Conflicts within a relationship
Here it can be helpful to admit feelings and to express them, to become aware of one’s own perceptions and to articulate them towards the other person. Conflicts within a relationship mostly derive from a communication problem – speaking about it and thinking about how to improve communication are important steps towards a solution.
They are characterized by varying (mis-) information and interpretations. They can be solved by exchanging information, by sharing the sources of data and maybe by consulting a third party.
They originate from psychological interests or from competition – regardless of whether the conflict actually exists or is only perceived as such. However, the persons involved in the conflict are often completely unaware of their interests – instead one insists on static views from which nobody is willing to deviate. Thus, the first step to a solution is the clarification of the underlying interests – what do I want to achieve by means of the position that I represent toward my opponent?
They refer to structures in our environment and society that act on the conflicting parties. These can be an unequal distribution of power or resources, but also obstacles like geographical distance or different possibilities for access to media. They often involve destructive patterns of behavior and interaction. They can only be solved by transforming the structures (e.g. by establishing closeness, meetings instead of emails) and by reflecting on one’s own behavior.
Differing attitudes of the conflicting parties concern the domain of values, for example, with regard to the fundamental attitude towards life, towards work, towards friends and family or towards religion. They cannot be really ‘solved‘, but one can accept them. By mutual agreement the conflicting parties can permit each other’s disapproval, but still work towards a common goal. In doing so it can also be helpful to specify the differences in terms of values and to exemplify them in order to allow for a better mutual understanding.
Conflict Sources in Practice
From concrete trainings we took these examples:
- Different values
- Different interpretations of (social) roles
- No common agreement about hierarchies or decision-making styles
- Language dominance: Less skilled people feel discriminated
- Lack of material or time resources
- Different forms and intensitiy of appreciation
- Different expectations, interests, or needs
- Body aspects: different experience of closeness/distance, style of clothing
- Feelings, relation problems: imbalanced emotions
- Personal mood
- Different knowledge and experience
Moore, Christopher W.: The Mediation Process. Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict, San Francisco 1996