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Sources of Conflict

Sources of Conflict

Author: Julie Tietz

 At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the range and nature of factors that can lead to conflict.

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Video Transcription

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Hi. I'm Julie Tietz, and welcome to Conflict Resolution-- Putting the Pieces Together. Today we're going to discuss the different sources of conflict. So let's get started. It's important to know that a lot of the sources of conflict boil down to unmet needs or interests. And that is an action, belief, or physical item that a party perceives as important or essential to his or her satisfaction or happiness. And we're going to look at two different types of needs and interests here. And these are considered sources of conflict.

First is the external physical need, and that's a need that is a physical, tangible object-- so something that you can put in your hands, or something that is present. The second is an internal need, and that is a need that is an emotion or other internal phenomenon. So it's something how we feel inside, what we need to fulfill within our emotional aspects of our lives.

So these internal and external needs can be present as sources of conflict in a couple of different types of conflict. So let's look at what this would be. Let's say you're having a values-based conflict, where we're having clashing or contradictory beliefs.

And we could see this in religious conflicts where the source of the conflict is emotional, or an internal phenomenon, and that is not being met with this type of conflict. Or let's say there is differing values in our parenting styles, and we have that internal or emotional need to be fed to parent our children in a certain way, and when that's not being met, then we could have a conflict here.

We also could see this in our relationships with significant others. We all have emotional needs, again. And when those needs aren't being met in our relationship in some way or another, this could cause a conflict. Same could be at work.

We all like to feel or be recognized of our good work. And when that's not being met, we could end up having some sort of conflict at work because we're not being appreciated. We can also see this in structural conflicts. Let's say you have an external physical need to take a vacation, but everything's been canceled because of inclement weather, and that structure is getting in the way, and the source of this is your need-- your external physical need-- to take some time off, go somewhere where there's an ocean, sand, and beaches-- or wherever you think the best vacation place is going to be.

And we can see this happening, as well, in data conflicts. Let's say you need to have a physical piece of paper that gives you step-by-step directions to a friend's house that you've never been to before. But you don't have it, and so the source of that is the missing external, tangible object, and you don't have the data that is needed.

Or maybe it happens to be something over a conflict on some of the work that you put in a report at your job, and somebody's explaining to you all of the things that are wrong, but they don't have the report to show you, and you don't have it, so you can't see the physical item that is causing the controversy at your job.

So now that we've covered some of the sources of conflict, let's go over our key points. Sources of conflict can arise from unmet needs. And these can be external or physical, and also internal. And sources of conflict are not mutually exclusive, in that a single conflict may, at different points, show elements of each of these sources.

So in one conflict we can have external and internal sources involved in it. And conflicts arising from similar sources may manifest very differently. Thank you for taking the time out to view this tutorial, and I hope that you've learned something today, and I hope to catch you again next time.

Terms to Know
External/Physical Need

A need that is a physical, tangible object.

Internal Need

A need that is an emotion or other internal phenomenon.


An action, belief, or physical item that a party perceives as important or essential to his/her satisfaction or happiness.