What are the stages of conflict?

Author avatarLiz Makin ·Feb 27, 2024

Conflict is defined as a clash, disagreement or argument (which can be protracted and/or serious) between individuals or groups arising out of a difference in thought processes, attitudes, understanding, interests, requirements and perceptions. Or put more simply, conflict is a disagreement or a difference of opinion between two or more people.

Conflict management is the practise of being able to identify and manage conflicts sensibly, fairly and efficiently. It focuses on developing and implementing strategies to reduce conflict and is about de-escalating conflict and avoiding future escalations. Conflict management uses processes, tools, and skills to find creative and respectful ways to manage disagreements and disputes.

Conflict resolution, on the other hand, is the agreement reached when all or most of the issues of contention are cleared up and concentrates on ending the conflict.

So, what are the stages of conflict that you need to be aware of?

Conflicts tend to have similar paths going through five distinct stages:

1.    Latent – The participants are not yet aware of the conflict, but there may be hidden frustrations that could surface at any time.

2.    Perceived – The conflict develops and is known by the participants. The participants may go through this stage simultaneously or at different times, depending upon events.

3.    Felt – The participants are aware that a conflict exists and they begin to feel emotions including stress, anxiety and hostility.

4.    Manifest – The conflict is in the open and others can observe it. The participants engage in behaviours which evoke responses from each other including aggression, apathy, sabotage, withdrawal and obedience to rules.

5.    Aftermath – The conflict reaches an outcome, which may be a positive resolution or a dissolution, which may be the ending of a relationship between those involved. If resolution is achieved on going relationship building needs to be considered to prevent further conflict.

It is interesting to consider these stages of conflict when considering how to manage and resolve conflict.

How to find out more?

We have a conflict management course on Learn Formula and CPD Formula, that covers the conflict management and resolution in depth which you may like to consider.

Published 24 January 2024

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