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Core Concerns: Affiliation

Core Concerns: Affiliation

Author: Sophia Tutorial

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the importance of the role of perceived lack of affiliation in creating conflict and the presence of affiliation in a conflict resolution process.

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What's Covered

In this lesson, we’ll discuss the role of affiliation in both creating and resolving conflict.

The areas of focus include:

  1. Affiliation as a core concern
    1. In conflict
    2. In conflict resolution


In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a core concern, per the Harvard Negotiation Project, is one of five emotional or relational needs all humans feel within relationships or negotiations. All of these core needs fit into the esteem and love/belonging levels on Maslow's hierarchy.

Affiliation, or a perception that one is emotionally connected to others, is a core concern that falls on the love/belonging level in Maslow’s hierarchy.

We all have a strong need to belong. We want to feel like we fit in somewhere, and like we're connected to other human beings that are important to us, such as:

  • Our families
  • Our friends
  • Members of other groups we belong to

Terms to Know

    • Core Concern
    • Per Harvard Negotiation Project, one of 5 emotional or relational needs all humans feel within relationships or in negotiation.
    • Affiliation
    • A perception that one is emotionally connected to others.

a. In Conflict

When we feel as though we're not connected, we don't belong, or we're not getting the love or or approval that we would like, this can lead to conflict in various contexts.

Example A couple has been married for a couple of years. One spouse feels that the other spouse is not spending enough time with him or her. It seems like they rarely see each other because one spouse is always either at work or out with friends. If one member of a couple feels that love or intimacy is missing, this can lead to a conflict, perhaps over an extended period of time.


You've moved into a new neighborhood with your family. This neighborhood is a little bit more upscale, and you're a little worried that you're not going to be able to live here because things are more expensive than where you lived previously.

But you meet the neighbors, and you like them; they invite you to go out to dinner at an expensive restaurant. When they invite you to their home, they put on quite a showing. So when you invite them to your home the next time you see them, you feel like you have to entertain them in a way that your budget doesn't really allow for.

This causes you to get into a conflict over finances with others in your family: “We don't have the means to be spending money like this. The neighbors make more money than we do. You can't buy the kinds of things that you think you need to buy to fit in with this group.”

Example Affiliation-related conflicts are experienced by not only adults, but kids as well. In some situations, the need for approval through fitting in with a particular group at school can cause kids to experiment with drinking or drugs. This can lead to a conflict with parents, or even the law.

b. In Conflict Resolution

In a conflict resolution process, it's important that both parties feel that they can work together as a team to resolve the conflict.

To accomplish this, the mediator will encourage both parties to participate by offering their ideas and suggestions regarding an agreement.

As each party is contributing, the sense of affiliation is created and satisfied; this moves the parties forward toward a resolution.


In this lesson, you learned that the esteem and love/belonging levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also include core concerns; affiliation is a core concern that falls into the love/belonging category.

Because affiliation, or the feeling that we’re emotionally connected to others, is a strong need that we all have as human beings, the perception that it’s lacking can result in conflict. This is why the conflict resolution process is designed to create a sense of affiliation between the parties, enabling them to collaborate on a solution.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.

Terms to Know

A perception that one is emotionally connected to others.

Core Concern

Per Harvard Negotiation Project, one of 5 emotional or relational needs all humans feel within relationships or in negotiation.