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Definition of Conflict. “Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals , scare resources , and interference from others in achieving their goals.”. Burton – Human Needs.

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Definition of conflict
Definition of Conflict

“Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceiveincompatible goals, scare resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals.”

Burton human needs
Burton – Human Needs

  • Burton says that conflict stems from unsatisfied human needs

  • In conflict, people represent their interests, but not their underlying needs; however, they will use power and coercion to meet those needs

Galtung structural violence
Galtung – Structural Violence

  • Inequalities embedded in the social structure lead to violence and conflict.

  • Unless those underlying inequalities are solved, then violence will continue

  • Prime example is lower-class people dying because health care resources are granted to the upper-class

Coser social function of conflict
Coser – social function of conflict

  • Conflict is not always dysfunctional for the relationship within which it occurs; often, conflict is necessary to maintain such a relationship

  • Conflict not only generates new norms, new institutions…it may be said to be stimulating directly in the economic and technological realm.

  • If Coser is correct, and conflict serves a socially useful function, then should conflicts be resolved?

Game theory
Game Theory

  • Zero-sum game

    • fixed pie

  • People assume that they can either win or lose.

    • If I win a quarter, they lose a quarter – the sum is always zero

    • you give up nothing, because it means the other side wins what you give up


  • Social movements:

    • Gandhi and nonviolence – movement to free India of British Rule

    • Women’s suffrage movement, 1848-1920

    • Lech Walesa and Solidarity in Poland

    • Nelson Mandela/Desmond Tutu and the movement against Apartheid in South Africa

  • Based off each other, and off Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.”


  • Thoreau said:

  • Two times when open rebellion is justified:

    • when the injustice is no longer occasional but a major characteristic

    • when the machine (government) demands that people cooperate with injustice.

  • Thoreau declared that, “If the government requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”

Escalation of conflict
Escalation of conflict

  • Conflicts escalate in both scope and severity

  • Conflicts can escalate constructively or destructively

Destructive conflict
Destructive Conflict

  • Characteristics of destructive escalation

    • parties become less flexible

    • goals are narrowly defined and rigid

    • primary goal is to defeat the other party – assumes the other side must lose

    • becomes protracted and intractable

  • Characteristics of destructive agreements

    • damages relationships

    • promotes inequality & power imbalance

    • outcomes are imposed unilaterally

    • often requires redress or revenge

    • outcomes are often oppressive to one side


Constructive conflicts
Constructive Conflicts

  • Constructive conflicts are not the absence of destructive elements

  • Characteristics of constructive escalation

    • interaction changes often

    • flexible goals/objectives

    • guided by belief that all parties can win

  • Characteristics of constructive agreements

    • strengthens relationships

    • restores equality

    • recognizing the other parties as legitimate

    • using benefits/promises rather than threats/coercion

    • find mutually acceptable solutions

    • Conflict is actually solved

Conflict continuum
Conflict Continuum

  • Negotiation is at the bottom because negotiation theory is the base for all forms of conflict resolution (mediation, arbitration, even diplomacy)

Negotiation theory
Negotiation Theory

  • Positional Negotiation

    • Positions are the stance you take and your proposed solution

      • “I want $3,000 for this car”

      • “Stop taking my stuff – you have to ask me first.”

    • Positions are your statements of what you’re willing to give

  • Positional negotiation starts with two positions and attempts to find a middle ground between them, or barter until one party gives in to the other position.

Positional bargaining
Positional Bargaining

  • Hard vs. Soft positional bargaining

    • Hard bargaining – make threats, damage relationships, demand concessions from other party, goal is victory, search for one answer you will accept, apply pressure

    • Soft bargaining – you get taken, sacrifice your needs for relationship, trust other party, disclose your bottom line, try to win friends, search for an answer they will accept

Principled negotiation
Principled Negotiation

  • 1. Separate People from Problems

  • 2. Focus on Interests not Positions

    • Topic interests/goals

    • Relational interests/goals

    • Identity or Face interests/goals

    • Process interests/goals

  • 3. Invent solutions for mutual gain

  • 4. Insist the result be based on some objective criteria

Separate people from problems
Separate people from problems

  • Negotiators are people first

    • every party in a negotiation has emotions and ego, and can have misunderstandings

  • The relationship needs to be taken into account in all negotiations

  • Perceptions – does truth matter?

