Conflict interaction


The ground of my research is to evaluate that what is conflict interaction and what happen under this situation. The factors pertain towards conflict by analyzing the verbal aggressiveness theory. Each party’s work style and models of conflict and in the end it will be discussed that how to manage it and improve it.

Conflict Interaction

“Conflict is the perception of differences of interests among people” ( Conflict Interaction related to the discrepant and disagreements among a group of people which come together to achieve certain goals and objectives. The contradiction between them can also take place because of the diversity in their culture, age, sex, ethnicity etc. Conflicts can occur any where during interacting with others. It can be between two or more than two people.

“A process of social interaction involving a struggle over claims to resources, power and status, beliefs, and other preferences and desires. The aims of the parties in conflict may extend from simply attempting to gain acceptance of a preference, or securing a resource advantage, to the extremes of injuring or eliminating opponents.” (Rahim, 2001)

Conflicts at a certain place or time should not only relate with negativity. They can also bring positive outcomes which can help both the parties in achieving their desirable goals. “Conflict between individuals or groups within an organization often helps uncover persistent problems so that they can undergo careful scrutiny. In this manner, conflict sometimes serves as the impetus for effective, needed change” (Rahim, 2001). Conflicts helps in proper interaction with one an other as they also help in understanding the point of view of both the parties and determining the nature and personality of the other person.

Case Study

To thoroughly the conflict interaction styles and resolution styles of both the parties, I will be discussing a scenario Of Walgreen company. Walgreen is a pharmaceutical company and one of the most profitable companies. It comprises with chain of drugstores. “With 1992 sales topping $7.4 billion, the company clearly has demonstrated that it is "dedicated to aggressive growth," as it promised its shareholders in the 1992 annual report.” (Karen Fay et al 1995) In 1990 the company was awarded with the award of “Pharmacy Chain of the Year”.

The problem lies between the Walgreen and their stake holders. These are two obvious and clear positions. They know their responsibilities and rights. The Conflict between both the parties are:

1.      The stakeholders want to increase the cost of the drug but Walgreen are not agree on this matter

2.      The customers should have freedom to choose the drug provider.

3.      To mail-order drugs

Conflicts Theories from Various Disciplines

Many psychological and sociological theorists describe the meaning and concept of conflict. Different theories came from different disciplines.

Plato and Aristotle: Plato and Aristotle discussed in detail about the theory of conflict. They both argued on the theory and came up with their own views. Plato viewed conflict as they are sudden and natural which contributed towards many factors. Conflicts are unavoidable. If there should be balance created by the state authorities and there would be no private properties distributed among private owners than conflicts can be suppressed.  “However, he felt that if a proper balance of the parts could be obtained, social conflict would be at a minimum.

Each segment of society must know the part it must play and be guided in such a fashion that all segments work together in harmony” (Schellenberg, 1996, Rahim, 2001). Plato argued that if the government cannot handle the properties it self then what the use of there leadership. By providing the private properties the individual needs of the society cannot be satisfied. And this may lead to the roots of conflict. Aristotle disagreed with Plato on the basis of privatization. Both the views are same on providing the proper need of the society.

They see conflict from both the sides positive as well as negative. “Strife is a sign of imperfection and unhappiness. Order marks the good life and disorders the opposite. Conflict is a threat to the success of the state and should be kept at an absolute minimum, and removed altogether if possible.” (Sipka, 1969) “The conclusion is that both classical philosophers assigned social conflict a pathological status.” (Rahim, 2001) Thomas Hobbes and John Locke: they both said that there should be proper law and order in the country with out which there would be no harmony and social interaction would be damaged.

Hobbes considered “human beings as egotistical, the dupes of error, the slaves of sin, of passion, and of fear. Persons are their own enemies or the enemies of others, or both” (Lourenco and Glidewell, 1975). In Hobbes opinion the only way to control the conflicts is to make any one person responsible for each and every thing and he has to make rules and regulation which every individual have to follow.

The power should be given into one hand and nobody should contradict on the rules. On the other hand, Locke said that a government shaped by different group of people handling different level of departments. And the main goal of these people is to secure the lives, properties and positions of the people – that is how the conflicts wouldn’t be occurred.

