Conflict

Conflict is a special form of difference occurring when people have different opinions, views, interests, expectations, and desires that are not compatible with each other and must therefore be negotiated (so, very often).

Traditionally, conflicts are viewed as being negative, because they easily lead to dispute and distrust; frequently even to war. But experience shows that conflicts can be fruitful, because they help to better understand reality. They challenge reasoning, sharpen the ability to mediate, lead to new insights and are therefore often a motor for change. This is true even if the conflict takes place between unequal parties, although this increases the risk that the stronger party might bypass the conflict by simply resorting to instruments of power and strength.

Conflicts seem insoluble when we look at them through the lens of the logic of deficiency, as a dispute over resources, as competition between two fixed positions. A perspective of abundance, however, opens up endless possibilities to negotiate a conflict and find solutions that were not visible previously. Intervital dialogues can lead to amazing changes in negotiating existential conflicts such as conflicts over access to water, for example.

From a standpoint of seeing conflicts as problematic and war as inevitable, differences are often discussed in the form of „pros and cons.” This already starts in school, where children learn debating by asking them to choose a „for or against” position on a particular thesis. German Talk shows for instance are often enmeshed in the logic of pros and cons. But this logic is inappropriate for almost any subject. An attitude of „not only… but also” would often be a better starting point.

In the logic of pros and cons, differences between people often seem inherent and hence unchangeable, thus determined by their respective interests. But when a conflict is granted the necessary attention and its subject is considered in a differentiated way, the most difficult step is figuring out what the real differences and conflicts actually are about.

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