How We Describe Conflict

How We Describe Conflict

From 2003-2005 we asked people being certified in the Conflict Dynamics Profile to share words that described conflict for them.

When doing a program on conflict management, I’ll often ask people what words come to mind when they think about conflict.  Typically responses include: frustrating, stressful, anger, upset, fear, and anxiety.  Participants, when asked to characterize their responses, almost always describe them as negative.  At the same time they almost always give a few words that could be viewed as positive such as: opportunity, growth, and resolution.

From 2003-2005 we asked people being certified in the Conflict Dynamics Profile to share words that described conflict for them.  They shared over 170 words which depicted a wide range of attitudes towards conflict.  Most of them were negative but a number were positive. 

List of Words Used to Describe Conflict: 


acceptance
always there
ambivalence
anger
angst
annoying
anxiety
anxious
argue
assertiveness
attitude
avoid
avoidance
balance
banter
barriers
battle
beneficial
best solutions
bogged down
bring it on
build up
calm
cautious
challenge
change
chaos
collaboration
comfort zone
communication
compatible
complex
confrontation
confusion
control
constructive
conundrum
costly
courage
creative tension
creativity
curious
debate
defense
delay
destructive
differences
different opinion
difficult
disagreement
disappointment
discomfort
discontent
disharmony
disruptive
disturbing
disunity
diversity
draining
dynamic
educate
elevate
emotional
end
energizing
engagement
enlightening
equality
essential
exciting
exhausting
fascinating
favoritism
fear
fearful
fight
focus
freak-out
fruitless
frustration
fun
growth
grueling
harmony
hate
heat
hide
high energy
honesty
hostility
hurt feelings
impediment
inevitable
injury
innovation
instigator
intense
interesting
interpersonal
intimidating
irritate
justice
leadership
learning
legitimacy
liberating
listening
loss of control
mad
manageable
messy
misreading
misunderstanding
mobilizing
natural
necessary
needs
negotiation
non-conformity
obstinacy
opportunity
out of control
pain
painful
peace
perception
personality
perspective
persuasion
pettiness
positive
possibility
problem solving
progress
relationships
relief
resentment
resignation
resolution
retaliation
revealing
right/wrong
risk
risky
rough
run from
sad
scary
searching
signal
solution
status quo
stimulating
stressful
style
success
synergy
tension
tough
tricky
trust
turmoil
unavoidable
uncertainty
uncomfortable
uncooperative
understanding
violence
withdraw
yelling




We encourage people to consider how their descriptions of conflict may influence the way they act when conflict emerges.  People who look at conflict as a negative thing often say that they tend to avoid dealing with it.  This is not a surprise given that people usually avoid negative things.  


If you are able to see possible upsides of conflict, you may be more willing to deal with it when it occurs.  It is still necessary to learn effective conflict management techniques to address it effectively, but at least your attitudes may no longer get in your way of trying to manage it.



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