In this lesson, we’ll discuss the common perceptions of conflict:
When we perceive conflict as good, we see it as an experience that provides opportunities for growth or positive change. Here are some examples of how someone might consider conflict good.
If you’ve ever been a part of a protest movement, perhaps to save a natural resource, you might have felt the conflict that you were involved in was really worth it because the ends were so important to you. You were involved in this conflict for a purpose, so you saw it as positive.
America is considered the great melting pot; for years, people have come to this country from all over the world. They’ve been willing to endure the hardships of travel, the hardships of adapting to a new land and language, and the hardships of gaining acceptance from others. They endure these things because they see their immigration as a very positive source of change.
Let’s say you’re someone who always says yes when people ask you to do things, both at home and at work. You’re now starting to feel a little resentful, like you’re being taken for granted, so you decide to stand up for yourself and say no.
You know this is going to lead to some conflict since people expect you to step in and do certain things, but you’re willing to endure that conflict because this is an opportunity for you to grow as a person. You see this conflict as good because it's a positive source of change.
When conflict is perceived as bad, it’s being considered primarily as a negative or harmful experience. This is a common way for us to view conflict, as we often fear it to a certain degree. Here are some examples of how someone might perceive a conflict as bad.
If you choose to fight something in court, you may lose money, or maybe some resources that are personal to you. This could be a hardship, so there's a lot of discomfort involved when a conflict such as this is perceived negatively.
A family moves into a neighborhood that has always been considered a quiet place for older people to live; however, this family has two teenage children who start hosting band practice at their home several times a week. This causes a conflict with the neighbors.
The new family may be very nice, but this sort of change to an established environment might make people feel fearful or a little bit uncomfortable.
At home, you're being asked to step out of your typical role to do some things that don't quite feel comfortable or familiar to you.
There is nothing inherently bad about this conflict, but you perceive this conflict as bad because of your discomfort.
It’s important to keep in mind that conflict in and of itself is neutral; it can come with advantages, disadvantages, or both. Whether a conflict is good or bad, whether it presents a danger or an opportunity, is really in the way we perceive it.
Remembering this will help keep the parties involved focused on ways to resolve the conflict, rather than on their own perceptions of the conflict.
In this lesson, you learned how and why conflict can be perceived as either good or bad. You now understand that conflict is really neutral, and the way we choose to label it is based on personal perception.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.
A perception that conflict is primarily a negative or harmful experience.
A perception that conflict is an experience that provides opportunities for growth or positive change.