The conflict is a relationship in which each party perceives the goals, values, interests and conduct of the other as opposed to their own. Almost all conflicts go through a period of waxing and waning in intensity. This cycle is a dynamic response to the actions and reactions of the parties.
In order to better understand and manage a conflict, we need to look at its stages:
- The onset - the phase when a conflict comes out of its dormant state and becomes manifest through simple misunderstandings. Minor disagreements may arise which, if uncontrolled in time, can degenerate into real conflicts.
- The confrontation - the phase where the tension of the interaction is increased. This moment is very important because the need for a rational solution arises. The way this stage is handled will influence the way the conflict develops. The growth, escalation or resolution of the conflict is decided at this stage.
- The escalation - occurs when parties intensify their actions in pursuit of their goals. Escalation can be seen in different forms, but usually involves some hostile action directed at another party. At this stage, the escalation of aggressive arguments is reached, individuals tend to replace rational actions with irrational, even violent actions.
- The polarization - occurs when all aspects of the relationship between the parties begin to break down. Reaching this stage means that the conflict is destructive, contact between the parties decreases and communication becomes strained. This situation is usually accompanied by an increase in problematic outcomes.
- The enlargement - is a phase where parties begin to find support in allies and protectors, leading to an increase in the number of parties involved in the conflict outcomes.
- The training - In the latter stages of conflicts, parties are often caught in the course of action generating a continuation or escalation of the conflict with no chance of an honorable or safe withdrawal. Fear of losing influence and position, unwillingness to admit a costly mistake, and the desire for revenge or loss recovery all contribute to continued involvement in the conflict despite huge losses.
- The de-escalation - occurs when the parties, sometimes with the help of an intermediate third party, act in a way that indicates they intend to cease the adverse conduct, either unilaterally or conditionally.
- The resolution - is the stage where the parties come to reduce, resolve or end the conflict. A situation of calm and cooperation is achieved. Resolution by creating an unstable equilibrium is not a constructive solution, as at the slightest sign of tension it will react destructively on the parties, potentially leading to further conflict.