Internal Conflict is an emotional disturbance within an individual when there are conflicting interests, goals or values. A person may wish to do one thing and actually feel obliged to do something else. Even at fairly low levels this can result in aches and pains and a feeling of anxiety.
Interpersonal Conflict is between individuals and may be as simple as a disagreement about a workplace situation. It can also arise where basic human needs are violated – such as the need to be valued as an individual, to have some control, to have good self-esteem and to be consistent.
We often react to the violation in one of four ways:
- We retaliate or ‘get back’ at the other part
- We may dominate or bully our way to a winning result.
- We may isolate ourselves and just allow the other party to have their
- Or - the final and preferred option – we may co-operate or assertively confront and deal with the situation.
Individuals caught up in an interpersonal conflict are often mistaken about the root cause and may even have forgotten the original issue. We need to know more about the origins. They may be based on substantive issues, decisions, ideas or actions. It may be about personalities, with emotions, motives and character involved. Or it may simply be a failure of accurate communication.
In particular environments there is also the opportunity for two other types of interpersonal conflict to develop:
Intra-Group Conflict - between individuals in a working group, team, department etc.
Inter-Group Conflict - between groups or teams. These often become very complex and may involve office politics, rumours, innuendo and gossip. Inter-group conflicts are serious for an organization, and if unchecked, may escalate and cause serious damage.
Hot Conflict involves erratic or aggressive behavior, strong words and intense personal confrontation. Typical characteristics of Hot Conflict:
- High ideals and self-esteem present
Enthusiasm to achieve goals leads to ‘point scoring’
- Poor awareness of motives, g. for principles or to teach a lesson
- Hectic activity: many meetings, misinformation and plotting
- Losing of tempers
- Engagement:- people deliberately seeking out the other party to continue the dispute
- Information overload: rumour and gossip abound with little attempt to verify facts
Cold Conflict is much less evident to the observer and involves a cold and withdrawn atmosphere with the parties typically avoiding each other.
Typical characteristics of Cold Conflict:
- Cynicism and low self-esteem
- Little discussion of or engagement in the conflict
- Low energy levels: no desire to achieve goals or score points
- Lack of awareness of how the frozen hostility is adversely affecting others
- Distance between parties: no communication or contact
- Few outward signs: parties may internalize strong feelings
- Lack of sensitivity: parties seem unaffected by verbal attacks
- Avoidance: won’t go to the same meeting or ignore each other if they do meet
- Information starvation: few rumours and lack of information