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Addressing the Benefits of Unresolved Conflict

Addressing the Benefits of Unresolved Conflict

Author: Sophia Tutorial

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will be able to identify benefits parties may perceive in unresolved conflict

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What's Covered

In this lesson, we’ll discuss how a party may see the continuation of a conflict as beneficial, and how to consider that in the conflict resolution process.

The specific areas of focus include:

  1. Reasons for continuing a conflict
  2. Use of conflict analysis


Particularly when a conflict has been going on for a long time, it’s possible that one party may see this continuation as beneficial.

A benefit of conflict is the perception of one or both parties that their interest or need is going to be best met by continuing the conflict.

During the conflict analysis process in which the intervener sits down with each party to discuss issues, causes, needs, fears, and goals, the intervener can sometimes uncover that one of the needs is something that the party believes can be met if the conflict continues.

There are a number of reasons why the party may feel there is a benefit of conflict, and continuing the conflict can become a position with the benefit as the underlying interest.

Example Say the party is involved in this conflict because he or she sees a cause (e.g. an environmental or human rights cause) as moral or ethical. By continuing the conflict, one of the things this party is hoping to achieve is more public awareness for this cause. Any media attention that results from the conflict will magnify this issue in the eye of the public.

By settling the conflict too soon, the party may lose some of this exposure for his or her cause. If the intervener uncovers this during the analysis process, then it becomes a legitimate interest that must be met in resolution. Continuing the conflict becomes the party’s position, while meeting the need for public awareness becomes an actual interest underneath this position

Example Group cohesion or sense of identity is another reason why a party may be continuing a conflict. Say the party is a member of a minority or ethnic group that feels like it has been disempowered and unrecognized by the government. The conflict continues for a long period of time because people are coming together, creating a sense of strength and unity.

The continuation of the conflict is building that group identity and cohesion. By settling the conflict too soon, the group may fear that it won’t fulfill its need for recognition and power within the government. Thus continuing the conflict is the group’s position on meeting that need. Now that the intervener realizes what this need is, it becomes one of the interests that must be met in the conflict resolution process.

Term to Know

    • Benefit of Conflict
    • An individual or group's interest or need met by continuing the conflict.


The benefit of conducting a conflict analysis in these types of situations is that once you as an intervener uncover a legitimate need for continuing the conflict, you can understand why the party holds that position.

In other words, that interest or need can reveal itself as a legitimate reason not to do conflict resolution at this point.

Part of the process design might involve waiting if this particular interest that's being met by continuing the conflict is something that the party's not willing to give up at this stage.

Doing a conflict analysis upfront allows that type of timing issue to be considered before crafting an entire process around the goal of reaching a resolution.

Big Idea

Once identified, a benefit of conflict becomes an interest, and the position of continuing the conflict to meet that interest is something that has to be taken into consideration when you are designing the overall resolution process.


In this lesson, you learned that parties may have specific reasons for continuing a conflict when they view that conflict as beneficial in some way. This benefit of conflict means that parties see the continuation of the conflict as the best way of getting a particular need or interest met.

You now understand that parties can hold the continuation of a conflict as one of their actual positions, and using conflict analysis to uncover the interest behind this position is important before designing a resolution process. You may find that the interest is significant enough that any type of resolution attempt may need to wait.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.

Terms to Know
Benefit of Conflict

An individual or group's interest or need met by continuing the conflict.