Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Blog Post #2

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict


Interpersonal conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. (Wilmot and Hocker, 2001) One such situation is recently experienced between my aunt, Annie, and her in-laws.

This started last year in June, when Annie’s mother-in-law fell down due to old age weakened knees and had to be admitted to the hospital. For the past centuries, Annie’s mother-in-law had been residing at her second son, Ben’s, house. Hence, being the eldest daughter-in-law, Annie decided to take some responsibility by initiating to take care of her mother-in-law for the first two weeks after the elderly had discharged from the hospital to help her in recuperating to her original state and ability to be independent again.

Indeed, after two weeks, Annie’s mother-in-law recovered and went back to Ben’s house to live. She was even fit enough to return to her workplace. However, not long later, she fell again at home in November. This time round the tension within the family heightened. The family members knew that this time the situation worsened and the elderly would need someone to pay more attention and care to her. Instead of coming up with a win-win solution amongst the children to take care of their old aged mother, Ben and his wife began shirking responsibility by saying that they had been staying and putting up with the elderly for so many years, and now it should be the time when the other children play a part too. In addition, they had in mind to take this opportunity to kick the elderly out of their house, which they initially got it at priority and discounted rate under the government policy to reside with parents.

Annie soon became very stressed and lost at what to do because even the two sister-in-laws were shirking off their responsibility in putting in a fair share of effort as they began to feign illnesses and discomforts to excuse themselves from bringing their mother for her regular check-ups. To make matters worse, Annie’s mother-in-law took sides with her daughters and shielded them by preaching the traditional idea that daughters married are spilled water, and it should be daughter-in-laws’ duty to take care of her.

From Annie’s stand:
She had to take care of her own mother too, who recently went for an eye operation, as her side of the family adopts the modern way thinking that the responsibility of taking care of the elderly should be equally distributed among her own children. Hence, Annie tried to propose a solution whereby her mother-in-law will continue to live with Ben, while the duty of taking the elderly out for leisure purposes and medical check-ups will be distributed amongst her and her two other sister-in-laws. She did not mind helping her overly worked husband to take care of his mother so long as the distribution of effort is made fair. Furthermore, she had her own grandson due soon to take care of.

From two sister-in-laws’ stand:
They felt they should not shoulder any responsibility, following the traditional way of thinking. They felt that the eldest daughter-in-law should be the one who is dutiful for the situation.

From Ben and his wife’s stand:
They felt that they had been living with her and taking care of her the past years and they should be given the opportunity to regain freedom, hence, they were bent on residing the elderly somewhere else, either Annie’s place, a rented room or the old age home.

However, Annie could not take her mother-in-law in to stay with her as her house was way too small to accommodate another person. She felt that if Ben really have to move the elderly out of his house, the elderly should go to stay with her second daughter, since she owns a landed house with extra room available. Matters escalated when Ben put words into Annie’s mouth by telling his mother that Annie suggested putting her into the old age home when the idea was actually initiated by Ben.

After staying one month in the hospital, no concrete solution was taken and Annie’s mother-in-law continued to reside at Ben’s place. This issue had caused much tension in the family due to unwillingness from each party to compromise based on circumstances. During this Chinese New Year visiting, as we were house hopping, I could sense the awkwardness among the four siblings and the interactions made were no longer as harmonious and happy-sounding as the past years.

Thus, I would like to ask you readers how should Annie resolve the matter should it be triggered again.

Thank you for reading!


  1. Hello Jie Ying,

    I enjoyed reading your post. Frankly speaking, I stand on Annie's side. However, it is clear that the other family members do not think so. On a side note, I feel that the priority is to not place the mother in an old folk's home as it will really break her heart.

    Annie's mother in law is probably just putting her daughters' interests first and do not mean it when she says she wants Annie to take care of her. I feel Annie can remind her sisters-in-law that their mother has gone through much hardship to bring them up and remind them of the importance of filial piety. Annie can let them know how happy their mother will be when the latter moves in with them. Hopefully, they will feel the guilt. Of course Annie should make it explicit about the duties she will play to her sisters in law to let them know she is involved too.

    Generally, your sentences are clear and concise. However, I do spot a few awkward phrases here and there:

    For the past centuries, Annie’s mother-in-law had been residing at her second son, Ben’s, house.(You probably made a careless mistake, it should be decades not centuries)

    preaching the traditional idea that daughters married are spilled water (spilled water is translated literally from Chinese)

    It has been an interesting read for me. :D

    1. Hi Minyu, thank your for sharing your views and the advice you gave was really good and reasonable. I am sure, by now, Annie should have resolved the issue. Hopefully, the daughters realise the importance of filial piety and not shirk off their responsibilities.

