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Anticipating and Managing Conflict: Problems, Tension & Crisis

09 February 2023

When we talk about conflict management we don’t like it, we are uncomfortable with it, but in reality the conflict itself doesn’t have to be negative. What is negative is the bad management of it that can cause economic losses, loss of image or reputation and even loss of the relationship with the other party.

The paradox is given because during our lives we all have conflicts: personal, professional, sentimental, etc. And we are not taught to manage the conflict.

We know that there are techniques to manage conflict, there is a lot of research in this field that shows that there are a number of tools that will allow us to manage and/or avoid conflict. For example, one of them is the one that says that conflict is a universal law and that at the beginning it is very easy to identify and to solve. The more advanced in time, it will be easy to identify but more complicated to solve. Therefore, the sooner we identify the conflict the better solution it will have and the easier it will be to manage it.

The conflict does not understand types of people or companies, the conflict affects everyone of any size, age or position and arises at the time when two parties have differences and do not understand each other.

Differentiating problems, tension, crisis and conflict.

And now, we will begin by seeing the difference between conflict, tension and problem as they are often treated as synonyms and actually are not so.

Problem definition:

Conflict and problem are two words that traditionally refer to negative situations or issues. A conflict is a disagreement or clash, which can be between two or more people or concepts. A problem is an issue or situation that is considered harmful or unpleasant. A conflict can be described as a problem. The key difference between conflict and problem is that a conflict always has two or more parties while problems do not have such parties.

Example of a problem: we have a customer who is waiting for merchandise and it will not arrive because the border is blocked.

Definition of tension:

Tensions are due to divergences, differences, oppositions of points of view, ideas of solutions, objectives, values…

Definition of crisis:

A crisis is a process or a situation in which important changes occur. To solve a crisis situation, it is necessary to be able to move from positions of closure and rejection to positions of openness and listening, from selfishness to positions that make us take into account others.

Example of a crisis: with the appearance of an international pandemic that causes everything to be blocked, it is a crisis because it produces very profound changes.

Definition of conflict:

Conflicts are the result of unresolved crises. So we are moving towards confrontation.

There is conflict when one moves from the acceptance and serene, peaceful, mature and constructive expression of differences, disagreements and divergences, to opposition, antagonism, confrontation, struggle, misunderstanding, aggression, intolerance and rejection.

Example of conflict: when we do not agree on the price to pay for a product and/or service.

Conflict is usually a combination of three situations: tension > crisis > conflict.