“Hobbes and Locke had an extraordinary sensitivity to the dangers of social conflict and sought, through government, to control it as much as possible. . . . Not only did these men not see a growth or re-constructive potential in social conflict, but they considered it a flaw in the body politic. . . . Though neither man insists that all conflict is to be removed, it is clear that this is their intention”. (Sipka, 1969)

Georg Simmel: Georh Simmel is the sociologists who wrote that conflicts are essential for the people or for the organization on some extent but not on the high level. In the words of Simmel “a certain amount of discord, inner divergence and outer controversy, is organically tied up with very elements that ultimately hold the group together; it cannot be separated from the unity of the sociological structure” (Rahim, 2001).

Power Pertains to Conflict

Power refers to the authority a person have on a certain place. It is an elusive force whose effects can only be felt. It is a talent used to manipulate other people to bring about desired result. Power is not something which can be seen but it can be felt when it effects the surrounding. “Power is an intangible force in an organization; it cannot be seen, but its effects can be felt” ( Power is one of the basic elements in any organization or in a group. It helps in reducing conflicts and keeps healthy atmosphere. Power at a certain place can only be in the hands of one or two person. It cannot be enjoyed by every individual.

“A White House staff member of the Kennedy administration once commented that it was always clear when the president and the First Lady were fighting and when they were relating amicably. Responding to an expression of surprise that their relationship would be so transparent, the staff member replied, they actually were quite private about their struggles, but we knew when they were fighting simply by watching the interactions of their personal staffs.” (Smith, 1989) There are two types of power vertical power and horizontal power.

Vertical Power: There are four sources of vertical power:

Formal Position is the authority of taking decisions and implementing plans. In organizations mainly this type of power is in the hands of managers and they have the legal rights of power. But mostly when the power is given to every person independently, it brings positive outcomes and there will be more effective results. On the other hand, if the power will remain on the one side then it can bring negative outcomes and people will be less productive. “If the distribution of power is skewed to heavily toward the top, research suggests the organization will be less effective.” (

Resources always in the hands of the powerful person which is responsible in distributing those resources to the others. Resources can be in the form of intrinsic rewards or may in extrinsic rewards or it also related to the punishments. Individual can use its power by punishing the person. In organizations “Top management can exchange resources in the form of salaries and bonuses, personnel, promotion, physical facilities for compliance with the outcomes they desire”. (

 Control of Decision Premises and Information always handle by the personals of upper level of hierarchy. They have all the top level authority and lower level of people have the narrow source of authority.  Handling the information is also one of the forms of power. The information first comes to the person who has the highest power then floats to the other person. Network Centrality is the power to access the information and keep track on the other people by remain in the center. The top authorities maintain their power of by keep in the centre of their co-ordinates and other people increase their power by socializing and by gaining the knowledge. Being independent also increase the power and also build decision making power.

Theory of Verbal Aggressiveness

Verbal aggressiveness betrays the emotions, abilities and position of the other person. It also refer to use abusive words and degrading the others personality verbally. "... Attacking the self concept of another person instead of, or in addition to, the person's position." (France and Rogan, 2003) In verbal aggressiveness it’s not only express verbally but also through non-verbal actions. Like gestures, postures and appearance.

“Aggressive communication entails both verbal and nonverbal symbolic forms that are posited to facilitate either constructive or destructive interaction.” (France and Rogan, 2003) Verbal Aggressiveness during conflicts is obvious and they can harm the relation of both the parties. Because in state of aggressiveness the person can verbally exploit the status of the other person and it definitely hurts the emotions of the other party.

Verbal Aggressiveness and Conflict Interaction

As many theories said that conflicts are not only negative they can convey positive messages and come up with positives outcomes. During interaction with other people conflicts can be rise verbally and can be transformed into aggression. “Verbal bargaining and negotiation are central ingredients to the conflict management and resolution process.” (France and Rogan, 2003)

In most of the cases, the conflict leads to aggression because one of the parties knows that the other party is dominating in their views and they are lacking behind. “The model proposes that verbally aggressive language is used when an individual lacks adequate argumentative skills to negotiate a resolution.” (France and Rogan, 2003)

Various studies are in process and in past most of the people tried to find out the relation between verbal aggressiveness and conflict interaction and the factors influencing them. “However, there is a dearth of research that has specifically explored the relationship between trait verbal aggressiveness and conflict management strategies. Recent research by Ohbuchi and Fukushima (1997) is perhaps the one exception.”

