Saturday, 28 August 2010

Interpersonal Conflict

The conflict I will describe happened on QQ, which is the Chinese version of MSN. The people involved are one of my friends and me. She is my secondary school mate and studying at NUS now. She is older than me, but like many other Chinese students here, she had to study 20-month transitional courses before she could start her university study, so she is actually in Year 2 now, one year later than me. As it is the first time that I have been in Singapore and I am actually a freshman to NUS, I really need someone to answer my questions and help me to settle down here. Therefore, I referred to her for help.

One day, when I asked her some questions on QQ, she was very helpful as usual. After she answered me, she said she felt she was like my senior. As a joke, I said “Thank you, senior sister.” She also perceived it as a joke and said “haha” to me. I called her senior sister three or four times that day and nothing got wrong. However, on the next day, when I said “Thank you, senior sister” as a joke again after I asked her questions, she got angry. “Do you know how annoying you are” said she “I already feel I am old and I have wasted one year. Still, you are calling me senior sister all the time!” Seeing that, I got really ashamed and did not know what to say but to apologize.

Could you help me to analyze this conflict to avoid similar incidents? I will value every feedback to me.


  1. I think the main problem was that your senior had never liked anyone calling her that nickname at all, it is just that usually she would keep quiet about it because she is also calm enough to know that it is just a minor problem that nobody should get upset with. That may be the reason why she never says anything about being called "senior sister", giving you the impression that she does not get offended by the nickname. I believe that she must be having a bad mood on that day when she snapped, causing her to lash out at you on that particular day.

    This particular type of incident is very hard to avoid, since the channel of communication used is though an online messanger rather than a face to face talk. Unless if you are using a webcam, it would be difficult to read the feelings of the other party through words alone without seeing each other facial expressions when chatting in a MSN or QQ. To avoid such incident, I think the best way is to pay attention to the other party's choice of words and sentences during a chat. For example, the word "haha" may actually be hinting that the other party is making a fake laugh. Also, use emoticons when needed to show your feelings.

  2. Hi Leo!
    I think the question is that you'd better not take it for granted that girls like to be "senior sisters".Both of you do know it's a joke.But if you repeat it again and again, she may be suspecious whether this is a joke.Everyone likes to hear praise voice.That kind of joke can just use once. If it uses more often, then it may make it less like a joke,except you both are close friends.
    Besides, as Riyan said ,maybe she was in a bad mood that day,and you can give her some comfort. Maybe she got angry about some other things. In this case, it is difficult for you to foresee it, what you can do is to response properly.

  3. I agree somewhat with Riyan that it's difficult to determine the opposite party's reactions behind the computer screen. Most people have the habit of saying 'haha' and 'lol' for no particular reason. It's becoming more like a full stop in online conversations.

    My guess is that she was just feeling a little down that day, and you became the unlucky person to be scolded. Perhaps she did not know how to manage her feelings appropriately (which is a problem for many), or it could be your lack of self-awareness (by failing to interpret her paralinguistic cues). Meanwhile, you can try refrain calling her 'senior sister'.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  4. This is a very clear and concise presentation of a very basic conflict situation, Leo. It seems that because you were communicating online you couldn't judge from nonverbals how your friend was reacting to your use of the term, until she had already become irritated. In answer to your question, I suppose sensitivity is the key. However, perhaps a better question might have been to ask your reader what to do now that the offense has been committed. Of course, the answer to that is obvious as well: apologize.

    Sometimes life is simple. Sometimes.

    Thanks for your effort.

  5. Thank you all for your feedback.

    Fortunately, she is a kind person. She forgave me shortly after that day. We are still good friends now. :)

    I will try to avoid similar cases in the future. Thank you all.

  6. This one is not your fault. Deep in everyone's heart, there are always some mines of pain which could be triggered by unexpected situation. You do not expect it would happen since you never know a people thoroughly, especially the girl you met. She did feel bad about the year she has wasted and it showed that she had the pressure from peer of family about what should be achieved in certain age stage. Or she just felt odd in her social circle or friends instead that most of them are on the usual pace in their study. Thus she cared about it so much. People like me don't give a shit about it since most of people I know are in the same situation with me. Just make a culturally sensitive joke, look at the local guys, do they feel unfair about this. Suggestion is to try to talk about her academic path first and know her primary concern. In short time, just abandon the "senior" joking for a while before you know the real cause behind all of these.