Conflict is a clash between people which arises from a difference in thought process, attitudes, understanding, interests, requirements, values, beliefs, morals and much more. Conflict progresses through five distinct phases; Prelude to conflict, triggering event, initiation, differentiation and resolution phase. Misunderstandings as well as ego clashes can lead to conflicts. After all, everyone has a different way of looking at things and different ways of reacting to various situations.
Conflict has both good and bad outcomes. The bad outcomes are those which lead to a loss of lives, violence, oppression, marginalisation, aggression, etc. It is generally a fear of these bad outcomes which invoke within people a desire to avoid conflict completely. Conflict provokes a lot of negative feelings and emotions which leave us feeling ‘icky’. Conflict can provoke anger (in one or all parties involved in the conflict) which a lot of people are afraid of. On the whole though, conflict serves a lot of useful purposes.
Conflict can help to release pent-up frustration: Unaddressed conflict builds up over time and the pressure builds up until the conflict is finally addressed and expressed. When conflict is expressed, the conflict exits the mind and the body of all parties involved. Once everyone has gotten the conflict out of their system, they can feel a sense of relief and they can begin to calm down. Once rational minds prevail, everyone involved in the conflict can begin to analyse and discuss the conflict more objectively.
We can gain new insights about others: Opposing views requires a shift in thinking. A conflict will forever remain unsolved if any or all of the parties involved are not able to step outside of themselves and view things from another’s perspective. Looking and thinking about things from another person’s perspective increases empathy and ultimately leads to more understanding, more harmony, greater cohesiveness and greater problem solving and better decision making.
Conflict encourages innovation and it challenges the status quo: Conflict is often the first step towards change. Positive conflict is often supressed because the idea of change scares a lot of people. Positive conflict is particularly suppressed by toxic people and toxic environments. Complacent people are often scared of positive conflict too. Complacent people like things just the way they are. They don’t see the point in rocking the proverbial boat.
Differences can be appreciated: Conflict allows us and others to distinguish themselves from the crowd. When we recognise our inherent need to distinguish ourselves from others through our beliefs, values, morals, ideas, etc, we can begin to appreciate others peoples desire to do the same. We all have a ‘truth’ of our own and we all have the right to express our ‘truth’ and express our ‘authenticity’ (so long as that truth and authenticity doesn’t unduly or intentionally cause harm to others).
Conflict increases productivity: When conflicts are addressed and successfully resolved, everyone can start working more efficiently towards the end goals without worrying about whether anyone is secretly harbouring resentment and sabotaging the work of others. When intimate couples address and successfully resolve their conflicts, they can unite in their goals to raise a family, save money, buy a house, etc. The less time people spend arguing, the more personally and professionally productive they can be.
Conflict is not something to be afraid of. Conflict is an opportunity to raise concerns, air grievances and come to mutually beneficial outcomes. Conflict which is left unaddressed and unexpressed will eventually become toxic to all involved. Conflict which is not addressed, expressed or resolved can last generations. Conflict which is not addressed, expressed and resolved can destroy families, friends, relationships, workplaces and communities.
Successful conflict resolution requires quite a few elements; Assertive communication, emotional intelligence, active listening, stress management, empathy, time, patience, a good adjudicator, team work, flexibility, a willingness by all parties to negotiate and an end goal which everybody agrees on. Once a conflict has been resolved, the conflict must be relegated to the past and all parties must now work together towards the future.
Eunson, Baden. (2012). Conflict Management (pp37–57). Hoboken, NJ: Wrightbooks.