The Evolution of Conflict

7 Oct

Does conflict evolve?  You bet it does.

It starts out of sight – sort of underground. What do I mean?

Well, the first stage of conflict is called “ANTICIPATION.”

That’s the point where we expect that when a change is introduced or an issue is brought up, that there will be a difference of opinion. So, it’s still an assumption. It’s the reason you don’t want to tell your boss or spouse something … because you figure it will be a problem.

The second stage is termed “CONSCIOUS BUT UNEXPRESSED DIFFERENCES.” I can really identify with this step – it’s when you don’t say anything directly, but you ‘act out’ in some way. For example, being sarcastic or making some kind of comment that is a low blow or ‘biting’ humor.  This is hard for the other person, because they don’t know why you’re upset. After all … you haven’t shared any of that info yet.

Head buttingFrom there, a conflict escalates to “DISCUSSION.” So, now it’s out in the open and there is a better understanding of the differences. Or you might be totally surprised and find out that what you anticipated wasn’t so bad after all.

If that doesn’t happen, then “OPEN DISPUTE” is the next phase. Enter the outright arguments. On the bright side, you might find out more about the differing viewpoints.

OPEN CONFLICT” is the last stage. It is when you become firmly committed to your position and work to undermine the influence of anyone who is against you. An example of that is organizing other people on your side.

You can become involved in a conflict at any one of these stages – either as a participant or a third party. Heck, in the first two stage, you may not even know that a conflict is brewing.

Think about a conflict situation you are presently involved in. Do you recognize the stage it’s in?


P.S.  Last month, I was teaching ‘conflict theory’ to the 40 hour beginning mediation class. In preparation, I researched online for helpful material for the training manual. I found these stages of conflict which had been adapted from IBM by Learning Link International.





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