Conflict analysis and resolution


Social conflict refers to the negative social interaction taking place within a social relationship and it may manifest itself in form of criticism, unwanted demands, hostilities, arguments and physical violence in extreme cases. Conflict analysis and resolution is a field that utilizes social responsibility, cultural practices and reflective diversity to enhance conflict resolution and peace making. It also advocates for agreements based on principles of dignity, nonviolence, human diversity and equity as a means of conflict resolution.[1]

Social conflict theories explain the way individuals in a community with different levels of wealth behave. It provides evidence that, the rich within the society use their material powers to suppress the poor. This kind of scenario has affected the way conflicts are being resolved in the modern society especially with increased cases of misunderstandings, confusion and poverty among people nowadays.

This paper will study the evolution phases of conflicts and look into issues of power, resource allocation and human factors as catalysts in conflict evolution and escalation. In addition, the paper will outline the relationship between tactics and strategies used in conflict resolution and analysis.  It will also analyze the historical developments of social and intellectual movements with regard to the contribution in conflict analysis and resolution. Finally, it will look at the relevance of human psychological factors, phenomena and various human-related activities in changing the nature of social conflicts.

Relationship between power, Resources and Conflict

It is usually evident that a social conflict would want to explain the way power is distributed in the society. Power is a prerequisite of conflict, in that, it deals with the ability to acquire or retain certain exclusive benefits. Power is therefore defined as the capability to produce desired effects. It is also considered that some social interest/personal desires causing conflicts are manifestations of social powers[2] in the society. Power goes hand in hand with resource allocation and to a lesser extent the way it is acquired. Indeed, unequal distribution of resources is a major contributor to the escalation of conflicts in the modern day society. As resources continue to become scarce, more and more conflicts arise, resulting in increased complexity for the conflict resolution process.

There are different phases of conflict evolution. The first phase is the part of normal everyday life phase called the emergence phase. From a scratch, tussle begins as a normal misunderstanding but later escalates into the escalation phase. This phase explains that even in good times, conflicts exist among individuals living together peacefully. At this point, individuals do not look for cooperative solutions to their normal social conflicts that may or may not be considered negative or positive. If there is no immediate resolution, the conflict escalates to the next phase.

The second phase is the stalemate phase where people have clear common interest but they place their own personal interests first. Information sharing becomes more complicated as it becomes more limited to somebody’s arguments and beliefs. At this stage, it is not possible to resolve the conflict through logic and common understanding of issues. Every party does not show any signs of weakness.

The conflict at this level is delicate and sometimes slips to the next phase of the conflict evolution without being noticed. This is where the conflict becomes a real threat not only to those involved but also to the whole community. It escalates as one side tries to commit some action that is intended to overpower the other. It is difficult to resolve such conflict and therefore moves on to the next phase which is the action oriented phase-the de-escalation phase

At the de-escalation phase, there is at least some compromise on certain standpoints and people try to come to terms with the whole problem. This phase allows people to seek for common grounds on the conflict and the issue now is considered a real conflict with serious outcomes. There are increased cases of negotiations and most parts of the conflict can now be resolved.

The last phase is the settlement phase where all parties agree to sort out the misunderstanding and make peace with each other. The decision is usually taken slowly, painfully and costly but it is appreciated by all the parties as compromising point. The next phase is the conflict settlement stage where negotiations continue to bear fruits and parties are completely in communication with each other.  After the settlement stage, there is at least some form of peace building and recovery, people go back to try and start new life.

The movement of conflict from one phase to the other is not smooth and that many of the phases will be repeated especially if certain social factors are not taken into account. The graph below diagrammatically explains how the phases are interrelated.

There are specific implications of mediators which result from the way mediators handle conflict resolution. Their implications will be subject to legal jurisdictions of the agreements made during the negotiation process. The mediators also assist the two conflicting parties to communicate and reach a consensus on the issue while being non-partisan. Mediators are able to bring tensions down through the creation of favorable conditions for the parties to make proper decisions.

