In this lesson, we’ll discuss the common features of conflict by looking at the following concepts:
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:
Let’s look at a short example of each.
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.
Needs: You work the night shift and want to sleep during the day, but your neighbor's dog keeps barking.
Beliefs: Differing religious or political beliefs can often lead to clashes and conflicts.
Actions: A party could feel that another party is acting in a way that violates civil rights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Outside of this example, there are a few other ways that parties could use power to influence the outcome of a conflict.
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.
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.
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.
A state of conflict between "parts" or "aspects" of a single individual.
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.