Re-defining Conflict

What is Conflict?

The dictionary defines conflict as: “a struggle to resist or overcome; a contest of opposing forces or powers; strife; battle; a state or condition of opposition; antagonism; discord; a painful tension set up by a clash between opposed and contradictory impulses.”

Everyone has conflict in their lives, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Learning healthy tools and strategies for managing conflict will serve you well in all areas of your life.

In your notebook, list the words that come to mind when you hear the word “conflict”:


Looking at Conflict in a Different Way 

Often when we hear the word conflict we think of negative things like fighting, arguing, or war. But conflict can also be a catalyst for positive change. Where there is conflict, there is also opportunity for growth. Rather than avoiding conflict altogether, it is far more beneficial to address it with patience, respect and understanding.


Activity: Find the Opportunities

In your notebook, name the opportunities in each of the following scenarios:

  1. Norm wants to go camping with his family, but his wife would rather go to the West Edmonton Mall.


  1. Jill likes her job, but lately her boss has asked her to do things that are not part of her job description. She finds the extra work difficult and is very frustrated. 


  1. You are tired of your friends coming over and making a mess, eating all your food and then leaving.


  1. You and your partner have a custody conflict about your two children; you both want them full-time. 


Causes and Responses to Conflict

Let’s look at some of the main causes of conflict:

  • Misunderstandings
  • Personality clashes
  • Competition for resources 
  • Authority issues 
  • Hurt feelings  
  • Lack of cooperation 
  • Differences of opinion 
  • Low performance 
  • Differences with values or goals
  • Cultural differences 

Now, let’s name some common responses to conflict:

  • Avoid the person 
  • Change the subject
  • Try to understand the other person’s point of view 
  • Find a judge/arbitrator 
  • Play the martyr 
  • Give in 
  • Work toward a mutually agreeable solution 
  • Apologize 
  • Whine or complain 
  • Get defensive
  • Fight it out 
  • Pretend to agree 
  • Try to find common ground 
  • Admit that you are wrong 
  • Turn the conflict into a joke

In your notebook, answer the following questions:

  1. Think of a conflict that you have had in the past. What was the conflict?
  2. Why did you have that conflict? (ex: personality clash, misunderstandings, lack of cooperation, etc.)
  3. How did you respond to that conflict? (ex: avoid the issue, yell at the person, try to understand the other person’s point of view, etc.)