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

Common Features of Conflict

Description:

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

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Tutorial

What's Covered


In this lesson, we’ll discuss the common features of conflict by looking at the following concepts:

  1. Perceived incompatibility
  2. Latent conflict
  3. Power

1. PERCEIVED INCOMPATIBILITY

While intrapersonal conflict, a state of conflict between parts or aspects of a single individual, is an established type of conflict, we are going to define conflict as involving two or more parties for the sake of this course.

Conflict usually involves a perceived incompatibility over one or more of the following:

  • Goals
  • Needs
  • Beliefs
  • Actions
  • Relationships

Let’s look at a short example of each.

Example 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.

Example Needs: You work the night shift and want to sleep during the day, but your neighbor's dog keeps barking.

Example Beliefs: Differing religious or political beliefs can often lead to clashes and conflicts.

Example Actions: A party could feel that another party is acting in a way that violates civil rights.

Example Relationships: You have a friend who you love spending time with, but she's always late. You’re annoyed because this means that you never get anywhere on time.

Term to Know

    • Intrapersonal Conflict
    • A state of conflict between parts or aspects of a single individual.

2. LATENT CONFLICT

Sometimes it can take a while for a conflict over a perceived incompatibility to come to the surface, and this brings us to the concept of latent conflict.

A latent conflict is 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.

Example John and Mary are at a party. John jokes around and says something that hurts Mary’s feelings. Mary thinks, “That really made me feel bad, but you know John— he's like that, and people know he's always joking around. He never means anything by it, so I think I'll just let it pass.”

This happens two more times, and by the third time, Mary is thinking, “I'm not going to put up with this anymore because it really hurts 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.”

Because it’s happened enough times that she feels like it has come to the surface, Mary is now annoyed enough to do something about it. Once a latent conflict is out in the open, the parties have the power to resolve it.

Term to Know

    • 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.

3. POWER

Now that the conflict has come to the surface, power becomes involved. Power is the ability to control an individual or group through influence, force, coercion, or manipulation to get the individual or group to do something that he/she/it would not otherwise do. Power can thus take many forms.

Example Let’s return to John and Mary. Mary's annoyed because John jokes around all the time. He thinks he's being funny, but he's gone a little over the top a few times, and Mary is now annoyed enough that she would like to talk with him about it.

She wants to use her power, and there are a couple of ways she can do this:

    • She might choose dialogue: She and John could sit down and have a conversation.
    • She could resort to threats: “If you act this way again, I will…” In other words, Mary is going to retaliate in some way against John for doing something to her that she found objectionable.

Outside of this example, there are a few other ways that parties could use power to influence the outcome of a conflict.

Example Force: This often involves war; however, we've also seen some examples with nonviolent resistance. During the Civil Rights Movement, for example, Martin Luther King practiced nonviolent resistance. Gandhi did the same thing in India. This could be a very effective way to use power without involving violence.

Example Coercion and manipulation: In this case, someone might use money (e.g. “I'll give you money if you will settle the conflict in my favor”). Or someone might offer status, which could be in the form of promotion (e.g. in a work related conflict when you want somebody on your side).

While we clearly might view some of these methods as positive and some of them as negative, they are all ways of using power.

Term to Know

    • Power
    • The ability to influence or control people or events, with or without resistance, though various means.


Summary


In this lesson, you learned that conflict is always between two or more parties over a real or perceived incompatibility. You also learned that a conflict can remain latent, or under the surface, for some time before a party decides to take action, using power to influence the outcome.

You now understand that it is only once a conflict has been brought to light that the parties involved can begin working toward a solution.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Power

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

  • 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.

  • Intrapersonal Conflict

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