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Level of Conflict

Level of Conflict

Fisher (2000:4) Conflict can occur at a number of levels of human functioning.  Conflict in your head between opposing motives or ideas is shown by your “internal dialogue” and is at the intrapersonal level.  Beyond that, the primary concern here is with social conflict, i.e., conflict between people whether they are acting as individuals, as members of groups, or as representatives of  organizations or nations.

a.       Interpersonal conflict

Interpersonal conflict occurs when two people have incompatible needs, goals, or approaches in their relationship.  Communication breakdown is often an important source of interpersonal conflict and learning communication skills is valuable in preventing and resolving such difficulties.  At the same time, very real differences occur between people that cannot be resolved by any amount of improved communication.  “Personality conflict” refers to very strong differences in motives, values or styles in dealing with people that are not resolvable.



b.      Role conflict

Role conflict involves very real differences in role definitions, expectations or responsibilities between individuals who are interdependent in a social system.  If there are ambiguities in role definitions in an organization or unclear boundaries of responsibilities, then the stage is set for interpersonal friction between the persons involved.  Unfortunately, the conflict is often misdiagnosed as interpersonal conflict rather than role conflict, and resolution is then complicated and misdirected.  The emotional intensity is often quite high in role conflict since people are directly involved as individuals and there is a strong tendency to personalize the conflict.

c.       Intergroup conflict

Intergroup conflict occurs between collections of people such as ethnic or racial groups, departments or levels of decision making in the same organization, and union and management.  Competition for scarce resources is a common source of intergroup conflict, and societies have developed numerous regulatory mechanisms, such as collective bargaining and mediation, for dealing with intergroup conflict in less disruptive ways.


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