Relationship between strategies and tactics in social conflicts

Mediators and negotiators are faced with the challenge of dealing with the complex process of resolving social conflicts. Most of them are forced to employ extra personal and professional skills to be able to sequence the issues that have caused the conflict. That is when conflict resolution tactics and strategies come in. the strategies range from simple to complex ones while the tactics are the usual but common methods used by most people to settle out disputed issues. [3]

Strategies are employed in situations where negotiators plan in advance what to do and try to imagine what could be the response from the parties whereas conflicts are situations where little is said but plenty is done in terms of resolving the social conflicts.  Both strategies and tactics work hand in hand in conflict analysis and resolution. In fact, some strategies are also tactical in nature and are designed to meet certain tactics in the process. The relationship of the two measures is that there is usually no strategy can be better than its tactical execution in all quarters.

Both the strategy and the tactics used to resolve the conflicts are employed by all parties especially through mediators and negotiators to resolve their issues. Although critics argue that strategies are long term plans that consume a lot of time during implementation, their chances of success are rated the best in solving conflicts. Tactics being a purposeful procedure are utilized to implement these strategies thereby making it possible to reduce the amount of time used to implement those strategies.

Likewise, the strategies are so complicated that the eventual solution is achieved through the tactics applied by the strategists during the implementation process[4]. Strategies usually employed the main strategy being the negotiation strategies (principled, positive, interactive, interest-based and positional strategies). The negotiation strategy will look at ways of communication, ability to come to a compromising state etc.

Parties have had to utilize tactics which are not easily criticized as strategies to solve issue of conflicts. First, the mediators would want to move the two parties involved in the conflicts from simple to complex discussions. They do this by utilizing the gradualism model of tactics. This model is characterized by purposeful strategies where mediators start by studying the causes of the conflict through a critical examination of the phases of conflict evolution. Once this is done, the parties are encouraged to seek answers from each other on the main issue causing the conflict especially in the presence of the mediator.

The main aim for this is to create some trust among the parties involved since there is very little trust at the moment. If this does not work, the ‘builder in the road strategy’ strategy is applied. In contrast to gradualism, the tactic here is for the mediator to move very fast with the aim of reaching the irrecoverable commitment stage. He begins to outline the advantages of resolving the conflict to the parties involved with a view to making them understand their consequences.

Social and intellectual movements

A social movement is any action taken by a group of individuals to settle a conflict or rectify a societal problem. They are a series of contemporary performances, campaigns and demonstrations specifically designed to meet specific actions. Social movements may be large or informal in nature but all are with one objective- to resist a social change evolving from social conflicts. Due to industrialization, urbanization and education, social movements in the modern societies have evolved to meet challenges arising form political, economic and social issues. [5]

The main movers of social movements are the universities where in the last two centuries have been trying to create awareness on matters of public interests and the importance of respecting human rights. The trade union movements are the best example of movement that has taken place advocating for worker rights and conflict resolution in work places. Another famous social movement was the peaceful social movement created by Mohandas Gandhi in India which advocated for the independence of the people of India.

There were all sorts of conflicts, murders, misuse of human rights by the in India and this was calling for the need for a movement to raise awareness for resolving the issues. This yielded fruit because Indians got independence through it. There are theories developed by dedicated persons who valued conflict resolution. These theories include; relative deprivation theory, value-added theory, resource mobilization theory, frame analysis theory, new social movement theory all of 1960s and 80s.

Intellectual movements have been playing an important role in conflict resolution. These intellectual movements are a group of social personalities with common beliefs among themselves. Theses kinds of movements contrary to social movements are designed to resolve a variety of issues which affect the community at the present and in the future. In Europe, intellectual movements took a twist in the 20th century when people advocated for issues which were considered unlawful in the traditional setting. Issues such as abortion, same-sex marriages have diverted the principles of intellectual movements.

Intellectual boundaries are being used by the academies, the elites and the psychoanalytic institutions to try to spread message of peace for people involved in conflict. These movements try to provide scientific solutions to problems of modern societies. The conflicts are analyzed through psychological, computerized methods with a view to bringing on all professional on board to counter a social change and put the logic behind their stand forward for all parties to judge by themselves.

