Conflict is synonymous with clash, opposition, pendency, lawsuit; in the legal vocabulary, the sense of clash of ideas or interests prevails, which causes a divergence between facts, things or people.
Because there are several nomenclatures for this recurrent phenomenon in personal relationships, the expression “conflict” is usually used as a synonym for “controversy”, “dispute”, “deal” and “litigation”.
In the first edition of this work, there was adherence to the current that identifies these expressions and, making use of the colloquial reference, treats the terms “conflicts” and “disputes” as synonyms. It is possible, however, to devise differences between conflicts, disputes and disputes in a useful way to the study of the means of composition of controversies.
Although it is difficult to define conflict (which takes on multiple forms in different contexts), it can be said that it is a disagreement, a contradiction or an incompatibility between positions presented from the “incompatibility between objectives, cognition and emotions”.
Causes of conflict
A determining reason for checking conflicts is intolerance (lack of respect for differences). All people are different from each other, as they are made up of peculiar factors, diverse elements and varied contexts. No two people are identical, each human being is unique… despite this, when there are very different views between close people, conflict will set in if there is disrespect for the diversity of perceptions.
To some extent, conflicts stem from a lack of respect for different:
a) values (different views on right/wrong, different lifestyles, religions and culture);
b) structures (unequal distribution of resources, power and/or authority);
c) definitions of roles, time, money and relationships (failed communication, strong emotions, behavior, perceptions, lack of trust);
d) levels of information (lack, error, interpretation, evaluation methods, interests).
The importance of identifying the types of conflicts
Conflicts are so common and diverse that we could find many more specific types of conflict: political, religious, war or armed conflicts, etc. Depending on the type they are, the conflicts may have more psychological implications or have more to do with the sociological sphere. The important thing, before proposing a possible solution, is knowing how to detect the factors involved in order to establish clear objectives and, as far as possible, predict the possible consequences of each alternative.
The 10 most important and common types of conflicts
There are several ways to classify your conflicts: based on their content, the people involved, their cause, or other properties . This article is intended to be a simplified list, so some types may have things in common with others or may even occur together.
1. Real conflicts
Obviously, many conflicts arise from objective causes. Veridical conflicts are those that can be perceived in a similar way by all parties involved and also by potential observers . Many of these types of conflict are contingent, that is, they are given by existing circumstances. One way to solve these conflicts is by modifying such circumstances or contingencies.
An example of this would be discussions about household chores that are left undone due to lack of time; In cases like this, cohabiting people would have the option of rearranging their schedules to find enough time. To solve this type of conflict, it is important to resort to a detailed analysis of the situation and the impediments that exist for all parties involved to achieve their objectives.
2. Imaginary conflicts
Unrealistic conflicts can occur due to lack of information or due to attribution errors . For this reason, reference is often made to information conflicts or communication conflicts when speaking of this kind of conflict. These would be the typical “misunderstandings” that are usually resolved when a little research is done on the facts and it is actually discovered that the problem does not exist or is focused in the wrong way.
A typical case is when there is some interference in the communication. If, for example, two friends have met at a cafeteria at 6:00 p.m. but one of them misses the train, and she has left her cell phone at home; The first, by not getting a response to her messages and calls, she may think that she has stood up to him. Precisely for issues like these, communication and information are essential to reach a solution.
3. Types of conflict in invented
They are, as in the case of unreal conflicts, false. However, this category has the particularity that one of the parties involved has invented the problem with the purpose of obtaining some kind of benefit.
Examples of invented conflicts can be found in discussions that arise as a result of manipulation, as occurs in cases of gender violence. Gaslighting is frequent among abusers, who make their victims believe that they have said or done things that have not really happened, with the aim of criticizing them or generating arguments . Resolving this type of conflict can be especially complicated, since it requires detecting the falsity of the approach in order to get out of the trap.
4. Interpersonal conflicts
The vast majority of conflicts would fall into this group. After all, most of the times when we experience disagreements or confrontations it is usually because our opinion or our objectives differ from those of other people.
Interpersonal conflicts can be real, imagined or invented, and they can also overlap with other categories that we will see later in the article. A typical example of interpersonal conflict would occur when the members of a couple cannot agree on the place where they want to live together. In interpersonal conflicts it is important to use active listening so that the people involved in them can understand each other.
