What is a conflict?

The literal meaning of conflict is ‘collision/struggle/disagreement’ It is a collision between people and their truths. Usually, multiple parties are involved, but this is not necessary. For example, a conflict can also arise within yourself when your truth does not match that of another.

Conflicts always involve people or those who resemble them, in any case. Not about animals or elusive organizations, such as private companies or foundations. For example, you cannot have a conflict with your dog. It does seem possible to have a conflict with the tax authorities. When you seek contact with them, you encounter people, not an ‘organization’.

What types of conflicts are there?

A conflict is a far too short word to denote an infinite number of types of collisions between people. Not only the content but also the severity of conflicts can vary enormously from one situation to another, for example. Sometimes it’s a minor difference of opinion, but it can also escalate into a serious argument.

In general, conflicts can be categorized into different types. It is especially important to remember the difference between task-related or substantive conflicts and socio-emotional conflicts.

Business or task-related conflicts.

Business or task-related conflicts often have a business foundation. Such conflicts are almost always about non-personal aspects within the organization. If it’s a task-related conflict, then the conflict is truly about the tasks that need to be performed within the organization.

Within business conflicts, we also distinguish three separate forms of conflict, namely instrumental conflicts, interest conflicts, and power conflicts.

Instrumental conflicts
, these are conflicts that revolve around, for example, goals, procedures, and structures within the organization. For example, you may disagree with a certain task distribution, leading to a clash with your supervisor.

Interest conflicts
Interest conflicts arise when choices have to be made due to a scarcity of resources. This can pertain to both material (space, finances) and immaterial matters (safety, social climate). Because choices have to be made, there will always be parties disappointed – and that can lead to conflicts.

Power conflicts.
Power dynamics can be skewed, especially when certain expectations exist. The challenge with a power conflict is that the subordinate party, who is subordinate to the party in power, often struggles to engage in the conflict. This leads to many ‘silent frustrations’ that continue to grow and can ultimately lead to escalation.

Socio-emotional conflicts

Socio-emotional conflicts revolve around how people interact with each other and the norms and values they hold. The personal and psychological aspects of such a conflict often come to the forefront.

Within this type of conflict, we can distinguish the conflict forms of value conflicts and relational conflicts.

Value conflict
eople can prioritize different values and attach varying degrees of importance to them. When there is a difference in this regard, it can lead to a conflict. What one considers good, may be considered worthless by another.

Relational conflicts
These conflicts relate to relationships with others. For example, it could be that you have been betrayed by a friend or that your partner has cheated on you.

How does a conflict arise?

A conflict arises when two people clash because they differ in their truths. Because emotions and clashing personalities often play a role in a conflict, especially in socio-emotional conflicts, it can be challenging to find a solution. Such clashes or battles make it difficult for many people to remain calm, maintain kindness, and continue to listen to the other person. Nevertheless, for most conflicting parties, the intention is always to resolve the conflict as effectively as possible.

How can you resolve a conflict?

You can become physically and mentally ill from conflicts, both literally and figuratively. This is avoidable. At Merlijn Advies Groep, we have developed four conflict resolution methods aimed at preventing, guiding, and resolving conflicts (the prevention method, the guidance method, the mediation method, and the settlement method). With the right method and customized guidance and support from our professionals, you will always come to a resolution.

Do you want to read more about conflicts? There are books written on this subject. One of the most recent ones is ‘De conflictadviseur, wegwijzer in het conflictlabyrint’. For consultations or information, you can always contact the editorial members.