Conflicts + Emotional Awareness

My natural inclination is to avoid conflict. For my own personal development, I need to learn how to speak up when something bothers me. What I do instead (all too often) is nothing externally, but internally store the anger, sadness, or hurt feelings. This isn’t healthy, fosters poor communication, and has probably stunted my efforts in learning to be tactful/assertive in my speaking.

Describe a time when …

Discuss a time you had a conflict. What was it about? What happened?

I had a pairing session that didn’t go very well. We seemed to be on different wavelengths, and as a result, didn’t accomplish much of anything during the two hour session. I signed off feeling frustrated and hurt. I felt as though I tried my best to be accomodating, and it just didn’t work. I took the experience as a personal failure.

What was the source of the conflict?

Disagreements during pseudocode. We couldn’t seem to agree on anything. Each line of text on the screen felt like the result of a hard fought battle.

What basic emotions did you feel upon analyzing the conflict?

Angry and hurt. I felt as though I was being more considerate of my pair’s input than they were being of mine. Perhaps I should have been less flexible, and more assertive.

What actions did you take to resolve your conflict?

I discussed the situation with anyone that would listen. I knew that I needed a more distant perspective than my own. The programming I completed on my own, then signed up for tutoring to make sure that I actually did understand the assignment. Being unable to complete the work during the pairing session hurt my confidence levels.

If you could go back, what would you do differently, if anything?

I’m not sure. We could have consulted more outside resources, human or internet, and that would likely have helped. I could have thrown in the towel sooner, acknowledging that, for whatever reason, we were not working well together that day. Perhaps if I had done that, we could have completed the assignment together at another time. I could have taken over as driver. It’s not the ‘nice’ thing to do, so I didn’t try it, but if I had, perhaps we could have concluded the session with something to show for it.

What did you learn from this experience?

Pairing isn’t always a helpful experience. It’s useful to be honest about when a session isn’t working. Maybe you can figure out why, but if not, you can certainly refocus your efforts, and more efficiently spend your resources.


Conflict happens. Some people get mad, some get sad, and the fun ones get passive aggresive. The best way I’ve found to resolve conflict is through emotional awareness. First figure out why everyone is upset. The real problem is often deeper than the issue being discussed. Also helpful - always speak from “I”, i.e. “I felt ___ when you did/said ___“. Speaking for others is often quite incendiary in an argumentative setting, so avoid it if you can. No one is born good at conflict resolution, it’s a skill like any other, and improves with practice.