5. Intrapersonal conflicts
Not all conflicts have to involve more than one person, but it is possible to have internal conflicts. It is very common for this to happen when a difficult decision has to be made, or when we experience cognitive dissonance ; that is, when our actions are not in accordance with our ideas.
For example, a man who smokes might want to set a good example for his daughter by not smoking; however, the addiction could make it very difficult for you to quit. When cognitive dissonances occur, we can choose to change our behavior or accommodate our ideas in order to continue acting in the same way.
6. Group conflicts
In the same way that they can be a matter of less than two people, they can also be a matter of many more. Here we could differentiate between intergroup conflicts (when two groups confront each other) and intragroup conflicts (when members of the same group experience a difference).
An example of intergroup conflict could be between the group of participants in a demonstration and the group of police officers who come to break it up. On the other hand, intragroup conflict occurs, for example, when several people from the same family dispute an inheritance. Group conflicts may require the appointment of spokespersons or mediators to help negotiate.
7. Types of conflict in relational relationships
This is where a large part of the conflicts that are experienced on a day-to-day basis would enter. This category may overlap with other types of conflict such as interpersonal conflicts or intragroup conflicts. It is about the clashes or disagreements that can occur in any type of social relationship. This type of conflict can occur when, for example, a son and a mother discuss his habit of protesting in the face of any frustration.
There are those who propose a specific category reserved for what they call “personality conflict”; that is, the incompatibilities that can arise in relationships between people who have very different patterns. As in interpersonal conflicts, assertive communication is necessary so that both parties understand each other and can propose alternatives.
8. Conflicts of interest
Conflict of interest is a very particular type, since it usually appeals directly to the responsibility of the people who experience it. It occurs when a person has to serve a cause or task and, nevertheless, is presented with the opportunity to obtain secondary benefits at the cost of disfavoring it or not fulfilling it in the best possible way.
A typical case occurs when a politician has to assign a job that should help improve the community (for example, the construction of a sports center). He could be tempted to offer the work to a relative who has his own construction company, even though he is not specialized in this type of construction, with the aim that public money ends up in his family. Sometimes neutral figures or organizations are used to supervise this type of decision to avoid falling into conflicts of interest.
9. Ethical conflicts
This kind of conflict usually has a lot to do with decision making. It takes place when there is a clash between the moral values of one or more people. Thus, ethical conflicts can be intrapersonal conflicts, interpersonal conflicts, intragroup conflicts or intergroup conflicts.
Ethical conflicts frequently arise in the context of health. For example, we could put ourselves in the situation of a medical team that has to offer a family the option of disconnecting the respirators that keep a patient alive who has no chance of recovering from her comatose state. Ethical conflicts require a very careful assessment of the consequences of each possible decision , since they can have emotional and philosophical implications of great importance for their participants.
10. Types of conflict derived from power
When we talk about power conflicts we talk about role conflicts or structural conflicts, and they can also include subtypes such as leadership or authority conflicts. As its name indicates, it is a type of conflict triggered by an inequality of power that serves as a context for one of the parties involved to exert oppression on the other, who is at a disadvantage.
There are many examples of power conflicts in the workplace, when some companies take advantage of the precarious situation of workers to offer abusive working conditions. Negotiation tools are especially important in these cases, although when this type of conflict occurs structurally, it is often necessary to go to the root of power inequalities to close the gaps.
How to provide solutions to different types of conflict
Whatever the type, all types of conflicts are characterized by some kind of incompatibility or opposition. From the outset, many times the solution is focused from the competition: we seek to win at the cost of the other person losing, which usually causes the relationship to suffer. However, at other times we choose to accommodate ourselves; that is, we sacrifice our objective so that the other party can achieve theirs (a frequent strategy in people with fear of rejection). One of the easiest options is usually to reach an agreement in which both parties have to partially give up their objective to achieve a fraction of it.
Ideally, it would be resolved through cooperation, finding a workable way for all parties involved to achieve what they want (or finding a third option that is workable for everyone. What we should not do in any case is avoid conflict or seek the detriment of the other in case of not being able to get what we want, since in that case everyone loses.