The article was last updated by Sofia Alvarez on February 6, 2024.

Conflicts are a natural part of human relationships, but understanding the different types and causes of conflict is crucial for effective resolution. From differences in values and beliefs to competition for resources, conflicts can arise from various sources.

The impact of conflict on individuals can lead to emotional distress, physical symptoms, and changes in behavior. By exploring methods such as negotiation, mediation, and collaboration, individuals can work towards resolving conflicts and maintaining healthy relationships.

Key Takeaways:

  • Conflict is a natural part of human interaction and can have both positive and negative effects on individuals.
  • Conflicts can arise due to differences in values, competition for resources, or miscommunication.
  • Conflict resolution can be achieved through various methods like negotiation, mediation, collaboration, compromise, avoidance, or accommodation.
  • What Is Conflict?

    Conflict is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, stemming from differing motives, desires, and psychological dynamics.

    Conflicts arise due to individuals having differing levels of power, differing values, or opposing ideas about how things should be done. Emotions such as jealousy, fear, and anger can also spark conflicts, leading to misunderstandings and tensions. These underlying factors often influence how conflicts escalate and the ways in which they are resolved. It is essential to navigate conflicts with empathy and understanding, acknowledging the complexities that drive human behavior and the need for effective communication to address underlying issues.

    What Are the Different Types of Conflict?

    Conflicts can manifest in various forms, including approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, approach-avoidance, and double approach-avoidance conflicts, as well as goal conflicts, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intergroup conflicts.

    Approach-approach conflicts occur when an individual is torn between two desirable options, each with its own set of benefits.

    On the other hand, avoidance-avoidance conflicts arise when faced with two undesirable alternatives, leaving the individual feeling trapped and forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

    Approach-avoidance conflicts involve a single choice or goal that has both positive and negative aspects, creating a sense of ambivalence and inner turmoil.

    Double approach-avoidance conflicts present multiple options with both positive and negative attributes, forcing the individual to weigh the pros and cons meticulously.

    What Causes Conflict?

    Conflict arises due to various factors, including differences in values and beliefs, competition for resources, and miscommunication.

    When individuals or groups have conflicting values or beliefs, it can lead to misunderstandings and clashes, as each party tries to assert their perspective.

    Competition for scarce resources, whether it’s land, water, or economic opportunities, often fuels tensions and sparks conflicts. The struggle for power and control over these limited resources can escalate into confrontations and hostilities.

    Breakdowns in communication, whether it’s due to language barriers, cultural differences, or simply a lack of effective dialogue, can create confusion, suspicion, and ultimately trigger conflicts as parties fail to comprehend each other’s intentions or viewpoints.

    Differences in Values and Beliefs

    Conflicts often emerge from clashes in values and beliefs, where individuals or groups hold divergent perspectives on core principles.

    In many cases, these conflicts arise due to differences in cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, political ideologies, or even personal experiences. For example, a disagreement between two colleagues on how to approach a project may stem from their contrasting views on the importance of teamwork versus individual achievement. Similarly, conflicts within families can be fueled by generational gaps in values, with younger and older members having dissimilar priorities and outlooks.

    Conflicting values can also manifest in broader societal issues, such as debates over ethical dilemmas or social norms. When two parties with conflicting beliefs engage in discussions or negotiations, misunderstandings and tensions can escalate, leading to confrontations and standoffs.

    Competition for Resources

    Competing for scarce resources is a common catalyst for conflict, as individuals or entities vie for limited assets or opportunities.

    Resource competition often leads to heightened tensions as various parties fight for control of the limited assets in question. This competition can manifest in different forms, ranging from economic rivalries to territorial disputes.

    As the pressure to secure these resources intensifies, conflicts can escalate rapidly, creating a volatile environment where negotiations are often strained and agreements hard to reach.

    The struggle to gain an advantage in access to these scarce resources can lead to long-standing rivalries and deep-seated animosities among the competing parties.


    Miscommunication often breeds misunderstandings and discord, fueling conflicts due to breakdowns in information exchange or interpretation.

