Conflict Management Conflict Management

Why the study of conflict is important

Key elements of conflict

The nature of conflict

Variables in the study of conflict

Skills for conflict managers

Self test

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The Nature of Conflict 

Characteristics of conflict: What it is and what it is not
Destructive and constructive conflict
Competitive and cooperative conflict
Mutual gains negotiation

Conflict resolution or conflict management? At a training session, a nationally known consultant from a mediation firm in Boulder, Colorado was asked what the difference was between conflict resolution and conflict management. The trainer replied that the distinction was one that only an academician could love. The distinction, however, is important both intellectually and psychologically, as the terms evoke different conceptions of the nature of conflict.  As conflict scholar Lulofs (1994) states, "the way we think about conflict has important implications for the way we act in situations where conflict exists" (p. 4). 

Conflict resolution implies that conflicts can be resolved--finished, completed, overcome, or permanently settled.  The label conflict management was intentionally chosen by communication scholars because the term evokes a process view of the choices and behaviors that come into play during conflicts.  Communication during conflict requires both choice and action--actions that may or may not solve the conflict permanently.  The term conflict management implies that conflict is not an "on" or "off" phenomenon.  Some conflicts are enduring and the best we can hope for is to manage the level and manifestation of conflict--to sustain a good working relationship free from negative behaviors or violence. 

Communication scholars generally agree that conflict: 

  • is a process
  • is inevitable
  • is a normal part of life

Continue through the rest of this section to read more about the nature of conflict.



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