    • understand their perceptions to come up with better solutions

  • Emotions – the higher the stakes, the higher emotions run

  • Communication – all negotiations have misunderstandings

Negotiation interests not positions
Negotiation Interests not Positions

  • Positions are something you decided on – what you’re demanding as a solution

  • Interests are what got you there

  • For every interest, there are several positions you could take, and vice-versa

  • To negotiate interests, identify them

    • ask why? what are they getting from position

    • ask why not? what are they not getting

    • most common interests are needs-based

Types of interests
Types of Interests

  • T.R.I.P.

    • Topic, relational, identity/face, process

  • Topic and Process interests

    • external, negotiable, substantive, tangible, expressed

  • Relational and Identity interests

    • internal, non-negotiable, usually not expressed aloud, intangible (values)

    • DRIVE all conflicts

Topic and process goals
Topic and Process Goals

  • Topic interests:

    • what do we want? what are we fighting for?

    • either both parties have the same goal, or both parties have opposing goals

  • Process interests:

    • what communication process will we use?

    • process goals appear when low-power party cries unjust process or unfair fight

Relational goals
Relational Goals

  • Who are we to each other?

    • How will we be treated?

    • How much influence do we have over the other?

    • How interdependent are we?

  • At the heart of all conflicts, but rarely articulated

  • Relational goals must be met in order to solve underlying issues

Face or identity goals
Face or Identity Goals

  • Who am I in this conflict?

  • You can save or damage your own face or the other’s face

  • If face is destroyed, it must be restored (saved) before any other conflict goal can be addressed

  • When face is damaged:

    • people dig into their positions

    • creates losers who “get back at you” next time

Ways to restore face
Ways to restore face

  • How we save our own face:

    • rationalize actions

    • claim unjust intimidation

    • dig into our position

    • damage other’s face

  • How we save other’s face:

    • help increase their self-esteem

    • avoid giving orders or directives

    • listen carefully and legitimize their concerns

  • No one wants to look like the loser

More about types of interests
More about types of interests

  • Interests overlap

    • all conflicts have multiple goals

    • relational and identity goals are always present

    • different goals have primacy

    • parties in conflict rarely have same goals with same primacy

  • Interests are disguised

    • relational and face goals are presented as topic and process goals

More about interests
More about interests

  • Goals/Interests change

    • goals change as they’re met or as they’re frustrated

  • Prospective goals

    • what you want as you’re preparing

  • Transactive goals

    • goals that emerge during the conflict

      • shift as negotiation occurs

      • can become destructive (esp. face)

      • can be sacrificed (esp. topic)

  • Retrospective goals – set up for next time

Invent solutions for mutual gain
Invent Solutions for Mutual Gain

  • Easiest solution in a negotiation is to split the difference between the positions

  • In order to have more options to choose from, you need more solutions

    • Brainstorm

    • Broaden your options

      • shuttle between the specific and the general

      • invent options of differing strength

      • change scope

    • Make a bigger pie (game theory)

      • look for shared interests and goals

      • split differing interests

    • Turn it into reaching a common goal

Insist on objective criteria
Insist on Objective Criteria

  • Use a “Fair Standard”

    • market value, such as “blue-book value”

    • professional standards

    • precedent

    • scientific judgment

  • Use a “Fair Procedure”

    • Flip a coin, lottery, use a 3rd party, “I divide, you choose”

  • Agree to the principles first

  • Not a way to strengthen your position – a fair standard must be fair for both parties