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The qual­i­ty of our lives depends not on whether or not we have con­flicts, but on how we respond to them.   — Thomas Crum

What is a Conflict?

A con­flict is a seri­ous dis­agree­ment or argu­ment, usu­al­ly pro­tract­ed. It could be at work­place or with fam­i­ly and friends Con­flict is a form of fric­tion, dis­cord, or dis­agree­ment aris­ing with­in a group when the beliefs or actions of one or more group mem­bers are either resist­ed or unac­cept­able to one or more mem­bers of anoth­er group.

Types of Conflicts:

  1. Inter­per­son­al con­flicts: It refers to a con­flict between two indi­vid­u­als. This usu­al­ly hap­pens because of how dif­fer­ent peo­ple are from each oth­er. We have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, which usu­al­ly leads to incom­pat­i­ble choic­es and opin­ions. Appar­ent­ly, this is a nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non that can ulti­mate­ly help in your per­son­al growth or the devel­op­ment of your rela­tion­ships with oth­ers. In addi­tion, it is nec­es­sary to come up with adjust­ments to han­dle this type of conflict.
  2. Intrap­er­son­al con­flicts: It occurs with­in the indi­vid­ual. Expe­ri­ence takes place in a per­son­’s mind. It is there­fore a type of psy­cho­log­i­cal con­flict involv­ing an indi­vid­u­al’s thoughts, val­ues, prin­ci­ples and emo­tions. Inter­per­son­al con­flicts can come at a vari­ety of scales, from the more mun­dane, such as decid­ing whether to have Chi­nese food for din­ner, to those that can affect major deci­sions, such as choos­ing a career path. Addi­tion­al­ly, this type of con­flict can be quite dif­fi­cult to man­age if you find it dif­fi­cult to deci­pher your inner strug­gles. It leads to rest­less­ness and rest­less­ness, or can even cause depres­sion. In such sit­u­a­tions, it would be best to try to get rid of anx­i­ety through com­mu­ni­ca­tion with oth­er peo­ple. Ulti­mate­ly, being out­side of the sit­u­a­tion can empow­er you more as a per­son. So the expe­ri­ence brought about a pos­i­tive change that will help you in your per­son­al growth.
  3. Con­flict with­in the group: It is a type of con­flict that takes place between indi­vid­u­als in a team. Incom­pat­i­bil­i­ties and mis­un­der­stand­ings between these indi­vid­u­als lead to con­flict with­in the group. It aris­es from inter­per­son­al dis­agree­ments (e.g. team mem­bers have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties that can lead to ten­sion) or from dif­fer­ences in opin­ions and ideas (e.g. in pre­sen­ta­tion. Team mem­bers may con­sid­er the ideas pre­sent­ed by the chair­per­son to be wrong because of their dif­fer­ing opin­ions) . With­in a team, con­flict can help make deci­sions that ulti­mate­ly allow them to achieve their goals as a team.
  4. Inter­group Con­flict: It occurs when there is a mis­un­der­stand­ing between dif­fer­ent teams with­in an orga­ni­za­tion. For exam­ple, the sales depart­ment of an orga­ni­za­tion may come into con­flict with the cus­tomer sup­port depart­ment. This is due to the dif­fer­ent sets of goals and inter­ests of these dif­fer­ent groups. In addi­tion, com­pe­ti­tion also con­tributes to the emer­gence of inter­group con­flicts. There are oth­er fac­tors that pro­mote this type of con­flict. Some of these fac­tors may include rival­ries for resources or bound­aries set by the group against oth­ers, cre­at­ing their own iden­ti­ty as a team.

Unresolved conflicts in general:

Unre­solved con­flict in workplace:

  • Loss of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty: Work­place con­flict in sev­er­al cas­es depletes work­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Unre­solved con­flict in the work­place can also lead to high­er absen­teeism, errors and work­er burnout. The ener­gy employ­ees spend focus­ing on their con­flicts is also the ener­gy they don’t spend get­ting their work done. If the prob­lem per­sists, gen­er­al morale and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty can be affect­ed as oth­er employ­ees become fatigued from the tension.
  • Pas­sive aggres­sive behav­ior: Peo­ple who have nev­er learned how to deal with con­flict effec­tive­ly can fall into pas­sive aggres­sive behav­ior that can fuel anger and frus­tra­tion. Pas­sive-aggres­sive work­place behav­iors such as tar­di­ness, back­bit­ing, inef­fi­cient work, for­get­ting to inform a col­league of news, and cut­ting some­one out of the loop can harm the per­for­mance of oth­er val­ued employees.
  • Lost employ­ees: When ten­sions build or per­sist for too long, many employ­ees con­sid­er leav­ing the job, and some do, per­haps leav­ing a depart­ing employ­ee in need of work, always leav­ing the employ­er to find and train a qual­i­fied replacement.

Unre­solved con­flict in Families:

Dif­fi­cult fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships can take many forms. Maybe you have an over­ly crit­i­cal father who makes you feel anx­ious. Per­haps sib­ling jeal­ousy is a con­stant source of ten­sion in fam­i­ly func­tions. Or maybe you believe that con­trol­ling your new father-in-law leads to unnec­es­sary drama.

