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Causes & Consequences

Causes & Consequences

Author: Marlene Johnson
Description:

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how to map the causes and consequences of conflict and appreciate the difficulties found in separating causes and consequences of conflict.

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Tutorial

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When conflicts are particularly tense, involve multiple parties, or are long term, the conflict intervener is going to set out to gather some information, analyze the conflict before bringing the parties together. And one of the things the intervener's going to want to look at are the causes of the conflict and the consequences. Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about that, causes and consequences.

Now, the first thing to know is that it's really hard to distinguish between a consequence and a cause. Why? Because there's an initial event that happened, the cause, and that initiated part of the conflict. And then a cause could also be something that happened in response to that initial event, which we might call a consequence, because after the first cause, the first event, the consequences, in other words, the way the parties are reacting negatively to the other party's behavior, can become the next layer of the cause.

So what happens here is a conflict spiral. That's a pattern of escalation where consequences of behavior at one stage of conflict become the cause at the next stage. That's why it can be hard to distinguish sometimes between a cause and a consequence. And it really depends on which party you're speaking to, because they can interpret this differently. So each party is participating in this spiral when a conflict begins to really escalate. And so it becomes blurred.

Now, it can happen, let's give you an example here. Let's say there's a company policy that's been very unpopular. And the company goes ahead with this policy anyway. And the workers become disgruntled, and the quality of the work falls, the production is not as good. So the company's not doing as well. They decide they're not going to have raises this year, and there are layoffs. Now the disgruntled workers complain. They feel their complaints are not heard, so they go on strike, they go to the press. So you see things have spiraled ever since that first management policy went out that the workers did not like.

Now, if you were to sit down and map this out, and you were to talk about the causes and the consequences here, you could have causes and consequences. And you might find the way it was talked about by each side here would be different. It would be a bit like the management might say, well, the quality plummeted, they weren't productive, therefore we had to do the raises, we had to do layoffs, whereas the workers are saying it's all because of the management. They put out a policy that really affected us in several ways that were negative, then we didn't receive raises, then we were laid off.

So each side is seeing the event from their own perspective. And they're seeing the cause as an event that affected them. So in a sense you might say causes in conflicts could be A hits B, B hits A, A hits B, B hits A, but oftentimes it's interpreted by A as B hit me, B hit me, B hit me, or B, who says A did this, A did this, A did this. So actually mapping this out in some way with causes maybe on one side of a chart, consequences on another side, drawing arrows back and forth, can help visually show this to a party as they have to look at the consequence and see was it really a cause or was it a consequence? Did it come out of behavior from that first event?

So it's part of the mapping process to get each side to take a look at this. Now, I think quite often we see this spiraling happen in war. In countries where there's violence, each side is quick to blame their retaliation on something that the other side did. And so you have causes and consequences really blurring in a war torn country where there's a lot of violence.

So once again, a major part of the conflict mapping process is to look at causes and the ensuing consequences, realize that quite often they're blurred, particularly when things escalate, you have a conflict spiral. And then find a way to map that out so that when you meet with each party they can take a look at the consequences and the causes and see visually how they are related. So thank you for joining me today in this tutorial. I look forward to next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Cause/Consequence of Conflict

    Events within conflict which either initiate (a part of) the conflict or occur in response to another event; after the first cause of a conflict, consequences become the next layer of the cause as the conflict escalates.

  • Conflict Spiral

    A pattern of escalation in a conflict in which consequences of behaviors at one stage of conflict become causes of behaviors at the next stage of conflict.