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Is Conflict Good or Bad?

Is Conflict Good or Bad?

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that conflict may be neutral, may have disadvantages or may have advantages. .

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Conflict is in the world all around us. We see it at home, we see it at work, and we see it at school. So how are we to perceive conflict? Is it good? Is it bad? That's an interesting question. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to explore that question with you today.

I'd like to start by sharing with you the Chinese symbol for crisis. I have a right here and I'm going to hold it up so that you can see it. I think everybody should be able to see that here on the camera. As you can notice, the Chinese symbol for crisis has two characters. One for opportunity and one for danger. I think that's rather fascinating. Both opportunity and danger are held within one symbol for crisis. And I think that's so true of conflict.

Conflict in and of itself is neutral. It really is, it's neutral. It's a relationship. It's a situation. And whether it's good or bad, whether it holds a danger or opportunity, is really in the way we perceive it. So let's look a little more closely at that. And let's start by looking at conflict as something good.

I have a definition here for conflict as good. We can see that if we perceive conflict as good, that is a perception that conflict is an experience that provides opportunities for growth or positive change.

For example, it could be for resources. If you're ever been a part of a protest movement, perhaps to save a natural resource, you might feel the c conflict that you're involved in is really worth it. Because the ends is so important to you here. So it's good for you. You're involved in this conflict for a purpose. You see it as positive.

You might see conflict as a real positive source of change. I really think the whole immigrant story in this country is a good example of that. America is the great melting pot. And for years, people have come to this country from all over. And they've been willing to endure the hardships of travel, and the hardships of adapting to a new land, and language, and also having people accept them because they see it as a very positive source of change.

Now as a very personal way, you could see conflict as helping you with your self identity. That it's a source of change that's positive, because it's helping you grow as a person.

For example, Susan is somebody who always says yes. She feels obligated to say yes when people ask her to do things, at home and at work. She feels like this is being a good person. But she's starting to feel a little resentful, like she's being taken for granted. So Susan decides to say no. She's going to stand up for herself and say no. Now she knows this is going to lead to some conflict, because people expect her to step in and do certain things. But she's willing to endure that conflict, because this is an opportunity for herself to grow. It's a positive source of change.

So those are some examples of how conflict can be perceived as good. I'd like to now stop and look at conflict in the opposite way. Conflict as perceived as bad.

So we're going to cover up our definition of conflict as good, and we're going to look at it is something that's bad. And that would be a perception that conflict is primarily a negative or harmful experience. I actually think it's quite common for people to think of conflict this way. We think of it in a fearful way. Many times we do. That might be because we're afraid we're going to lose resources. If I really fight this and go to court, I'm going to lose money. Or maybe I'm going to lose some resources that are personal to me. And that also feels hard. So typically there's fear. There's discomfort involved when we see that conflict as something bad.

Now I talked earlier about immigrants moving in to a new country because they see this is a positive source of change for themselves. Well, the neighborhoods into which the immigrants are moving, perhaps the conflicts that are erupting, are seen as negative by people who have lived there for years. This has always been such a quiet neighborhood. And now those people are playing all that loud music. I don't like it. Or whatever it is that the immigrant population is bring in. Or however the neighborhood is changing. Maybe people may have been elderly living in the neighborhood, and now there's a lot of young people moving in with children and it's nosier. But this sort of change might make people feel fearful or a little bit uncomfortable. And so they see the conflicts that emerge as bad.

This could happen on a personal level. Again, maybe at home you're being asked to step out of your typical role and do some things that don't quite feel like something that you identify with as part of your role. It could be a gender issue. Maybe you're being asked to help with the cooking and you don't think that's what a guy does. Or as a woman you're being asked to do something out in the yard, some yard work, and you think that's not typically what I always do. So there's conflicts around this and your perceiving it as bad.

So these are just some examples of how any one person or a group can perceive a conflict as either good or as bad. What I think is particularly important to remember here though, is that conflict in itself is always neutral. And when you are in a conflict resolution process it's important to remember that. It's important to help the parties realize that conflict is neutral. And they need to focus on ways to resolve the conflict.

So thank you very much for being part of this tutorial. And I look forward to seeing you next time.

Terms to Know
Conflict as Bad

A perception that conflict is primarily a negative or harmful experience.

Conflict as Good

A perception that conflict is an experience that provides opportunities for growth or positive change.