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No matter what the issue, it seems that it only takes 1-2 episodes to work out conflicts when watching sit-coms.  Sit-com of course stands for “situational comedy”. The writers identify specific scenarios, add funny dialogue and a few high-jinks, some ridiculous over reactions and voila!  You have a show!

The scenarios they address are usually based around conflicts of some kind. Some of these are minor, some are major.  For the really good comedies, there are layers of conflicts of all sizes throughout the episode that tie in together.  There are a few that are major series story arcs that last from the first episode to the last with many conflicts identified and resolved in-between (i.e. Ross & Rachel).

In 30 minutes, the characters are usually able to:

  • Experience conflict
  • React/over react to it
  • Make it worse in some way
  • Discuss it
  • Identify root causes of it
  • Identify solutions
  • Come to a resolution

Because it is TV (and funny TV) it almost always works out.

Real life

Real life conflict usually doesn’t go that smoothly, or that quickly.  But you can take those steps to help you through it and get to resolution.  (Adding humor where appropriate can be beneficial!)

Step 1: Experience conflict

Most of us experience a wide variety of conflicts in our day to day lives.  The minor ones we just push off as irritations that don’t significantly impact us.  There are others that force us to pay attention and react to them.  Conflict is absolutely normal and depending on the size and importance — just a part of dealing with life.

Step 2: React/over react to it

How we choose to react (or over react) to the conflicts we experience plays a significant role in resolving it.  Figuring out if the conflict is something that needs to be ignored or addressed is key to resolution.  In comedies this is where the high-jinks usually are written in.  In real life, how you react to a conflict will set the stage for the resolution.

Step 3: Make it worse in some way

If we ignore it and hope it goes away — it may get worse.  If we over react to something that is minor (perhaps we’ve been biting our tongue about a pattern of behavior and then blow!) we take the conflict level from 0-60 and make resolution more convoluted.  Again — this is usually super funny on TV, not so much in real life!

Step 4: Discuss it

Although in a sit-com, yelling and highly exaggerated responses garner more laughs, in reality talking about the conflict with direct, calm language is the best way to identify the actual conflict.  Until you know specifically what you are fighting about, you won’t be able to solve the problem.

Step 5: Identify the root causes of it

This takes more serious introspection, especially if a conflict comes up repeatedly.  If you don’t identify the root causes, you can’t solve for them.  You may only be solving for the symptoms.

Step 6: Identify solutions

In a sit-com, the solution has been pointed out through foreshadowing and is usually readily apparent.  In real life — a variety of solutions may need to be identified and tried before finding the one that works.  Don’t be afraid to be creative, and don’t be afraid of trying multiple solutions.

Step 7: Come to a resolution

The theme music plays, the resolution was a success and everyone is happy and friends again.  This is often the part of conflict resolution that causes people difficulty.  They assume it will be like a sit-com where everything is hunky-dory until the next episode.  Frequently, the resolution is the start of difficult work and must be tended and modified as needed.

Using TV conflict to help communicate about personal conflict

Occasionally, you can actually use the conflicts you see on TV to discuss conflicts you have in real life.  This usually works best when the other(s) in the conflict understand the show reference.  It helps to provide a common language and can inject humor — thereby lowering the level of conflict.

So next time you watch your favorite show, pay attention to the conflicts they experience and think about how you can apply it to your life.


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

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