Life Skills Development/Module Three/Unit 3: Conflict Management/Elements of conflict

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After reading this section, the learners should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the terms and concepts as they relate to conflict resolution.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the processes involved in conflict resolution.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the various types of conflict resolution
  • Practise the steps of conflict resolution

Types of Conflicts

Before we can explore the best ways to resolve a conflict, it is necessary to identify what type of conflict it is, thereby enabling us to utilise the best option to resolve the conflict.


Caused by:

  • A lack of information
  • Misinformation
  • Differing views on what is relevant
  • Different interpretations of data
  • Different assessment procedures


Caused by:

  • Strong emotions
  • Misperceptions or Stereotypes
  • Poor communication
  • Miscommunication
  • Repetitive negative behaviour


Caused by:

  • Different criteria for evaluating ideas or behaviour.
  • Different valued goals.
  • Different ways of life, ideology and religion.


Caused by

  • Destructive patterns of behaviour or interaction.
  • Unequal power, control, ownership, distribution of resources.
  • Geographical, physical or environmental factors that hinder cooperation.
  • Time constraints.


Caused by:

  • A lack of information
  • Misinformation
  • Differing views on what is relevant
  • Different interpretations of data
  • Different assessment procedures

Conflict Resolution Styles

How do you deal with conflict? What style / pattern do you use when you are faced with differences in goals, needs or opinions that affect you and your relationship with others? Do you side-step the conflict or face the problem head-on, making your demands known? Or do you collaborate with the "other side," seeking to find appropriate solutions from which to choose. Here are five possible ways in which we respond when faced with conflict

  • Avoidance - Person withdraws and wishes conflict would disappear or go away on it's own.
  • Collaboration - Person seeks a solution through negotiation, resulting in a win-win situation.
  • Accomodation - Person is anxious to please and places others' needs and expectations before his or her own.
  • Compromise - Person is willing to give up something in order to arrive at a solution.
  • Force - Person is only interested in satisfying his or her own needs and goals and seeks to dominate the discussion.

Process in a Conflict

Understanding the stages in the development of a conflict can be helpful to the learner as he / she seeks to manage disagreements before they escalate into major conflicts. This is especially true when we are seeking to improve our interpersonal relationships.

The first stage of a conflict revolves around differences which may result in a disagreement. The expressed disagreement then results in active conflict or a dispute. The reaction or efforts to manage or resolve the conflict (see section to follow) describes the third stage, while the follow-up or monitoring stage allows "participants" to check on each other, ensuring that the appropriate solution has been chosen.

Problem Solving approach to conflict resolution

Like most problem-solving processes, the conflict management process can be broken down into steps.:

Stage 1 – Define the Problem: Clearly state the nature of the conflict and all the issues that contribute to the problem.

Stage 2 – Clarify the Needs: Clearly identify the needs of everyone involved. Since you are trying to reach solutions that will benefit all the parties involved, it is necessary to take everyone's perspectives into account in order to reach amicable solutions.

Stage 3 – Describe the feelings: Emotions tend to hinder the ability to communicate in a rational manner. Clearly stating one's feelings at the beginning will help to eliminate this hurdle and allow the conversation to begin.

Stage 4 – Generate Possible Options: Brainstorm and come up with a list of possible ways to deal with the situation. Examine the consequences for each idea given.

Stage 5 – Choose an Option and Develop an Action Plan:

Decide on the most effective solution. Before implementing the plan, the specific manner in which it will be carried out must be stipulated - what will be said, the setting in which it will take place, when it will be done, what are some likely reactions.

Some Further Tips for Effective Conflict Resolution

  • Where possible use face to face interaction to resolve conflicts, emails, answering machines and notes can lead to futher mis-interpretation.
  • Select an appropriate time and place to confront the other party/ies. For example a crowded dance floor may not be appropriate to speak to your partner about his refusal to use a condom but at the same time you would not select a dark lonely beach to confront your partner about his physical abuse. You may also need to consider the time in terms of when persons are most responsive - not at the end of a frustrating day, in the middle of an arguement.
  • Prepare an opening statement to increase your comfort in starting the process.
  • Use "I" statements, take responsiblity, e.g. I feel that you take me for granted, I feel hurt when you
  • Focus on the problem. Don’t get sidetracked by fault-finding, digging up the past or adding additional complaints to the discussion

  • Allow the other person to express himself without reacting judgementally. Listen with an open mind. Do not judge, accuse or use put-downs. Be willing to admit you may be wrong.

  • Be attentive a nod of head, make eye contact - with out being challenging.
  • Ask questions to verify and summarise the information in your own words to make sure you have a clear understanding of the issue. It also assures the other person that you are listening and contributes to the effectiveness of the process.
  • Show genuine interested in the other person’s need or problems.
  • Accept the other’s perception and treat the other person’s feelings with respect..

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  • James and his fiance Anita are planning their wedding. Anita would like to invite three hundred guests, while James prefers a small gathering of fifty to sixty guests. Dramatize the discussion showing the process used by participants to resolve the conflict
  • Two sibblings have been given the task of furnishing the room they share. They have some common interests and some differences and must therefore come to an agreement regarding the items of furniture. Dramatize the process used by participants to resolve the conflict.

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Identifying one's Conflict Management Style

Read the following scenario then choose the response that best describes your style of dealing with conflict

You have just turned to the Sports page in the newspaper to collect information for your Sports project, when your brother (who had bought the newspaper) rushes in and demands that you hand over the sports pages so he could read about a recent football game.

Do you ...

  • a) immediately hand over the newspaper, without uttering a word;
  • b) explain that you are using the sports section to prepare for a school project;
  • c) continue reading the newspaper, without responding to the demand;
  • d) explain that you are using the sports section for an important project and will be finished in twenty minutes. So he can then have it; or
  • e) hand over the newspaper, requesting that he lend it to you whenever he is finished.

a) Having chosen your response, identify the matching conflict resolution style. b) Then match each remainig response with one of the conflict management styles listed above.

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  • Do I recognize the first stages of a conflict?
  • Am I able to successfully deal with differences to avoid the development of conflict (wherever possible)
  • When seeking to resolve conflict, do I actively listen to the other party's expectations and needs?
  • Do I also seek to identify and understand his or her emotions
  • What conflict resolution style do I usually use?

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Recall a conflict you had with someone recently. Identify the type of conflict. Describe what strategies you used to manage this conflict. Identify other possible strategies you could use now that you have completed this unit.