(France and Rogan, 2003) Verbal aggressiveness leads to the competitive environment and slow downs the process of conflict resolution and damaged the relations of both the parties. “Various communication-based conflict texts conclude that verbally aggressive language entails such acts as name-calling and mudslinging, behaviors that tend to escalate the competitive/ distributive dynamics of an interaction and that are deemed damaging to constructive conflict resolution and the relationship of the parties involved.” (France and Rogan, 2003)

Ohbuchi and Fukushima during their study, they conducted an experiment in which they compared verbal aggressiveness with a conflict while interaction. They resulted that in high verbal aggressiveness the other person respond in a polite manner but in low aggressiveness the opponent was not as polite as in high aggressiveness. “ …. was an interaction effect for verbal aggressiveness and opponent politeness on participant hostile behavior indicating that high verbal aggressive produced more hostile responses than low verbal aggressive in the impolite condition.” (France and Rogan, 2003)

Conflicting Styles

There are different types of conflicting styles which are explained by different writers in form of model. These models have some differences as well as similarities too. Following are the model of styles:

Model of Two Styles

The Model of two styles was given by Deutsch in 1949. In model of two styles he explains the cooperative – competitive model. This model is now rarely used in English literature but this model is useful for the gamers. The model explained that the positive outcome of the one party can be negative for the other during interaction.

“Purely competitive conflicts are technically termed “zero-sum games” or “negative-sum games,” in which the positive outcomes to one party are directly and equally matched by negative outcomes to the other as a result of their joint choices from interaction.” (Rahim, 2001)  The other model of two styles “engagement and avoidance—was suggested by Knudson, Sommers, and Golding (1980), which did not receive any prominence in theory and research in conflict.” (Rahim, 2001)

In true world there neither fully exist cooperative style nor competitive style. During the conflict, both the styles are visible. In the study of Deutsch he wrote that cooperative style brings positive outcome and are good for the environment while the competitive style are not healthier for the relationship of the people during interaction as it doesn’t releases productivity.

Model of Three Styles

In this model there are three conflict styles are mentioned by Putnam and Wilson (1982) i.e. obliging, integration and dominating. “Hocker and Wilmot (1991) concluded after literature review that “conflict styles cluster similarly to conflict tactics—into three types (1) avoidance, (2) competitive (distributive) and (3) collaborative (integrative).” (Rahim, 2001)  Three style models are not fully clear because Putnam and Wilson derived it from the single factor analysis. The other theories explained it from the communication point of view and the other theorists like Billingham and Sack explained it from the marital conflict prospective.

History has not provided any evidence of this model so it means that this model is no in practice any more.

Model of Four Styles

In this model of style there are four dominating styles explain by the Pruitt (1983). He explained yielding, problem solving, inaction, and contending as a conflict interaction handling style. The model provides much information and it is much clear than the first two models. This model is evident and Pruitt had provided prove for this model so this model have a special place in literature. “This model received some attention in the conceptualization and operationalization of marital conflict.” (Rahim, 2001)

Model of Five styles

“The five styles of handling interpersonal conflict in organizations were first conceptualized in 1926 by Mary P. Follett (1940). She conceptualized three main ways of handling organizational conflict—domination, compromise, and integration—as well as other, secondary ways of handling conflict, such as avoidance and suppression” (Rahim, 2001)

In the above case study the five style model is very much visible in both the parties. Through negotiations both the parties can resolve the problem. It is not possible to have win-win situation always. There can be win-lose or lose-lose situation.  “Connected conceptually the two-way models to the interdependent relationship between the organization and its stakeholders. He discussed the value of an organization that adapts to its environment to ensure long-term survivability.” (Karen Fay et al 1995)


It is concluded that the models and the study of conflict interaction build a strong research that conflicts are important to some extend and should be solve properly. “That knowledge is created within generations, as humans learn better how to interact with minimal cost. We do this pretty much unconsciously. Handling conflict is simply one of the life skills we learn and practice.

Some of us do it better than others.” (Bartos and Wehr, 2002) Proper styles should be adopted to suppressed the conflict and resolve it properly. “Virtually all conflicts occur within social long-term relationships—the very context in which reconciliation and peaceful conflict resolution are functionally most relevant” (Aureli and Waal, 2000)


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Chapter 1  Accessed on October 23, 2006 Seven Chapter   Accessed on October 23, 2006

Effect of Verbal Aggressiveness on the Perceived Importance of Secondary Goals in Messages Communication Studies - Find Articles Accessed on October 23, 2006

Karen Fay, Shira Meirovich, Martha Pien, Kenneth D. Plowman, Cynthia Revelle, Virginia Sheng, Richard Stemple; 1995 Walgreens: a Case Study in Health Care Issues and Conflict Resolution Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 7, 1995