Managing Conflict

Conflict is inevitable in any home or workplace, but it need not be a destructive force.  Conflict is a natural consequence of our relationships with others — whether personal or professional relationships.  Conflict, provided it is managed appropriately, can be a positive and healthy part of our working together and can be the necessary catalyst for change and improvement.


Types of Conflict

There are a number of different types of conflict:

  • Internal conflict

“I am tired and want to sleep, and I also want to have time with my friends tonight.” 

  • External conflict

“I want to leave my job and go to university.  My wife wants a baby. We can only do one of those.” 

  • Constructive conflict

Where conflict precipitates useful change or improvement 

  • Destructive conflict

Where issues are avoided, relationships are undermined and mediocrity is perpetuated.


Conflict can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, depending on what we make it.

The ease with which a conflict can be resolved centres around what the conflict is about.  The difficulty level rises the further you go to the right of the continuum below.

Facts:         the present situation or problem

Methods:     the best way to achieve our goals

Goals:         what we need to achieve

Values:        something of great worth to you


F                  M                  G                  V


Resolving conflict can be as simple as approaching the person you are in conflict with and asking – “Are you feeling the same way as me about this?” If it is more difficult than that, you may need to get some assistance from a third party who can help the two parties to discuss things rationally and calmly to see if there is a compromise that can be reached.

If there is no possibility of agreement on the issue and you still need to work together, you need to ask “What do we need to do to maintain a healthy relationship despite this disagreement?” Parking a disagreement can often result in an eventual compromise being reached.

Sometimes the conflict will result in the two parties going their own way or someone leaving the relationship. If this happens, the best thing to do is ask “what have I learned from this situation and how do I prevent a similar situation arising in the future?”

Some questions to reflect on:

  1. Am I in conflict at present?
  2. Who do I need to resolve conflict with?
  3. Who can help me?


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