Analysis, prevention, containment and resolution of conflicts

Conflictology is a set of knowledge and skills to understand and intervene in the management of social conflicts * and their peaceful resolution. In this article we will make a brief tour of the main concepts and elements of conflict analysis as an introduction.

* Conflict, change, war, problem, crisis, chaos.

The conflict

Conflict itself is a normal state of society and of personal relationships. Conflict is healthy and has positive functions for people and institutions, but the inability to take it and treat it can lead to a destructive and even violent process.

The first symptom of conflict is located in the problems of communication as a determining cause of (bad) relationships, however, there are innumerable origins, rather than the symptoms, that underlie people and can be the trigger for conflicts:


Physical, biological and psychological factors that determine conflicts

  • Physical: hunger, illness, fatigue, cold, heat, excessive noise, pollution, night work, …
  • Biological: malnutrition, food imbalances, excess sugar, fat, excess or insufficient protein, exaggerated consumption of salt, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, …
  • Psychological: stress, frustration, contrariness, coercion, fear, disappointment, envy, obsessions, strong emotions, failure, worries, affective problems, divorce, death or illness of relatives, jealousy, anguish, …

Although they can be classified in these groups, they are in fact closely related to each other. The satisfaction of needs, values, philosophical and ideological conceptions, emotional and physical balance and the social environment are of great importance in the processes of relationship and communication.


It is not a matter of educating in certain pre-established values ​​but of facilitating that each one of the people can discover and construct them by itself. To educate in happiness, in freedom, in knowing how to fight without causing any harm, in loving life, in discovering serenity, … open many possibilities of having techniques, methods and strategies that can be applied in prevention, containment and resolution Of conflicts.


Cipolla (see bibliography at the end) establishes a classification of people into 4 categories depending on whether their actions benefit or harm themselves and / or others:

  1. Incautious: their action reports a loss but benefits others
  2. Intelligent: Your action benefits them and others
  3. Stupid: their action reports losses to themselves and others
  4. Evil: their action brings a benefit but hurts other people

Grant (see bibliography at the end) identifies three different ways of relating to others: three basic patterns of behavior in people:

  1. Donors: Those who normally give more than they receive. They are generous in their relationships and like to help others without conditions. They naturally share their knowledge and solve problems for others without looking for anything in return.
  2. Recipients: Those who like to receive more than they give. They are people, by contrast, generally competitive, who try to get as much of us as possible, without giving anything in return. They operate under the premise that if they do nothing for themselves, no one will. They are masters at hoarding credit and self-promotion and their ultimate goal is to make sure they are alone at the top.
  3. Balancers: These are people who strive to maintain a balance between giving and receiving. They are equitable and tend to seek reciprocity in their relationships. When they do someone a favor, they expect it to be returned on another occasion.


We start from the idea that we are all part of systems in which we are in relation to other people with whom we are interdependent, which means that our quality of life depends on the quality of life of others, including friends and enemies, if we’ve got them.

Therefore, the best prevention of conflicts is to build our relationships with ethical behavior in a way that promotes common goals and commitment to those goals.

The second opportunity for prevention comes from fostering cooperation to create value rather than fostering competitiveness. This requires certain attitudes:

  • Clear and sincere communication
  • Mental openness and creativity
  • Friendly and helpful attitude
  • Respect
  • Clean play and non-manipulation
  • Search for agreements / deals
  • Search for success

On the other hand the cooperation needs to tune the motivations:

  • Common motivations: expand
  • Different (non-opposing) motivations: synergize / confluence / adapt / add
  • Opposing motivations: minimize

In other words, “expand the definition of us: extend the tribe” or “increase the community of interests” or “create common”: make common cause with others and use our ability to sow, grow and grow assets Sharing that can benefit everyone.

… And an essential and special ingredient: trust (which we intend to address in future posts).

Containment: “When the bow is tense, the arrow must start”

If a conflict is not properly dealt with in its early stages, it tends to become larger, to escalate, to produce a series of changes that make the conflict intensify to such an extent that it is more difficult or impossible to go back.

Some of the incremental changes or transformations that may occur are:

  • Change from soft tactics to hard tactics: Promising, persuading, threatening, coercing.
  • Modification of problems: As time goes by, new problems are being added to the main problem.
  • Specific problems tend to give way to generic problems: Displacement of problems to people, moving from disagreement to personal antagonism.
  • Motivational transformation. We move from looking for the positive interest in our own well-being and others (cooperative) to seek our own benefit by being indifferent to the well-being of the other.
  • Increase in the number of parties involved: There is a polarization, and we ask third parties to position themselves.

In addition, there are several psychological processes that intervene in the escalation of a conflict:

  • Selective perception: we only see what we want to see.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy: false definition of the situation that evokes a new behavior that makes the conception originally false.
  • Attachment (entrapment): The irrational escalation of certain commitments to an initial course of action ends up placing people in a process in which an earlier moment is better than a later one. Stopping the course of action is the most efficient decision.


“There are three ways to resolve conflicts: fight / litigate; Negotiate / bargain; Project an exit. Only the first two are within reach of the disputants. The way of the project requires a third party who can observe the situation from the angle of a third party. For this reason I introduce the concept of triangular thinking. This third party is neither a judge nor a negotiator but a creative planner. ” Edward de Bono


If you want to know a little bit more …


Vinyamata, E. (2001) Conflictología. Teoría y práctica en Resolución de Conflictos. Editorial Ariel. Barcelona.

Bell, A.H y Smith, D.M. (2007) Aprenda a tratar con personas conflictivas. Ediciones Gestión 2000, Barcelona.

Cipolla, C.M. Allegro ma non tropo: Las leyes fundamentales de la estupidez humana. Editorial Crítica.

De Bono, E. (1985) Conflictos. Una mejor manera de resolverlos. Buenos Aires, 1986. Editorial Sudamericana Planeta.

Grant, A. (2014) Dar y recibir. Ediciones Gestión 2000.

Ury, W.L. (2005) Alcanzar la paz: Resolución de conflictos y mediación en la familia, el trabajo y el mundo. Paidos.

Ury, W. (2007) Supere el no: cómo negociar con personas que adoptan posiciones inflexibles. (3ª edición). Ediciones Gestión 2000.

Notes of the course “Contenció de conflictes” given at the Corporació Sanitària Parc Taulí from 8 to 23 November 2016 by Jordi Grané Ortega.