Conflicts occur between friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, etc. Conflicts are common and usual. Everyone argues with some one from time to time. Conflicts are not always bad. Through conflicts people settle disagreements and move toward better action. In this way, conflicts are a positive force in our lives. However, when conflicts arise for the wrong reasons and they are not handled properly they become serious sources of problems. There are many things that can cause conflict in the family. It is important that conflicts be resolved when they occur.


Meaning of conflicts

A conflict is a struggle between two or more people who disagree. That struggle may be verbal, physical or both. Conflicts range from little disagreements between friends, family members to violent battles between enemies. A family conflict is a struggle between two or more family members who disagree over issues. There could be conflicts between husband and wife or between siblings (brother and sister or brothers and sisters), or even between parents and children.


Causes of conflicts in families

Some conflicts are not serious, so you might not even know how they began. Others have very serious causes. What causes conflict for one person might not be the same for some other person. Conflicts can by caused by the following:

A) Situational causes: Any situation that dissatisfies people can cause conflict. For instance, in families,

  1. When a parent or parents show more love or attention to a child and neglects the others.
  2. When a husband fails to give the wife money for house-keeping.
  3. When children disobey their parents.


B) Personality differences: No two individuals are the same, not even twins. Individual differences arise from heredity and environment. Some people may be slow and quiet, while others could be fast, noisy and outgoing. These different behavioural patterns can bring about conflicts in the family.


C) Power struggles: Conflicts can occur when people feel a need to be in control. Power is the ability to influence another person. Each person will be struggling for power. This can occur between husband and wife. It can also occur between a younger and an elder brother or sister. In some cases, a boy might try to show a girl that he is stronger than she.


Negative results of conflicts

Conflicts need to be handled or resolved properly. When they are not properly handled, negative results occur. These are some results of conflicts:

  1. Negative emotions arise, such as anger, frustration, fear, pain, humiliation, sorrow or bitterness, etc.
  2. People who are often angry may become ill. Sleeping and eating patterns may be affected. Conflict causes stress. Stress is often linked to ulcers and heart disease.
  3. People may say things they do not mean. In the heat of anger, it is easy to say the wrong thing and hurt another person’s feelings.
  4. Relationships suffer. Conflicts can break up friendships and families.
  5. Violence may occur. When tempers arise with serious argument, there can be physical attack. Injury or even death can result.


Ways of resolving conflicts

Conflict resolution is a process that occurs in five stages:

A) Becoming aware of the conflict or problem: Most conflicts are based on differences among people. Such differences then turn into disagreements. It is important to recognize a conflict early enough.


B) Setting limits: At this stage, the following should be done:

  1. Identify the point or points causing the conflict. They need to be argued or discussed when identified. These are the limits of the conflict.
  2. The people in conflict state their positions for the upcoming argument.
  3. The people must recognize and respect each others’ views or positions.


C) Arguing stage: At this stage:

  1. All the disagreements are brought to the surface.
  2. The aim here is for each party in the conflict to understand each other’s position better.
  3. There is a series of verbal and non-verbal messages.
  4. No personal attacks should be allowed.


D) Negotiating and compromise: To negotiate is to deal or bargain with another. At this stage:

  1. Suggestions for possible solutions are made.
  2. Points of agreement are sought.
  3. More suggestions can lead to more agreement.
  4. Eventually fighters, that is, the people in the conflict arrive at a solution that is satisfying to both.
  5. Compromise means giving in on some points of disagreement and having your way in others. Here each person gives a little to get a little.


E) Following up: This is final stage. Proper follow-up means putting the disagreement behind. At this stage, the solutions worked out in steps A-D are to be put into action here.


Some important guidelines in conflict resolution

  1. Use words, not fists.
  2. Take a decision to resolute the conflict peacefully. Take charge of the situation.
  3. Try to talk in a place other people will not distract you or interfere with your efforts.
  4. When you talk, take turns. No one person should dominate the talking. Every person must be given the chance to talk.
  5. Use active listening and keep an open mind.
  6. Show respect to the other person, and recur respect from him/her.
  7. Control your voice.
  8. Speak the truth.
  9. Control your tongue.

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