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Challenging friendships and interpersonal conflict


You will meet many new people during your time at Deakin. You will learn with them, stress out with them, succeed with them, and party with them. At the same time, because you are now at university, you will spend less time with the friends you had previously at school or work.

Even though the other students in your class have a similar interest to you, there is an enormous range of people at Deakin. This presents a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself and the world around you from the other students who you meet.

As you spend less time with old friends, perhaps move away from home, develop new friendships, and make more choices for yourself, some of your old friendships may fade away. This can be sad as your school/work friends have been important to you. If you want to keep old friendships going, an extra effort to communicate with them will be necessary.

Although try to remember that while some friendships last a lifetime, many do not. Don't miss out on making friends at university because you are spending all your time on existing friendships. You have lots to offer others, as they do to you. Go and find out what that might be.

Interpersonal conflict

Interpersonal conflict occurs when two people share different views or have different interests or goals. These conflicts can involve people you are closely connected to, such as your friends and family, your romantic partner and the people you work with.

Conflict arises because we are not able to see what another person needs. If an interpersonal conflict isn’t resolved or is allowed to escalate too far, it can damage the relationship.

Problems with interpersonal relationships are common. Everyone at one time or another experiences conflict or misunderstandings in communication. Learning to identify and overcome these problems is important for keeping your personal relationships healthy.

Common signs of interpersonal conflict include:

  • aggressive body language;
  • heated arguments;
  • negative facial expressions;
  • repetitive disagreements;
  • anxiety;
  • anger; or
  • lack of candour, openness or honesty.

What to do

Resolving conflict

If you experience challenging behaviour from others, there are many ways to deal it such as the following.

  • Practice active listening by gathering information from what you hear that can be applied later in the conversation.
  • Find a compromise rather than a perfect solution.
  • Don’t interrupt the other person – allow them to be heard.
  • Focus on the common ground, rather than the differences.
  • Deal with facts only rather than opinion when there is disagreement.
  • Use a mediator if necessary.
  • Avoid a ‘winner-loser’ mentality as it can leave one person unsatisfied.
  • Speak slowly and clearly in a calm voice.
  • Remove others from the environment if possible.
  • Leave the situation immediately if you feel in imminent danger.
  • Call for a campus support officer or police if feeling threatened.

If you can handle the conflict successfully, you can make your relationship with the other person stronger and more resilient by improving your understanding of each other.

Getting support

Support is available at Deakin.

Safer Community is a University-wide service aimed at keeping all campuses safe. Staff at the service respond to all reports of behaviour that are concerning, inappropriate or threatening and offer support to all parties involved. If you have witnessed or experienced behaviour or communication from someone that has caused you fear, offence or distress, you can contact the Safer Community service for help and advice on (03) 9244 3734.

SafeZone is a free app available for use, which connects you directly to a Campus Safety Officer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on all campuses, and the Geelong inter-campus bus route.

You can also make an appointment with Deakin's Counselling service for assistance in addressing and overcoming interpersonal conflicts.

More help and advice

Headspace provide 5 ways to effectively communicate your feelings, information on creating connections for a healthy headspace and an interactive activity to help you learn more about building and maintaining healthy relationships.

ReachOut provide 3 tips to better communications and information on how to have difficult conversations.

Contact us

Make a free and confidential counselling appointment.

In an emergency or after-hours, call Lifeline telephone counselling 13 11 14.