Jun 28, 2023

The Nature of Conflict, Different Conflict Styles, and Emotions

Blogs by Prasad Amore - Kochi

Conflicts are an inherent part of human interaction, arising from divergent needs, goals, or values, and gaining a comprehensive understanding of their nature is vital for efficient management and resolution.

Human interaction is often accompanied by conflict, which is an inevitable outcome of incompatible needs, goals, or values among two or more parties. Conflict can manifest in different forms, shapes, and intensities, and it is critical to grasp its nature to manage and resolve it efficiently.

Conflict comes in various shapes, including interpersonal, intergroup, and intra-personal conflicts. Interpersonal conflict arises between two or more individuals, which could stem from differences in personality, communication styles, or opinions. Intergroup conflict, on the other hand, occurs between groups of people, such as different races, ethnicities, or political affiliations. Intra-personal conflict occurs within an individual, such as when a person experiences conflicting desires or values.

Conflicts can also vary in intensity, from minor disagreements to severe and deep-seated conflicts. Minor conflicts usually arise over trivial matters and could be resolved rapidly with minimal emotional involvement. More severe conflicts, however, are often deeply rooted and could involve substantial emotional investment, rendering them challenging to address.

Conflicts could have both positive and negative effects, depending on the situation. On one hand, conflicts can be a catalyst for change and growth, providing an opportunity to learn from one another and develop new ideas and solutions. On the other hand, conflicts could also lead to negative consequences, such as damaged relationships, increased stress, and anxiety, and even violence.

Effective conflict management and resolution require understanding the conflict's nature and causes. By identifying the underlying needs and interests of all parties involved, it is possible to find mutually beneficial solutions that meet everyone's needs. Effective communication skills, such as active listening, empathy, and respect, are also critical for managing conflicts successfully.

Conflict Styles

In the face of conflicts, individuals are known to adopt a wide range of conflict styles, which are essentially a set of unique characteristic responses that an individual exhibits when confronted with a conflict. These conflict styles are greatly influenced by a person's diverse personal and cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, and norms. Appreciating the intricacies of the various conflict styles is imperative for managing conflicts successfully, as it empowers individuals to select the most appropriate style for a particular situation. In this article, we will be examining the five most used conflict styles, which include avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, and collaborating, while also expounding on their strengths, weaknesses, and providing examples of when each style is likely to be most effective.


Avoiding is a conflict style that is characterized by an individual's inclination to abstain from or withdraw from conflicts. This style is typically employed when the individual perceives the conflict as unworthy of the effort, when they lack power or control over the situation, or when the likelihood of harm is considerably high. Avoiding can be executed as both a proactive and reactive strategy, as individuals may choose to circumvent conflicts before they arise or after they have escalated. Some of the strengths of avoiding include its ability to maintain relationships, prevent unnecessary conflicts, and allow individuals to prioritize other important matters. However, some of its weaknesses include the potential creation of a culture of non-confrontation, neglect of critical issues, and the possibility of breeding resentment and unresolved issues over time. Avoiding might be the most appropriate conflict style when the issue at stake is relatively minor, or when it is necessary to buy time to gather more information or allow emotions to settle down.


Accommodating is a conflict style that prioritizes the needs and interests of the other party above one's own. This style is typically employed when the individual places a premium on maintaining harmony and relationships, more than accomplishing their personal objectives. Accommodating can be perceived as a form of giving in, yielding, or compromising. Some of its strengths include building trust and goodwill, fostering long-term relationships, and helping to avoid negative consequences. However, some of its weaknesses include the possibility of lacking assertiveness, allowing others to take advantage, and resulting in feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction. Accommodating might be the most appropriate approach when the relationship with the other party is of greater significance than the issue at hand or when there is a need to establish goodwill and rapport with the other party.


The conflict style known as Competing prioritizes individual needs and interests over those of the other party. It's used when winning, achieving goals, and maintaining control are more important than preserving relationships. Competing can be perceived as an aggressive and confrontational style that seeks to dominate. While strengths of competing include helping to achieve goals, demonstrating strength and competence, and providing a sense of control, it can also damage relationships, create resentment, and have negative long-term consequences.


On the other hand, Compromising is a conflict style that seeks a middle ground that meets the needs and interests of both parties to some extent. It is used when individuals have relatively equal power and are willing to make concessions to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Compromising can be seen as a negotiation that involves bargaining and trade-offs. While strengths of compromising include finding a mutually beneficial solution, preserving relationships, and promoting cooperation, its weaknesses can result in unsatisfactory outcomes, create resentment, and neglect important issues.

When it comes to determining the appropriate conflict style to use, there are several factors to consider. For example, Competing might be most appropriate when quick, decisive action is needed, the stakes are high, and when there is a clear right and wrong. On the other hand, Compromising might be most appropriate when the issue at stake is moderately important, when both parties have relatively equal power, and when a temporary solution is needed to prevent escalation. In any case, it's essential to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each conflict style to determine the best approach to take in a given situation.

Emotions in Conflict

Conflicts, the quintessential expression of disagreement, are often characterized by a labyrinthine and multi-faceted landscape of emotions, which can range from anger and fear to sadness, frustration, and anxiety. These emotions tend to enshroud our judgment, impair our ability to communicate effectively, and make us less amenable to negotiation or compromise. Yet, despite the formidable challenges emotions pose, they can also be an indispensable tool for understanding the perspectives and needs of others, cultivating empathy, and facilitating conflict resolution.

When it comes to conflicts, anger is a frequent visitor that can disrupt the peace and heighten tensions. Anger is a natural response to feeling threatened, attacked, or disrespected, but if not managed adroitly, it can fan the flames of conflict and even erode relationships. Effective anger management requires a careful and considered approach, one that involves identifying the tell-tale signs of anger and adopting a range of strategies to quell the flames before engaging in conflict resolution. This can encompass taking a break to cool off, engaging in physical activity, or practicing deep breathing.

Fear, too, can cast a long and ominous shadow on conflicts, generating an array of complex emotions and reactions that can impede conflict resolution. Fear can trigger a defensive or aggressive response to perceived threats, leading to a breakdown in communication and a loss of trust. To mitigate fear, individuals must deploy active listening skills, ask questions to grasp the other party's perspectives, and foster a collaborative environment for conflict resolution.

In addition to fear and anger, conflicts can also stir up feelings of sadness and disappointment, particularly when individuals feel that their concerns and needs are being ignored or overlooked. These emotions can give rise to feelings of resignation and a lack of motivation to engage in conflict resolution. To manage these emotions, individuals can focus on uncovering common ground and identifying areas of agreement. This can galvanize momentum and create a more positive outlook for conflict resolution.

Prasad Amore
Prasad Amore

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