Why conflict may occur in social bubbles

Rupinder Mahil is a psychotherapist and accredited mediator, working at the University of Derby. She specialises in helping people work with and resolve conflict.

If you’re in a social bubble, it’s likely that you will view or do some things differently from the other people in your bubble. This can be an opportunity to expand your experience and perspective, but can sometimes also cause conflicts.

Most people view conflict as negative, but conflict is natural and normal. Whenever there is a difference between people, conflict is present, but often we don’t notice it until we experience it as too difficult to manage. Even when conflict is difficult, it is possible to work through it positively.

Conflict can often occur for various different reasons:

Difference in our personalities

This is a broad category and includes our skills, experiences, values, beliefs, opinions, likes and dislikes, to name just a few. Differences as a result of personality can occur with those we’re close to, as well as strangers. Because of our differences in experience, we can also make incorrect assumptions about others and their motivations, which can cause further problems.

Differences in our expectations

Each of us has expectations about how we should work and live with others and how we should behave in relationships, with friends and peers. Often we won’t recognise that we have these expectations: instead, we will see them as being ‘normal’ because they fit with our previous experiences. When other people’s expectations don’t match ours, it can jar with us and cause conflict.

In the current pandemic, we may also have different views about what is allowed or isn’t and how we resolve those differences.

Differences in the way we communicate

Different people communicate differently. This includes our verbal and non-verbal use of language, as well as the method of communication, such as written words through messaging or social media or verbal language, face to face. These differences can lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretation. For example, some people may interpret the use of swear words as a sign of aggression, while the person speaking, may simply intend to use them humorously.

Change

Any change can create conflict but every change and subsequent conflict can also create an opportunity for improvements and development. This includes making transitions in our lives from one set of circumstances or from one group of people to another.

Environmental changes, such as the pandemic, also cause a significant number of changes in the way we live and work. This can make us feel like we are being forced to make choices from a range of options that we don’t really want.

If you’re experiencing conflict in your social bubble, it likely stems from differences between you in one or more of these areas. Consider what positive steps you could take to bridge these gaps, so that each of you has your needs met and so you can maintain your relationships.