English & EAL

Encountering Conflict: Introduction

Lisa Tran

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What is Encountering Conflict?

Conflict is omnipresent for every individual regardless of time and place. It is a fundamental part of human existence, leading back to the earliest forms of conflict where our human ancestors competed with other species for survival tools such as food and shelter. Nowadays, conflict has developed into multitudinous forms – from merely debating what to have for lunch to global issues such as climate change. Without conflict, our experiences in life would undoubtedly be less dynamic and vibrant. Conflict is an essential factor to shaping our identity. Our relationship with conflict defines who we are because we learn to formulate our own opinions and values. Conflict is a natural element in the world and although we may not notice each and every single time it presents itself, conflict is a part of our everyday lives.

Why does conflict occur?

Conflict occurs due to a number of reasons. Some common ones include:

  • Difference in beliefs, morals, values
  • Difference in culture, religion
  • Unmatched expectations
  • Fear
  • Exposure to the unknown/unfamiliar

Who encounters conflict?

Everyone encounters a range of conflicts during their life. However, every person’s experiences with conflict are different. Whether it’s the type of conflict, their involvement in a conflict, their response to conflict – it is unique to every individual. We are able to empathise with others when they experience conflict because we’ve been there ourselves. Think about your own experiences– have you been involved or observed a conflict within the past week?

What types of conflicts are there?

There are endless forms of conflicts, from mass-scale wars and political debates to personal one-on-one conflicts. It is difficult to categorise conflict as a particular type because often conflicts are multiplex. Think about your own personal experiences with conflict – what kinds of conflict have you experienced? Here are some examples:

  • Inner (intrapersonal) conflict: When an individual struggles with his or her personal conflict. In most cases, only that particular person can resolve the conflict. Example: Victorian bushfire survivors dealing with their loss and pain.
  • Interpersonal conflict: A confrontation that occurs between two or more people. Example: Mark McInnes, the ex-CEO of David Jones and Kristy Fraser-Kirk sued McInnes for sexual harassment.
  • Social Conflict: Different social classes in society. Example: The class divide between rich and poor in Bolivia.
  • Cultural: Different traditions from different cultures. Example: Burqa ban in France/Australia.
  • Religion: Religious groups against other religious groups. Example: Sunni and Shia of Islam.
  • Racism: Conflict between two difference races. Example: Violence against Indians in Australia.

What levels of conflict exist?

  • Inner (interpersonal) conflict. Example: Tiger Woods who committed adultery with multiple women has spoken out about his guilt and remorse.
  • Person against person. Example: Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard’s clash of Labor party interests.
  • Groups against other groups. Example: Palestinians verses Israeli.
  • Government against government. Example: Labor verses Liberals.
  • Country against country. Example: Americans verses Cuba during Cuba Missile Crisis.
  • Countries against countries. Example: The Allies verses Axis during World War II.

Remember that regardless of the different levels, this does not necessarily mean that the larger scale conflict is any more important, or having greater impact on any particular individual than a smaller scale conflict. There are many more levels of conflicts that exist in the world. Can you think of any?

What does it mean to ‘encounter’ conflict?

Does it merely imply when and where one is confronted with conflict? Conflict can be encountered at any place and any time but think about the way in which people respond to conflict. Everyone’s reactions are different. While one may flee from the conflict leaving the mess behind for others, others may face up to the conflict and tackle the problem such as the ‘flight or fight’ concept.

What are the consequences of conflict?

While it may be your first response to recognise that there are many negative consequences of conflict, such as mass death in wars, loss of friendship, regret and guilt – remember that conflict can bring people together. Many people build stronger relationships during conflict because they support each other through hardship. We also learn from conflict, which allow us from repeating the same mistakes time and time again.

Can conflicts be resolved?

Conflicts are rarely simple. The result of conflict is based on every unique situation. Although some conflicts may be light-hearted debates compared to those that are much more significant, if a compromise can be achieved then this may eliminate the conflict all together. Nevertheless, remember that while some conflicts can reach a resolution, a party may fail to live up to the terms of the negotiation and the conflict will once again prevail. This is very true for the Gaza Strip debate between Israeli and Palestinians. Contrastingly, a conflict may prove too difficult to resolve because either parties merely refuse to negotiate. These conflicts can last for generations to come.

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