Interpersonal conflict, like anger, is natural and normal. It occurs when people have different needs or values. When we face conflict, we react according to our personal conflict belief system. The consequences of that reaction will either reinforce or change our belief system.
Personal Conflict Belief System
A personal conflict belief system is formed from messages we receive throughout our lives from parents, religion, culture, friends, teachers, the media, and individual experiences. These beliefs affect how we react when a conflict occurs. This is similar to our response to anger.
Reaction to Conflict
Our reaction to a particular conflict is based on our beliefs about conflict itself. If we believe conflict is basically negative, we usually react in a negative fashion, for example, by complaining or fighting. If we believe conflict should be avoided, we may pretend that nothing is wrong, give in, or run away. If we believe that conflict is neutral and that it happens everyday, then we will react calmly and logically. Most importantly, how we react to a conflict has consequences for everyone involved.
Consequences of Our Reaction
The consequences of our reaction will also be negative or positive. If our reaction is to fight or pretend that nothing is wrong, the consequence may be hurt feelings, and the problem may get worse. If, instead, we agree to talk about the problem calmly, there will likely be positive consequences such as good feelings about ourselves and about the other person. A positive reaction may even help us solve the problem that is causing the conflict. Like anger management, conflict management can be useful in resolving differences between people.
George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF, CEAP
Diplomate, American Association of Anger Management Providers
Anderson & Anderson®, The Trusted Name in Anger Management