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From Disagreement to Conflict

When we talk with each other, we might not always agree with what we hear, or with what is said. As long as we do not allow emotions to cloud our judgement, disagreements can be voiced and discussed. In other words – as long as the dialogue continues, and the communication does not break down, we may well negotiate to turn a disagreement into an agreement. When people start to talk to each other, effectively not listening anymore to another party, communication starts to break down. Dialogue can become monologue. Shortly thereafter a mere misunderstanding morphs into a dispute, where one party takes one stand, or position, and the other party, or parties, a diametrically opposite position.

If the parties to a communication, whether a meeting in business or a conversation at home, entrench their diametrically opposed positions rather than moving towards each other, disputes can mutate to conflicts. Conflicts tend to seek resolution mechanisms, and disputes call for settlements. Negotiators, facilitators, mediators, psychologists and legal professionals have various methodologies at hand to deal with breakdowns in dialogue, with conflicts and disputes. The earlier a party admits that it might be wise to seek third-party, independent, impartial and neutral help, the better the chances are to get back to a constructive and democratic dialogue.

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