The most outstanding intellectual movements in the world especially the historic ones are the Iranian intellectual movements. The first generation of Iranian intellectuals noticed that it was not possible to rely on civilization procedures to handle their own problems and help them solve issue of poverty, technology, social changes among others. Examples of personalities who took part in the Iranian Goftegu and Kiyan intellectual movements which propelled Iranian to higher statues in the last three decades

Impacts of psychological phenomena in social conflict

It is evident that psychology drives the attitudes and behaviors of individuals in any conflict. In the recent days, more and more mediators are using psychologists to understand the causes of conflicts currently being experienced.  All aspects of intractable conflicts can be permeated by social psychology meaning that during the escalation of a conflict, identity and perception are present and actively involved in the process. There are also core to the management of these conflicts in terms of providing increased understanding abilities of the parties involved. It is also assumed that there are certain psycho-social components that must be looked into in the process of managing conflicts. These components include[6];

·        Acknowledging historical facts relating to the emergence of the conflict

·        Building awareness not only for the mediator but also for the conflicting parties

·        Learning empathy

·        According issues the  legitimacy it deserves

·        Recognizing fears among the parties in the conflict

During the beginning of any negotiation process, psychological dimensions are taken into account. This is due to the fact that, parties are completely convinced that they ready to handle the fact conflict as far as it may go. This actually illustrates how people end up using physical force on even issue that may not require such situations. Human beings in their own natural being fear the compromise that may be adopted as a result of reaching a particular settlement. They feel that the ‘war’ is not won and consider themselves as face-savers through retaliation and repentance. Most resolution has taken spiritual dimensions because of the considerable belief that God is able to forgive and forget.

The general fear for any concessions is assumed by many people to result in lack of a sense security. A sense of security in this case means the ability of the conflict to reignite into eh future incase the parties are not satisfied with the current process. This leads to more parties completing rejecting calls to enter into negotiations. A case for this is the Palestinian- Israeli conflict where each party fears to yield to pressure from external quarters just because the other party will think that they have literally won it. This has eventually affected the progress of the Palestinian- Israeli negotiations.

In fact, a theory-mirror theory, developed by Kelman, explains how parties develop imaginary images of the other during the process of negotiations[7]. He argues that perceptions and identity are the key ingredients of human psychology that matter most in conflict resolution, contributing to a large percentage of the success chances if well understood.

Perception unlike identity is formed in early stages of life and they continue to solidify unless they are challenged by external factors. Identity is usually acquired later in life in terms of norms, beliefs and practices commonly learnt within the society. People are also realization that there in increased perception on emerging facts such as high costs of the conflicts themselves compared to the costs of negotiation. This perception is therefore helping negotiators to help conflicting groups to come together.


Conflict analysis and resolution is part of a wider field of conflict assessment and intervention. There are many strategies and tactics which are closely related and jointly applied to resolve conflicts. In the past, social and mass movements have been used to counter inhuman social changes impacted to the people by those in power. Conflict evolution occurs in several phases which can be summarized as escalation, stalemate and settlement. If conflicts are not addressed urgently by minimizing them at the earlier stages, they might explode to bigger problems whose consequences are usually dire and damaging to the society.


Louis K. (1998):  Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution. (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc. pp 56-78

Luther P., G. & Virginia H., H. (2000): People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation, Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, pp 121-137

McFarland, D.,  Baden, N.,  Barnes, C.,  Carstarphen., S. & Notter, J. (1996): Conflict Analysis and Resolution: Challenges for the Times. Fairfax, VA: Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, pp 232-254

Otomar B. & Paul W. (2002): Using Conflict Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 76-90

Rook, K.S. (1990):  Parallels in the study of social support and social strain. J Soc & Clin Psychol, 9:118-132.

Seeman, T. (1995): Behavioral and Psychosocial Predictors of Economic and Social Conflicts: MacArthur Studies of Successful Conflict resolution. Journal of Sociology, 50A(4): pp 177-183.

William A. G. (1986):  Power and Discontent, Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press, pp 29-36

[1] Forger, J. (2004): Working Through Conflict. 4th edition, New York, Longman press

[2] Luther P., G. & Virginia H., H. (2000): People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation, Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, pp 121-137

[3] Seeman, T. (1995): Behavioral and Psychosocial Predictors of Economic and Social Conflicts: MacArthur Studies of Successful Conflict resolution. Journal of Sociology, 50A(4): pp 177-183.

[4] Rook, K.S. (1990):  Parallels in the study of social support and social strain. J Soc & Clin Psychol, 9:118-132.

[5] Luther P., G. & Virginia H., H. (2000): People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation, Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, pp 121-137

[6] Louis K. (1998):  Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution. (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc. pp 56-78

[7] Otomar B. & Paul W. (2002): Using Conflict Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 76-90