Conflict can be any situation where a person is not comfortable. This can include conflict with others, conflict with oneself, with society, nature etc. It can be just a feeling or it can progress to arguments, anger and even violence. 

Everyone has their own way of dealing with conflict. Some do everything they can to avoid it and others like to thrash it out. Often in relationships there will often be one who wants to avoid dealing with an issue and one who is desperate to talk and resolve it.


This can be a problem, as often the person trying to avoid conflict will shy further and further away and, if pushed too far, can become defensive or passive aggressive. This can sometimes be just as damaging as aggression, but in a subtle way.

Whatever the conflict may be, according to research by Thomas and Kilmann in 1976 there are five basic ways of dealing with conflict.

Dealing with Conflict

1. Avoidance: Avoiding things is never good: if you have a tooth ache you go to a dentist because you know avoiding it will just make things worse. Ignoring a situation means that the conflict is not addressed or resolved. This may be OK when something is not important, but when there is a problem that keeps happening or is very serious it can lead to losing a relationship.

2. Competing: This is also known as a win-lose approach, where one person is unwilling to compromise at the other's expense. This should only ever be used where an outcome is more important than the relationship, as this way of conflict resolution will destroy any relationship if used unnecessarily.

3. Accommodating: This is where one person cooperates with the other, either because the matter is more important to the other or because they may be wrong. This is very important in all relationships, but should not be unbalanced. Relationships are about two people helping each other, not one person constantly giving in to the other.

4. Compromise: This is where both are assertive, but are also cooperating in order to meet in the middle. This is good when there is a need for a solution quickly, but can sometimes leave areas unresolved.

5. Collaboration: This is the win-win situation. In order to collaborate, all those involved must be equally sincere and dedicated to the goal. This involves time and lots of talking, ideas and creativity, but when done correctly everyone can be happy.


Conflict and Fear

Conflict is often fuelled by fear, whether fear of something that is not known or understood, or fear of humiliation or physical or emotional pain. Fear can get us into bad situations, but fear can also be the best thing to get us out.

For example, a person who carries a knife carries it out of fear of not being able to defend themselves if they were attacked. But a person who discovers that they are more likely to be stabbed if they are carrying a knife might then choose not to carry one, as they don't want to carry a weapon that others can then use against them.

Weapons such as knives are occasionally used in conflict, they wound and leave scars and even kill. But our words can cut deep, our actions can sabotage and our unwillingness to compromise can destroy another person's confidence and self esteem. Usually we don't mean to hurt people, but instead to stop ourselves from becoming the victim. This behaviour eventually will lead to us being more likely to be hurt in the long term as others will not trust us.