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4 Tutorials that teach Power-Based to Relationship Based Theory
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Power-Based to Relationship Based Theory

Power-Based to Relationship Based Theory

Author: Marlene Johnson
Description:

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how conflict resolution theory differs from older, traditional power-based "win-lose" theories of conflict

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Tutorial

Notes on "Power-Based to Relationship Based Theory"

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What are the theories of conflict and how have they evolved over time? I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to take up that question with you in this tutorial.

There are basically three broad approaches to conflict. Power-based theory, relationship based theory, and rights based theory. And we're going to talk about each of those. But let's start first by defining power, since they're all based on some form of power.

So here's the definition of power. Power is the ability to control an individual or group through influence, force, coercion, or manipulation to get them to do something they otherwise would not do. So that's our definition of power. Notice it contains everything from influence to force.

So let's look at the first theory here, power-based theory. This is a theory of conflict that sees conflict as a power-based struggle to be one by one side or another through the use of power. And this particular theory sees power mostly as force or coercion. And it's really based on a win-lose. There's one side that wins, and another side that loses in this approach to power. And I think we can see this quite often in war. War would be a good example of power-based theory in conflict. We can also see it with money. People who have a lot of money might be using that money for coercion or manipulation. We might see it with lobbyists lobbying for a particular political agenda. They have the power if they have the money. And so it's a win-lose equation here.

So those are two examples of power-based theory. Now conflict resolution today has really diverged from this power-based theory. And is moving toward a theory that really looks at things in a more win-win manner. And so the theory I'd like to discuss next is the one that is most commonly used today and that is relationship-based theory.

This is an approach to conflict resolution that sees conflict as an opportunity to address fundamental human needs of the parties. What's key here is that whole concept of fundamental human needs. It's relational. So here are a couple of examples of relationship-based theory. You could see this with a landlord and tenant. Now the landlord wants to rent. The tenant hasn't been able to pay. The landlord could take this to court, could do a filing. But perhaps they have a good relationship and something has happened that prevents the tenant from paying exactly on time. And they sit down in a mediation. They decide to resolve the conflict in a way that will still allow the landlord to get his or her money, the rent, but it would allow the tenant a little more time perhaps to pay the rent. Or however they want to work this out, they're going to focus on the relationship here, and the needs of both parties.

I think you might see this in a community where perhaps there's going to be some road repair or new construction going right to the heart of a community. And in sitting down to plan this we want to look at the relationships of all involved. What businesses will be affected by this construction and the tearing up of roads? How about the residents in the neighborhood will have to take detours? So let's bring these parties together. Look at the relationship here, and see if there's a way that we can move forward and still take the relationships all into account here. So that our plan is the best possible plan. So that is relationship-based theory.

Now the last approach I want to discuss here is rights based theory. And rights based theory is an approach to conflict resolution looking at conflict as a perceived or actual incompatibility parties rights. So this particular approach, I think, we most often see in the courts. It has to do with legal issues, or entitlements, or human rights. You might find a group, or party, bringing a court case to light. They're filing a case because they feel their human rights have been violated. They have a right here and they take it to court.

Or there could be a breach of contract. And that goes to court to enforce the rights of the person with the contract. So those are a couple of examples of rights based.

So in closing, let me say that these are three broad approaches to conflict. There's the power-based approach. Today most conflict resolution processes have diverged from the power-based and they're more relationship-based. And then of course, we also have rights based theory.

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

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Power-Based Theory

    A theory of conflict that sees conflict as a power-based struggle to be won by one side or another through the use of power.

  • Relationship-Based Theory

    An approach to conflict resolution that sees conflict as an opportunity to address fundamental human needs of the parties.

  • Rights-Based Theory

    An approach to conflict resolution looking at conflict as a perceived or actual incompatibility of parties' rights.

  • Power

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