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4 Tutorials that teach Common Features of Conflict
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Common Features of Conflict

Common Features of Conflict

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the features common to all conflicts

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So what about internal conflicts? You know the kind I'm talking about. It feels like I've got a devil on one shoulder and I've got an angel on the other. And I can't stop arguing with myself. What about those kinds of conflicts?

Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to look at the common features of conflict. First of all, let's take up this question of internal conflict. Internal conflicts are called intrapersonal conflict. And an intrapersonal conflict is defined as a state of conflict between parts or aspects of a single individual.

Now they certainly are real. However, for our purposes here, we are going to define conflict as having to occur between at least two parties. Two or more. And it's over a perceived or real incompatibility of some sort.

Now, the incompatibility could be over any number of things. It could be over goals. One party wants to build a community garden on some land, but another party would like to come in and bulldoze that land to build a high rise. It could be over needs. John works the night shift, he wants to sleep during the day, he needs to sleep during the day, but his neighbor's dog keeps barking. It could be over beliefs. Religious beliefs, differing religious or political beliefs could often lead to clashes and conflicts. It could be over actions. A party could feel that another party is acting in a way that violates their civil rights.

Relationships oftentimes they're a perceived incompatibilities. You have a friend, you love spending time with this friend, she's always late. And you're annoyed by this, because you never get anywhere on time. Or you're just kind of sliding in under the wire.

So these are some examples of how parties-- two or more parties-- can have a perceived or real incompatibility that leads to conflict. Now it may take a while for a conflict to surface. And before comes to a surface there's a term called latent. And latent conflict define those conflicts that haven't quite bubbled up to the surface. So what is a latent conflict? It is defined as a state in which parties have differences that bother one or the other, but do not consider those differences significant enough to act on them. So they're beneath the surface.

For example, two people go to a party and one person kind of jokes around and says something that hurts the other person's feelings. And this person thinks well, you know, that really made me feel bad. But you know that's how Johnny is, he's like that and people know he's always joking around. He never means anything by it, I think I'll just let it pass. So this happens one or two times and by the third time it happens Mary is thinking I'm not going to put up with this anymore. That really hurt my feelings. I don't want to hang out with him if he's going to continue to joke around like this at my expense. So she's annoyed enough-- it's happened enough times that she feels like it's come to the surface and she has to do something about it. Now once something comes to the surface, now that it's in the open, you have the power to resolve it. You have the power to resolve it.

So let's take a look here a power. Power is defined as the ability to control an individual or group through influence, force, coercion, or manipulation to get them to do something they otherwise would not do. So power can take many forms. For example, in the little example I just gave you. You got John and Mary, Mary's annoyed because John jokes around all the time. He thinks he's a funny guy, but he's gone a little over the top a few times. And she's annoyed enough now that she would really like to talk with him about this. She wants to do something. She wants to use her power. She might choose dialogue. And actually sit down and have a conversation.

Or she could resort to threats. If you act this way again, I will. In other words, I'm going to retaliate in some way against you for doing to me something that I found objectionable. So dialogue or threats are one way that you could decide to use your power in this situation.

Oftentimes force is a way that parties will use to get their way. We see this with wars all the time. Unfortunately, countries go to war. However we've also seen some examples with nonviolent resistance. I know in this country during the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King had a whole civil rights nonviolent resistance. Gandhi did the same thing in India. And that could be a very powerful way to use power that does not involve violence.

Of course coercion and manipulation are two other ways that you could use power. And in this case you might use money. You know, I'll give you money for doing something. I've got money here and I'll pay you off if you will settle the conflict my way. Or perhaps offer you status. Status could be in the form of promotion. Maybe in a work related conflict when you want somebody on your side.

So these are ways that you could use power. And we might view some of them as positive and some of them as negative, but they are all ways to use power.

So in summary, conflict is always between two or more parties over real or perceived incompatibility. Now, the conflict and we remain latent for some time, in other words, it's under the surface. But when a party does decide to take action, this latent conflict has to come into the surface, has to bubble up and the party decides to use power. It always involves some use the power to influence the outcome.

Thank you for being part of this tutorial, and I hope to see you next time.

Terms to Know
Intrapersonal Conflict

A state of conflict between "parts" or "aspects" of a single individual.

Latent Conflict

A state in which parties have differences that bother one or the other, but do not consider those differences significant enough to act on them.


The ability to influence or control people or events, with or without resistance, through various means.