  2. Hi Jie Ying,

    The problems that you mentioned above is very common nowadays. Recently, a similar situation happened to a friend's family.

    One solution I can suggest is maybe they can hire a nurse/caretaker to take care of the elderly while she continue to stay in someone's house. The cost of the nurse can be shared among them or paid by someone who is more well-off.

    However, I feel that if Annie really cares for the mother-in-law, I think she and her husband should take care of her no matter what the sister-in-law's attitude. At the end of the day, it is her answering to her own heart, and she herself know that she has done the right thing. While others may regret when the time comes, for not taking care of their own mother while she is still here with them. It is the satisfaction that she will get and appreciation and gratitude from the mother-in-law for having such a filial daughter-in-law.

    The suggestion that I have given is a true story. When my friend's grandmother is at her last breath, she was smiling and holding onto the hand of the person who sincerely and relentlessly taking care of her at the last few months of her life. The others who have been neglecting her regretted ever since for not taking care of their own mother.

    So my conclusion is, Annie should do what her heart feel is right. :)

    1. Hi Josephine, thank you for sharing your opinions and a true story that had taken place. It is really heartwarming to know that your friend's grandmother was smiling before she left her loved ones. :)

  3. Hi Jie Ying ,

    Thank you for your sharing. It is actually sad to see conflicts rise among family members and also scary that situation like this is not rare in our current world. Being an outsider, I don’t know much about the situation besides from this post but I want to contribute some ideas:

    Have all the members (maybe except the mother-in-law) to sit down and discuss among them. Consider who is in the best condition to take care of the mother. From what I see, the two-sister-in-laws don’t have any hardships and just don’t want to shoulder any responsibility so other family members can add pressure to make them take the responsibility. Solution our duties can also be distributed if family members sit and discuss together.

    In the worst case, the mother can go to the elderly care house. This may sound heartless but you can consider that the mother will be better off living under a healthy environment with people to take care of her rather than living in a house where no one wants her. Maybe doing that will actually make the other family members rethink or the fear of karma will eventually drive them to think of a solution.

    This is a really sensitive case and must be sorted out by the people involving in. So let’s discuss about grammar to lighten the mood, I think of something:
    1. putting up with the elderly -> putting up with the elder.
    2. she had her own grandson due soon to take care of -> she would have her own grandson due soon to take care of

    Overall, this is a good post and you finely write sufficient information for us to understand the matter. Best wishes for your aunt !

    1. Hey Chuong! Thank you for your suggestions! They are really informative and good! And I think my aunt is trying to make them come to a common agreement as of now.

  4. Oh my. What a serious problem. It certainly resonates with me as I have had a number of elderly relatives reach a stage where family discussions became centered on their well-being, and place of residence.

    You describe the scenario and the characters quite well, detailing the situation as it was and how it changed with the hospitalization. You clearly provide the motivation for each one of Annie's family members in their reaction to the elderly lady's dilemma, and even provide the perspective of the various characters. You then provide us readers with a statement that encapsulates the dilemma.

    There are a few problems here, Jie Ying, the least of which might be the language use, detailed below and in your readers' comments.

    For me the biggest issue is that this story is lacking conciseness (700+ words). Is there no way that you could present it completely and yet more concisely? What if you removed the last third? Would it be sufficient?

    1) "the elderly" usually refers to "older people"

    2) In addition, they had in mind to take this opportunity to kick the elderly out of their house, which they initially got it at priority and discounted rate under the government policy to reside with parents. >>>

    In addition, they had in mind to take this opportunity to kick the elderly lady/old lady/senior citizen out of their house, which they initially got at priority and discounted rate under the government policy to reside with parents.

    3) and lost at what to do >> > and at a loss for what to do

    4) to regain freedom, hence, they were bent on residing the elderly somewhere else, either Annie’s place, a rented room or the old age home. >>>
    to regain freedom; hence, they were bent on putting the elderly woman somewhere else, either in Annie’s place, a rented room or the old age home.

    This post has generated lots of feedback. Thank you for your effort and for the sharing.

    1. Thank you Brad for your really helpful comment. It had helped me to improve on being concise in my later posts.

  5. Hi JieYing,

    It is a diffcult real life problem you have raised here.

    Personally, I find that it is very unlikely for the siblings to be able to resolve the problem themselves. Under such circumstances, Annie might want to seek help from a more senior person who is related to the family( E.g. Her mother-in-law relatives or close friends). When there is another more senior authority present, it is more likely that everyone will take a more rational approach rather than keep to their selfish method.

    If there is no senior figure who can help her, Annie would need to come up with a rational solution herself and be firm when getting the siblings in the family to share the responsibility.

    1. Whoa Ian, I never thought of your first solution! It is really insightful! Thank You!