Conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships. Depending on how it is approached and managed, conflict can be either constructive or destructive. Conflict arises when people disagree over something perceived as important. We live in communities and families with people who may not see things as we do. Conflicts occur on a daily basis, sometimes as small disputes, sometimes as violent battles.
We each respond to conflicts based on our own particular personality and cultural background. People have different motivations, beliefs, values and goals. Two people can perceive and interpret the same situation very differently.
When aid workers address major emergencies, we find ourselves working with people from other places. They may be from another village or city in our own country – or from another continent. Two people may speak the same language, but when a disagreement arises, one may discover the other responds to the same situation very differently. The way others respond to conflict may confuse or offend us. Problems and conflicts are natural in our daily work, and the key is finding the right way to overcome them and continue working productively. One tool is to work to overcome our own perceptions and prejudices, so we can see the other person’s viewpoint.
To resolve a conflict, we must understand our own role and how we are seen by others. The most common forms of conflict resolution are negotiation, mediation, community conferencing, conflict transformation and peer mediation. Which approach is best depends on the nature of the conflict and the parties. Experts in conflict resolution offer sound advice – summarized below – about how to resolve disputes peacefully in ways that both sides find acceptable. Each conflict is different, and people will react in their own way to a situation. But with the desire to solve the problem and a deep understanding of the parties and the underlying causes of the dispute, you will usually be able to resolve conflicts before they become violent.