Understanding Conflict in Relationships


Conflict is a normal part of human life and will occur in all relationships. It is a struggle that can take place over a variety of things including differences in opinion, competing goals, and even resources. Conflict, if not managed correctly, can lead to negative consequences like frustration, anger, resentment, and even violence. Learning to navigate conflict in a healthy way is crucial to managing your relationships. In this Module, you will learn how to identify the various components of conflict and how to use this knowledge to prevent or resolve conflicts in your personal and professional lives.

Stage 1: Frustration

All conflict situations begin with frustration. This can be caused by a wide variety of things such as disagreements over performance goals, the inability to achieve important goals, or the lack of access to scarce resources. Frustration can also be caused by a person or group’s inability to meet the needs of other people. Examples include: continually forgetting about appointments and gatherings, making insensitive comments that hurt others, ignoring someone’s feelings or acting thoughtlessly and carelessly.

Stage 2: Incompatibility

In order for a conflict to exist there must be a perceived incompatibility between two or more parties. This is the most common cause of conflict and can be seen in many ways from an internal or external perspective. Internal incompatibility is usually a result of the protagonist’s own desires that are at odds with someone else’s. External incompatibility is often a result of societal norms or rules that are at odds with an individual’s own desires.

Stage 3: Competing Interests

Once the incompatibility and the competing interests are clear, it is time to find a resolution. During this step it is important to respect the other party’s point of view and listen carefully. It is also important to be open to ideas and stay focused on the issue at hand. Do not bring up other unrelated issues or try to force a solution that only benefits one group over the other. This will only escalate the conflict.

Lastly, it is important to understand the motivation behind each person’s position. Often, groups will waste time “bargaining over positions” instead of exploring the individual’s interests and finding a resolution that suits those interests.

Conflict is a natural part of every story and can be used to develop character, add tension and emotion, and create a sense of realism. It is important to recognize the different stages of conflict and how to manage it in order to avoid negative effects and produce a story with a happy ending. The choices the protagonist and other characters make in their interaction with conflict will eventually lead to other plot points, conflicts, and layers of the story. This is a cycle that can continue over and over again, creating new situations in which the protagonist must face conflict, make decisions, and resolve them. Ultimately, this will result in an ending that is satisfying for the reader and the author.