Five ways that people respond to conflict

Conflict ManagementPeace-building
Celebrating Footsteps 30 years

In November, we celebrated 30 years of Footsteps – our magazine for grassroots development workers. To mark the occasion we have been looking back through the archive to rediscover some of the most popular articles that have been written over the years.

This week we feature an article from Footsteps 36, first published in 1998: Five ways that people respond to conflict.

Syrian refugees in the Beqaa Valley, in eastern Lebanon. Photo: David Cavan
Syrian refugees in the Beqaa Valley, in eastern Lebanon. Photo: David Cavan

Footsteps 36 - coping with conflict - front cover

Managing conflict is something we all have to do in our own lives. We have all experienced conflict within our families and with work colleagues, usually over small matters, but sometimes over very serious ones. Sometimes we feel we have helped to settle the conflict; at other times we may feel we have made things worse.

In communities, when resources become scarce, and life more difficult, conflicts are likely to become more common. As individuals with unique personalities, we each respond differently to conflict situations. This article helps to identify five typical ways in which we might respond: 

  • withdrawal 
  • giving in 
  • force 
  • compromise 
  • co-operation. 

The article explores how each of these responses is influenced by how important the person feels it is to maintain a relationship with the other group or groups involved, and how much power they think they have to change the situation.

Understanding the possible responses that might arise in conflict situations better equips us for dealing with conflict when it occurs.

Those who choose to cooperate in conflict situations believe that personal goals and relationships are important. Photo: David Cavan
Those who choose to cooperate in conflict situations believe that personal goals and relationships are important. Photo: David Cavan

Read the article in full to learn more about these five responses to conflict situations. 

Explore more on the topic of conflict in Footsteps 36 and Footsteps 92.

Tearfund Learn