  • Start blam­ing your­self for these bad relationships.
  • Expe­ri­ence the fear and anx­i­ety of fam­i­ly or hol­i­day events.
  • Suf­fer­ing from a lack of emo­tion­al or finan­cial sup­port dur­ing dif­fi­cult times.
  • Devel­op prob­lems sleep­ing or con­cen­trat­ing due to the stress of these interactions.
  • Research even shows that poor rela­tion­ships with par­ents, sib­lings, or spous­es can con­tribute to symp­toms of midlife depression.
  • Expo­sure to domes­tic con­flict can also have a long-term impact on a child’s well-being. One lon­gi­tu­di­nal study found that domes­tic argu­ments and vio­lence can increase a child’s risk of devel­op­ing men­tal and phys­i­cal health prob­lems lat­er in life.

Healthy ways of dealing with conflict (workplace):

  1. Accom­mo­da­tion: This is a win/lose sit­u­a­tion. An accom­mo­da­tion approach is gen­er­al­ly used when one par­ty is will­ing to for­feit posi­tion. It is best used in sit­u­a­tions where: One side wants to indi­cate some degree of jus­tice. Peo­ple want to encour­age oth­ers to express their own opinion.
  2. Com­pro­mise: This is a win/lose — win/lose sit­u­a­tion, i.e. every­one involved wins and los­es through nego­ti­a­tion and flex­i­bil­i­ty. Every will to gain some­thing of what he desires and to give some­thing up at the same time. The main goal of this approach is to find com­mon ground and main­tain a relationship.
  3. Avoid­ance: This is a lose/lose sit­u­a­tion. Nei­ther side will take steps to solve the prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with the con­flict, which means it will remain unre­solved. This approach is best used: If every­one involved believes that this is a minor issue and will be resolved in a time­ly man­ner with­out any fuss. When the par­ties need a chance to cool off and spend time apart. If oth­er peo­ple are able to resolve the con­flict more effec­tive­ly than the par­ties involved.
  4. Com­pe­ti­tion: This is a win/lose sit­u­a­tion. One side tries to win the con­flict through dom­i­nance and pow­er. This approach is the best used: When all oth­er meth­ods have been tried (and failed). In emer­gency sit­u­a­tions where quick, imme­di­ate and deci­sive action is required. In sit­u­a­tions where unpop­u­lar changes need to be imple­ment­ed and dis­cus­sion is not appropriate.
  5. Coop­er­a­tion: This is a win/win. It is the most effi­cient but most dif­fi­cult way of man­ag­ing dif­fer­ences. It requires trust and a com­mit­ment by all par­ties to reach a solu­tion by get­ting to the heart of the prob­lem. All par­ties must be will­ing empathize and try to under­stand each oth­er’s sit­u­a­tion. Coop­er­a­tion is most suit­able: When all par­ties are will­ing to joint­ly explore alter­na­tive solu­tions that may not have occurred to them of their own.

Healthy ways of dealing with conflict (Family):

  1. Put things in writ­ing: If you expect some­one from your fam­i­ly to repay you, for exam­ple, a per­son­al loan, make a writ­ten agree­ment between you.
  2. Set bound­aries for your­self: If a fam­i­ly mem­ber pres­sures you to lend or give them mon­ey, or wants to dic­tate your finances, it’s impor­tant to be clear about what type of behav­ior you won’t tol­er­ate. Be clear so your fam­i­ly mem­ber knows when they’ve crossed a line.
  3. Know when to be trans­par­ent: You don’t have to share all your finan­cial infor­ma­tion with any­one. But in cas­es where your deci­sions may affect your fam­i­ly mem­bers, it is best to be trans­par­ent. You may want to talk to your chil­dren about the details of their inher­i­tance to avoid future con­flict, for exam­ple, or to let your sib­lings know why you can’t con­tribute to joint expens­es. If you keep your feel­ings to your­self, resent­ment can build and increase tension.
  4. Look for com­pro­mis­es and accept oth­er peo­ple’s lim­i­ta­tions: If your sib­ling can­not phys­i­cal­ly help with the care, they may be able to offer you finan­cial assis­tance. Be sure to show your appre­ci­a­tion when your sib­ling takes responsibility.
  5. Expect dif­fer­ences: Dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies have dif­fer­ent expec­ta­tions, bound­aries and ways of doing things. Do you see your daugh­ter-in-law as a tact­less or even rude fam­i­ly mem­ber? Per­haps he comes from a fam­i­ly envi­ron­ment that encour­ages blunt­ness or tol­er­ates teasing.
  6. Focus on their most pos­i­tive qual­i­ties: If you find it hard to see their flaws, try mak­ing a list of their strengths.
  7. Find com­mon inter­ests: While it’s not always easy, you can usu­al­ly find com­mon inter­ests if you look hard enough.

Over time, peo­ple’s behav­ior and cir­cum­stances can change. So know that break­ing ties is not nec­es­sar­i­ly per­ma­nent. If you see evi­dence that your fam­i­ly mem­ber is tru­ly will­ing to make amends, there may be a chance for reconciliation.

How­ev­er, do not rush to rec­on­cile. Both of you should accept that this process may take time and requires con­crete steps to improve the rela­tion­ship. With a com­bi­na­tion of patience and bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion, you may be able to mend this bro­ken bond and move for­ward with a health­i­er relationship.


- Mufina, MHP, M.S.C.P., D.M.H., 
Psychologist, Mental Health Counsellor, 
Chennai, TN, India. 


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