    When individuals or groups fail to clearly express their thoughts or intentions, it opens the door for confusion and misinterpretation. This lack of understanding can lead to resentment, anger, and perceptions of distrust. Furthermore, distorted messages can create a cycle of escalating conflict as each party reacts based on their own perception rather than actual shared meaning.

    How Does Conflict Affect Individuals?

    Conflicts can have profound impacts on individuals, ranging from emotional distress and physical symptoms to significant changes in behavior.

    When individuals are exposed to prolonged conflict, it can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and even depression. The constant feelings of uncertainty and fear can take a toll on one’s mental health, affecting their ability to concentrate, make decisions, and maintain healthy relationships. Conflicts can manifest physically through symptoms like headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and sleep disturbances.

    Behaviorally, individuals may display aggressive tendencies, withdrawal from social interactions, or exhibit passive-aggressive behaviors as coping mechanisms. The prolonged exposure to conflict can alter an individual’s worldview, beliefs, and overall outlook on life, leading to a change in their personality and values. These behavioral changes can affect how they interact with others, may erode trust, and hinder communication, further exacerbating the negative consequences of conflict on social relationships.

    Emotional Distress

    Emotional distress is a common outcome of conflicts, leading to psychological problems and potential psychosomatic disorders arising from intrapersonal conflict.

    When individuals experience intense conflict, whether it be within themselves or in their relationships, the emotional toll can be significant. This distress can manifest in various ways, impacting mental health and overall well-being. It’s not uncommon for unresolved issues to fuel deeper psychological challenges, affecting one’s ability to cope effectively.

    Self-awareness plays a crucial role in navigating these turbulent waters, as recognizing and acknowledging one’s emotions and triggers can often pave the way for healing and growth.

    Physical Symptoms

    Conflicts can manifest physically, with individuals experiencing psychosomatic symptoms resulting from interpersonal tensions and conflicts.

    Psychosomatic symptoms can vary widely in nature, encompassing anything from headaches, stomach aches, and muscle tension to more severe conditions such as hypertension, ulcers, or even autoimmune disorders. These physical manifestations are often the body’s way of expressing the internal turmoil and stress that is not being adequately addressed. As individuals struggle to navigate and resolve their interpersonal conflicts, the toll it takes on their physical health can be significant.

    Changes in Behavior

    Conflicts often trigger behavioral changes, especially in intergroup settings, where individuals may exhibit defensive or aggressive behaviors in response to conflicts.

    Intergroup conflicts can lead to the development of ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ dynamics, where individuals align themselves closely with those perceived as similar (‘in-group’) while distancing themselves from those perceived as different (‘out-group’). This shift often intensifies emotions and loyalties within the group, fostering a sense of unity against the perceived common enemy. Conflicts may also create power struggles within groups, with individuals vying for control or dominance as a way to assert their influence and protect the group’s interests.

    How Is Conflict Resolved?

    Conflict resolution involves various strategies such as negotiation, mediation, collaboration, compromise, avoidance, and accommodation.

    Each of these methods offers a unique approach to resolving conflicts in different settings.

    1. Negotiation involves discussions where parties aim to find a mutually acceptable solution.
    2. Mediation uses a neutral third party to assist in reaching an agreement.
    3. Collaboration emphasizes teamwork and joint problem-solving.
    4. Compromise entails both sides making concessions to find a middle ground.
    5. Avoidance can be a temporary solution by delaying or ignoring the conflict.
    6. Accommodation involves accepting and adapting to the other party’s needs.

    Understanding these diverse approaches enables individuals to effectively navigate and resolve conflicts in various situations.


    Negotiation is a key conflict resolution strategy that focuses on reconciling differing interests and positions to reach mutually acceptable agreements.

    When parties engage in negotiation, the goal is not simply to win or outmaneuver the other side, but rather to find common ground that satisfies the needs and concerns of all involved. This process involves a delicate balance of assertiveness and empathy, where each party’s interests are carefully considered alongside their stated positions. By delving beneath surface demands and exploring underlying motivations, negotiators can uncover shared goals, paving the way for creative solutions and long-lasting resolutions. Effective negotiation requires active listening, clear communication, and a willingness to collaborate towards a solution that benefits all parties involved.


    Mediation involves a neutral third party facilitating communication and negotiation between conflicting parties to help them reach a resolution based on shared interests and positions.

