Often it is hard to tell what a conflict is ‘really’ about, assuming that it is only related to the most obvious point of difference might obscure a deeper problem – so one of the first things to think about in any conflict is the possibility that it is made up of different components such as;
1. TEXT – Operates at the conscious level. This is the explicit aspect of the conflict, what is being spoken, or argued about. Example: “we want to kick Luis out of the program”.
2. SUBTEXT – Operates mostly at the conscious level, sometimes at the un-conscious level. The subtext is often not spoken about, or is part of a hidden agenda. Example: ” I’m tired of being ignored and I’m going to show that I have a part in decision-making too”.
3. DEEP TEXT – Operates at the un-conscious level. It is also unspoken, but the difference is that the actor is not conscious about it. Eg: Achievement of basic needs: power, security, food, love.
4. SUPER TEXT – Operates at the social level and includes propaganda, political ideologies, cultural ideas of what is acceptable or unacceptable. These are the behaviours or beliefs that you must hold in order to fit into a particular culture or society. Example: Liberal democracy is the most moral method of government.
While a conflict may operate on a variety of levels, we can also respond to conflict in many different ways. These styles often vary along two different scales – from assertive to passive, and non-collaborative to highly collaborative. This leads us to four main styles of responding to conflict:
1. Competitive (assertive, non-collaborative)
This style often involves “fighting it out” and will focus on achieving the result the actor wants for themselves. There is little or no concern for the relationship with the other person. Responses might include; physical/psychological attacks, criticism, put-downs, arguing, threatening, or making black and white claims such as; I’m right-you’re wrong, I’m good-you’re bad.
2. Avoidance (non-assertive, non-collaborative)
Avoiding the conflict suggests that neither the results nor the relationship are sufficiently important to work on. Responses might include; walking out, ignoring the other person, distracting them, joking or changing the subject.
3. Adjustable (non-assertive, collaborative)
Often this style will result in one party surrendering to the demands of the other. In this case the participant may believe that the relationship with the other person is more important that the particular issue at hand. Responses might include; agreeing, apologizing or giving in.
4. Collaborative – (assertive, collaborative)
The collaborative style is often the most positive method of resolving conflicts as it attempts to solve the issue, but also seeks to keep the relationship intact. The aim is to find a satisfactory resolution for both sides.