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What is conflict?


A conflict in psychology refers to a situation in which there is a discrepancy, disagreement, or tension between the inner states, opinions, interests, or goals of individuals or groups. Conflicts can arise due to various factors, including different values, needs, goals, or views. What is essential is that conflicts are often accompanied by a subjective experience in which the involved parties perceive and assess the conflict differently.

In the workplace context, a conflict often refers to differences of opinion or conflicts of interest between employees, teams, or organizations. Such conflicts can arise when there are different views on how tasks should be completed, decisions made, or goals achieved. Resolving conflicts in the workplace typically requires communication, willingness to compromise, and conflict resolution strategies to ensure productive collaboration.

Overall, conflict is a normal part of human interactions and can occur in various areas of life. The way conflicts are managed and resolved can have a significant impact on interpersonal relationships and the success of projects or organizations.


The term "conflict" originates from the Latin word "conflictus," which is derived from the words "con" (together) and "fligere" (to strike or clash). In its original Latin meaning, "conflictus" referred to the collision or clash of forces or objects.

Over time, the term "conflict" was expanded and used in various contexts to describe a situation in which different interests, opinions, views, or goals collide and lead to tensions or disagreements. The use of the term "conflict" in psychology and social contexts has evolved from this broader meaning.

So, the roots of the term "conflict" can be traced back to the Latin language, where it originally referred to physical collisions or clashes of forces before becoming a term that describes the clash of different opinions or interests.


  • Dispute
  • Contention
  • Quarrel
  • Disagreement

Additional Facts about Conflicts

Types of Conflicts

In psychology, conflicts are categorized into different types, e.g., intrapersonal conflicts (within an individual), interpersonal conflicts (between two or more individuals), intragroup conflicts (within a group), and intergroup conflicts (between two or more groups).

Conflict Management

Effective conflict management is crucial to successfully resolve conflicts and minimize negative impacts on individuals and groups. There are different conflict management styles, including compromise, collaboration, avoidance, competition, and accommodation, which can be appropriate in different situations.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is a significant area in psychology and social science, dealing with methods and techniques for managing and resolving conflicts. Mediation and negotiation are two common conflict resolution methods aiming to reach an agreement between the conflicting parties.

Conflict and Stress

Conflicts can cause substantial stress and emotional strain. Unresolved conflicts can lead to chronic stress, exhaustion, and burnout. Learning strategies to cope with conflicts and stress can help maintain emotional well-being and improve the quality of life.

Conflicts in Organizations

In organizations, conflicts can lead to creative solutions and innovations if effectively managed. However, they can also result in a poor work environment, decreased productivity, and high employee turnover if ignored or poorly handled.

Psychological Perspectives on Conflicts

Different psychological theories provide varying perspectives and explanations for conflicts. For instance, psychoanalysis sees conflicts as a result of suppressed desires and needs, while social psychology often analyzes conflicts in the context of social and group-based processes.

Cultural Differences

Perceptions and management of conflict can vary culturally. What is perceived as conflict in one culture may be seen as normal interaction in another. Likewise, preferences for conflict management styles and resolution approaches can also differ culturally.


Conflicts are complex and multifaceted phenomena that can permeate all areas of human life. Understanding them requires careful consideration of the psychological, social, organizational, and cultural factors that influence their occurrence, development, and resolution.