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What Conflict?

Updated: May 8, 2021

Conflicts are unavoidable in interpersonal relationships because, at one point or another, someone will feel disrespected, unappreciated, and violated in some way. Disagreements are neither good nor bad but learning to resolve disputes is an important skill to have in your toolbox.

The ability to communicate assertively is fundamental to conflict resolution. However, our ability to communicate assertively may not resolve a conflict, and not all disputes can be resolved. This is so because it is not always easy to satisfy the needs of the other person. Given the individuals may have their view of what is fair and just. Further, the use of the word compromise for some people means they have to give up something, which means their needs won't be met adequately.

An essential feature of human interaction is communication. When there is an interpersonal dispute, thinking errors may affect the quality of the communication. Psychologist Aaron Beck believes thinking errors lead individuals to make inferences based on inadequate and incorrect information. Some of these errors are:

Arbitrary references - making a conclusion about the conflict without ample or supporting evidence for the stance taken.

Selective abstraction – one or both parties involved in the conflict forms a conclusion on an isolated detail, ignoring the central issue that led to the disagreement.

Magnification and minimization - choosing to view the disagreement in a greater or lesser light. For example, "it's not that big of a deal; you are blowing this way out of proportion."

Filtering the positives – applying a mental sieve to focus on the negatives while ignoring the positives. For example, one colleague to another, "you did a great job today on your presentation." The other's response, "are you saying my other presentations were poor?"

Polarized thinking – from one extreme to the next, the conflict is seen through an all-or-nothing lens, or categories, ignoring gray areas. This type of thinking is likely to impact collaboration or even compromise.

Conflict Resolution Models

The Stop-Think-Act Method (McClelland & Tominey, 2015)

Stop – take time to process what you want to do before responding to those involved in the disagreement.

Think – precisely identify the problem, brainstorm possible solutions, propose reasonable solutions to the problem

Act – be accountable for your role in the conflict, do not blame the other party, use assertive communication, use "I" statements, use active listening, focus on the problem, not the person

P.A.I.R Method of Problem-Solving

P – problem identification

  • What is the problem?

A – analysis of the problem

  • What is causing the problem?

I – intervention

  • How to respond to the problem?

R – response to the intervention

  • Is the intervention working? If not, what needs to be changed or modified? Is a compromise needed?

It's almost impossible to live in a conflict-free environment unless you are being passive.

N. B. The contents of this blog post are not prescriptive. The intent is to share information.

Stay Naturally Curious


Corey, G. (1996). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (5th ed). Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

McClelland, M., M. & Tominey, S. L. (2015). Stop, think, act: Integrating self-regulation in the early childhood classroom (1st ed). Routledge

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