Chapter 1 – Why are we even fighting? Defining and Analyzing Conflict

Learning Objectives

  • Understand and define what conflict is and where it comes from
  • Develop multiple strategies for analyzing conflict
  • Define and recognize the 4 types of goal interference people experience in conflict
  • Define and recognize the 5 domains of human social experiences in the SCARF model
  • Define and recognize the 5 conflict styles
  • Develop self awareness around your triggers and default styles in conflict


“Conflict can have a positive side, one that build relationships, creates coalitions, fosters communications, strengthens institutions, and creates new ideas, rules and laws. These are the functions of conflict.” United Nations


Conflict occurs in interactions in which there are real or perceived incompatible goals, scarce resources, or opposing viewpoints. Interpersonal conflict may be expressed verbally or nonverbally along a continuum ranging from a nearly imperceptible cold shoulder to a very obvious blowout. Interpersonal conflict is, however, distinct from interpersonal violence, which goes beyond communication to include abuse.

Frameworks for analyzing conflict

Consider the conflicts you have experienced in your life.  How many conflicts in your life seem to never get resolved?  Maybe you think some of these conflicts have been resolved, because you have apologized (or gotten an apology) or done what someone has asked you to do (or someone has done what you asked) but yet there are still tensions, issues, overt or covert indicators that the conflict is still alive and well. Often this happens because discussions around and about conflict take place at a surface level and don’t address the underlying issues that really need to be resolved. One of the most important parts of managing conflict productively and constructively is addressing the underlying issues.  In this chapter, we will explore three frameworks for analyzing conflict.  These frameworks support us in identifying the underlying issues commonly involved in the conflicts we experience in our daily lives.


Adaptation: Material in this chapter has been adapted from “A Primer on Communication Studies” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA3.0


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Making Conflict Suck Less: The Basics Copyright © 2020 by Ashley Orme Nichols is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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