and my mother will be able to settle our differences. First of all, there will be a need to listen to each other, since that has never happened earlier. Also by practicing assertiveness, each of us will be able to express our feelings and hopefully, a win-win solution will be achieved.

Conflicts are a common occurrence in any relationship. It has been established that these conflicts arise from messages communicated between people in relationships. Conflicts are built on responses from one of the party in a relationship. Although conflicts cannot be avoided, people have a duty to ensure that they resolve it and everyone is satisfied with an outcome. By assertiveness and adopting Gibb’s supportive behaviors, it will be possible to resolve almost every conflict that comes your way. As a matter of fact, everyone can be better at resolving conflicts with a little knowledge and practice. 

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