In this lesson, we’ll discuss the definition of conflict in general terms.
This will include:
In basic terms, conflict is a form of relationship in which the members find their interactions in some way impeding their goals, their needs, or their wellbeing.
Conflict always involves parties, which are two or more individuals participating in the disagreement.
These parties are always in a relationship, or an association between two or more people involving some sort of interaction.
The primary issue at the root of a conflict between parties is a need or an interest. These are defined as an action, a belief, or a physical item that a party perceives as important or essential to his or her satisfaction or happiness.
Frequently when describing conflict, people are really talking about how they reacted to the conflict.
For example, you have probably heard or maybe participated in a conversation that went something like this: “I was so annoyed. Can you believe he did that? I told him… and he said to me… and I was just getting really upset. Then he said, ‘Well if you're going to be like that…’ and then just walked out the door.”
In this case, the person is describing a conflict by rehashing what he/she said, what he/she did, what the other person said, and how he/she felt. As human beings, this is a typical response; we see things through our own lens.
Thus when talk about conflict, we tend to talk about it personally in terms of our own reactions and what we saw happening.
This is why it can helpful to step back and take a look at the basic elements in all conflicts— not only in terms of ours, but also in terms of what is really happening.
Conflicts can emerge in a variety of situations, where parties in a relationship feel their other needs aren't being met.
Let’s look at some examples that illustrate different types of conflicts.
Conflict between friends: Two friends are driving down the road together, and one person wants the heat turned up because she’s cold and wants to be warmer. The other person in the car says, “No way, I'm going to open the window because I'm really hot in here. I need some air.” Here we have two conflicting needs: One person wants the heat up, and the other person wants the window open, and the heat down.
Conflict in a relationship: A couple has a disagreement over money. John works hard, and thinks he deserves a motorcycle. He's always wanted a motorcycle, and it’s hobby of his. Alice says, “No way. You're not buying a motorcycle until we put money into savings. We need to put money into savings first." Again there are two conflicting needs: Alice needs a savings account, and John needs a motorcycle.
Conflict at work: You are sharing the break room with a number of people. You always do the dishes and keep the area clean, yet there are others who never do the dishes and leave the space dirty. Sometimes there's even food rotting in the refrigerator. You need the break room kept clean, but others are not doing that. This puts you and your coworkers in conflict.
Conflict between groups: A city has an environmental group that needs to have land and resources protected in a certain way. However, the city also has an industrial group that perhaps wants to use the land and resources for another purpose. These two groups are in conflict over how city’s space should be used.
Global conflict: There are two different nations that have vastly different needs and interests. These interests could be political, economical, or social. As we have seen through current events, when conflicts between nations are severe enough, they can result in war.
Consider a time when you were involved in conflict:
In this lesson, we discussed how we describe conflict in personal terms, and looked at some examples of conflict in action.
You now understand the components of conflict: a relationship in which parties involved in are interacting in a particular way because they feel that their needs and interests are being challenged.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.
A form of relationship in which members find their interactions in some way impeding to their goal, needs, or well-being.
An action, belief, or physical item that a party perceives as important or essential to his/her satisfaction or happiness.
Individuals involved directly in a conflict.
An association between two or more people, involving some form of interaction.