What is Situational Conflict, and How Can it be Resolved?

Situational Conflict

Many of us try and avoid conflict at all costs. This can include changing our actions and statements to avoid causing conflict. However, conflict is an inevitable part of life, and even the most vigilant of conflict-avoiders will run into a conflict of some kind. For most, the conflict that arises will be situational, or conflict from the situations that a person is in at the moment.

Situational conflict will affect everyone at some point in their life, and learning how to identify, deal with, and resolve conflict can be beneficial for everyone. This article will define conflict and situational conflict as thoroughly as possible given the wide range of definitions.

Additionally, it will outline some strategies that can be used to resolve conflict and how to identify which strategy to use for a given conflict. This article aims to encourage readers not to run away from conflict, but to embrace the positive changes that can be made when conflict is resolved.

What is Situational Conflict, and How Can it be Resolved?

The idea of situational conflict comes from literature and explains how a person experiences conflict. Situational conflict is a conflict that arises outside of oneself—the people, places, and conversations around a person influence the conflict that a person experiences. It can be compared to internal, or personal, conflict, which is a conflict that arises within a person—in their own emotions and inner battles.

Bringing these concepts into the world, situational conflict is the conflict that exists outside of a person, often between two or more people. To better understand this, it is also important to understand the term conflict. Conflict is a difficult term to define because there will often be as many different definitions for the term in a room as there are people.

Conflict is most commonly defined as a serious disagreement between two or more people. This disagreement can be caused by a variety of factors, such as attitude, process, and perception. When any or all of these factors do not match between two or more people, there will be conflict. The length of this disagreement is a topic of discussion around conflict.

Some people will say that a disagreement begins as a dispute and the longer it continues, it turns into a conflict, while others will argue that a disagreement begins as a conflict and turns into a dispute. Regardless, conflict results when two more people do not see eye to eye on the issues related to the project, task, or decision that they are making together.

Strategies to Resolve Conflict:

Once conflict arises and is identified, it is important to acknowledge it and take active steps to mitigate and resolve the conflict. Left alone, conflict can destroy partnerships, teams, and relationships. Therefore, it is important to consider some strategies that may help alleviate the conflict that has arisen between the parties. However, this process does take the commitment of all of the parties involved.

If just one party is trying to resolve the conflict on their own, they will likely become frustrated and not have much success with the task. But once all the parties are ready to work together to solve the conflict, they can try any or all of the following steps.

  1. Acknowledge: The first step in working to resolve a conflict is to often state the obvious—that a conflict exists. While it may seem obvious, it may be that not everyone has fully acknowledged the conflict and its impact on the task at hand. For this reason, it is important to draw attention to the conflict to ensure that everyone is starting from the same place.
  1. Express: Once the conflict has been acknowledged, some feelings may come to the surface for some people. It is important to give everyone the space that they need to express their feelings. This helps everyone feel as though their full view of the issue has been heard and that they can move forward without holding anything back.
  1. Impact: By further defining the issue before the parties, they can understand the root cause of the issue. This is often done by discussing the impact of the conflict on the parties and their task. Clear communication is the best response.
  1. Understand: The next step in resolving a conflict is to truly understand the underlying need that is creating the issue. This could be a missed deadline, improperly communicated specifications or a lack of clear communication. Finding the need that is causing the disagreement between the parties can help identify the areas that the parties may need to focus on when they are coming up with solutions.
  1. Agree: This is not the final agreement but is a small step toward an overall agreement. This is when the parties find anything that they can agree on, no matter how small, to show themselves and each other that they are capable of finding common ground. By doing so, they set themselves up to continue to agree to move forward.
  1. Solve: The next step in resolution is to find a solution that can solve the issue and accommodate the needs that have been expressed and identified throughout the process. While this seems like a daunting step, the steps before have laid out a great path forward, which should help identify the solution that solves the issue more attainable than it would have been without the prep work. By this point, the parties should be able to see what needs to be done as a remedy.
  1. Return: Any good plan may need some reminders to get the solution to be effective. This means that the parties should work to create a plan on how their solution will be returned to and how the recovery process will be monitored. This ensures that the conflict is addressed.
  1. Accept: The parties should also create a plan that addresses what should be done if the proposed solution is not effective at actually resolving the conflict. They should plan if they will meet again to discuss further options or if they need to figure out how to deal with the conflict.

Resolving conflict is a process that can take time and energy from the people involved; however, it is beneficial for all when the disagreement can be put in the past and the parties can work together moving forward. And if the conflict is addressed early, it is more likely that it will be resolved effectively and quickly.

Which Conflict Management Strategy is Likely to Be Effective?

In addition to having a process for resolving conflict, there is also the concept of conflict resolution strategies. These are the ways that people view conflict and their role in resolving it.

There are five main kinds of conflict resolution strategies, and each type will be more effective for a particular purpose or when there is a particular need. The types of conflict resolution strategies include:

  • Accommodating: Accommodating resolution strategy relies heavily on making concessions to keep the other person happy. It involves ensuring the other party’s wants and needs are managed while relinquishing one’s own needs.
  • Avoiding: Avoidant strategies will rely on avoiding the source of conflict altogether. It is the idea that if they ignore it, it will go away.
  • Competing: A competitive strategy will view the discussion as a competition and will aim to win or get their way over anyone else’s. This is the opposite of accommodating, as it sacrifices others’ wants and needs for their benefit.
  • Compromising: Compromising is the first of the strategies that have the parties working together, but it often only goes as far as to encourage everyone to compromise in one way to win in another.
  • Collaborating: Collaborating is a style where the parties can work together to create the best possible solution for everyone involved. This is the most time-consuming, but it will often produce the most universally liked result.

Choosing which strategy to use can rely on several factors and the dispute itself. Some common considerations that should be made include time, importance, relationship, and power.

  • Time: The first factor to consider when determining which strategy to use. As mentioned above, the style of resolution may affect the amount of time that the parties need to commit to a resolution. Collaboration, for example, will often take the most time as the parties work through the various strategies. Accommodating and competing will often be faster because the parties can give and take at a quicker pace. Depending on the time allowed, it may be better to choose a faster option over a more collaborative one.
  • Importance: Another factor that can come into play is the importance of the dispute to the parties. For more important disputes, they may want to spend more time and work together to resolve the dispute effectively. If they do not care, they may be able to use other solutions or avoid conflict. For some, importance will also mean that they use a competitive style because they hope to get what they want.
  • Relationship: The relationship between the parties is also a factor in determining the style to use in a dispute. If the parties need to maintain a relationship, they may need to use a collaborative approach. However, in some cases, they may need to use an accommodating or compromising approach to match a competitor’s energy but keep the peace. Competing or avoiding styles may be appropriate if the relationship is not important.
  • Power Imbalances: Power can play a big role in conflict resolution. If one party is more dominant than the other, they may practice a competing style to overpower their wishes. However, it may be better for them to practice a collaborative style with a third party to better equalize the playing field between the two.

Understanding how and why to use each strategy can be incredibly beneficial to anyone looking to resolve a dispute.


Conflict is a part of life, but this article has outlined how to better understand and approach conflict in ways that make it manageable and allow everyone to reach a resolution that they can agree on. Situational conflict can arise from a variety of sources, but it will always be the result of external forces acting with and against a person.

To resolve conflict, a person must take the necessary steps to determine the source and needs of each person and fulfill those needs. When resolving conflict, there are several styles that a party may use to ensure that they are fighting for the best position for themselves and others if necessary, and each style will have its place.

Conflict may be a part of life, but it does not have to be a dreaded part of life. By implementing these techniques, it is possible to master conflict.

Emily Holland
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