by – Samantha Frazier Gordon
“There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a
constant battle between peace and chaos, neither can be
mastered, but both can be influenced-how you go about
that is the key to success” - Phil Knight
hances are conflicts existed in some form before human beings did;
even the universe began with a bang. Conflicts can arise in any
situation for myriad of reasons, moral conflicts and issues having to do
with justice, rights, human needs, identity issues and distributional ideas.
Conflicts occur in the family, the workplace and within and between
countries or any group where different views are held.
Conflict has several elements that are perceptual and behavioral, we don’t
always see a situation the same way nor do we engage in it the same way.
Conflicts exist in the subjective realm, people act and think in different
ways so in attempting to resolve the conflict no assumptions should be
made as to how the problem should be identified and resolved.
Conflict is dialectical and there are several approaches that can be used in
resolving a conflict but no approach will be successful without proper
Conflict avoidance is an approach that most people have used at one time
or another and doesn’t mean the problem is not being acknowledged, it just
isn’t being addressed for the present. Avoiding a conflict can be done by
changing the subject, procrastinating or simply ignoring it. Seldom does
this approach resolve the problem; many times it makes the problem more
difficult to resolve later as the conflict rarely goes away on its own. A rumor
empowers on some level and leaves the person spreading the rumor with a
feeling of getting even or getting back at the person they perceive as the
One of the key elements is any successful conflict resolution is to have all
parties participate; conflict is a clash of powers each pushing and pulling in
their own direction. Trying to find the balance between those powers is the
goal. We often think in terms of conflict resolution and implementing
resolutions on a grander scale, but this approach to conflict resolution has
several practical applications in the workplace, family and society.
A school textbook in Palestine teaches this, “When you meet unbelievers in
the battlefield, strike off their heads, and when you have laid them low,
bind your captives firmly.” The textbook intended for the eleventh grade
goes on to say, “ When you meet them in order to fight them, do not be
seized by compassion, but strike their necks powerfully….striking their neck
means fighting, because killing a person is often done by striking off his
head.” The Middle East has seen violence for generations and with
teachings such as this it is difficult to imagine they have the ability to grasp
anything other than violence. When violence is taught to you in school and
reinforced at every turn it is difficult for the masses to break free and see
any other way. There is a spatial and temporal element to violent
outbreaks; space has resources and emotional value and for many it is
worth dying for.
Conflict is more than a simple disagreement or matter of opinion, one or
both parties see some sort of threat, be it real or imagined, physical or
psychological. Conflict provokes strong emotions on both sides and people
typically respond to the conflict based on their own perception. Several
skills are need to work through any conflict, listening is perhaps the most
vital. But equally important is to focus on a resolution rather than on being
right, is society beyond the point of no return?
Society has reached a tipping point of sorts, battle lines have been drawn
and each side fiercely clings to their position on a number of issues. When
being on the winning side (not necessarily the right side) is more important
who will be left standing; more importantly what will we be standing in?