    Mediators play a crucial role in guiding the conversation towards finding common ground. By encouraging open dialogue and actively listening, they help disputing parties gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives. Through the process of exploring these common interests and positions, mediators assist in reframing the conflict from a win-lose scenario to a collaborative problem-solving approach, paving the way for mutually agreeable solutions. Mediation sessions often involve brainstorming creative options and fostering a sense of enablement within the parties to take ownership of the outcome.


    Collaboration fosters joint problem-solving and decision-making among conflicting parties, leveraging shared interests and positions to find sustainable solutions.

    By coming together to understand each other’s perspectives and goals, individuals can break down barriers and build trust, leading to better communication and more creative problem-solving.

    Collaborative approaches to conflict resolution also help in reducing hostility and fostering a sense of mutual respect, which can ultimately improve relationships and prevent future conflicts. This process often results in more comprehensive and long-lasting solutions that take into account the interests and needs of all parties involved.


    Compromise entails parties making concessions and adjustments to their positions to meet halfway and find a middle ground that addresses their respective interests.

    By recognizing that conflict resolution is not about winning or losing, but about finding solutions that are acceptable to both involved parties, individuals can foster an atmosphere of collaboration and understanding.

    One key aspect of successful compromise is the ability to separate positions from underlying interests. This enables parties to understand the motivations driving each other’s demands and helps in brainstorming creative solutions that satisfy everyone’s needs.


    Avoidance involves sidestepping or postponing conflict resolution, often employed when parties decide not to address the conflict directly due to its complexity or sensitivity.

    By choosing to delay or evade direct confrontation, individuals or groups may hope to prevent escalation or further strain in relationships. Sometimes, avoidance is a temporary measure, allowing emotions to settle or providing time for individuals to reflect before engaging in discussion.

    In professional settings, avoidance may manifest as shifting responsibilities, avoiding communication, or even physical avoidance by staying away from the person or situation causing conflict. While this strategy may offer temporary relief, unresolved conflicts can fester and lead to deeper issues in the long run.


    Accommodation focuses on adapting and adjusting one’s position or behavior to meet the needs or demands of the other party in a conflict, promoting harmony and conciliation.

    Through accommodation, parties involved show a willingness to be flexible, empathetic, and open-minded towards each other’s viewpoints. By demonstrating a genuine effort to understand and respect the opposing side, conflicts can be de-escalated and resolutions can be reached amicably. This approach fosters a cooperative atmosphere where compromise and mutual benefit become achievable goals, leading to sustainable agreements.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the definition of conflict in psychology?

    Conflict in psychology refers to a disagreement or clash between two or more individuals, groups, or ideas. It can arise from differences in beliefs, values, needs, or goals, and can lead to negative emotions and behaviors if not resolved effectively.

    What are the different types of conflict in psychology?

    There are three main types of conflict in psychology: interpersonal conflict, intrapersonal conflict, and intergroup conflict. Interpersonal conflict occurs between individuals, intrapersonal conflict happens within an individual, and intergroup conflict occurs between groups or communities.

    How does conflict affect individuals and groups in psychology?

    Conflict can have both positive and negative effects on individuals and groups in psychology. It can lead to personal growth and a deeper understanding of others, but it can also cause stress, anxiety, and aggression. Group dynamics can also be disrupted, leading to decreased productivity and cohesion.

    What are some common strategies for resolving conflicts in psychology?

    Some common strategies for resolving conflicts in psychology include communication skills training, active listening, empathy-building exercises, and collaborative problem-solving. Other techniques, such as compromise, negotiation, and mediation, can also be effective in resolving conflicts.

    How can understanding conflict in psychology improve relationships?

    Understanding conflict in psychology can improve relationships by promoting better communication, empathy, and problem-solving skills. It can also help individuals and groups learn to manage their emotions and work through disagreements in a healthy and productive manner.

    Are there any negative consequences of avoiding conflict in psychology?

    Avoiding conflict in psychology can have negative consequences, such as increased tension and resentment, decreased trust and intimacy, and unresolved issues that can escalate in the future. It can also prevent individuals and groups from addressing important issues and finding effective solutions.

    Similar Posts