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Understanding Conflict

Sara Heidbreder LCPC, BC-DMT, GLCMA

Conflict is all around us. In your relationships, family, workplace, and society itself. Most of our stress comes from conflict, and we are constantly looking for good conflict resolution skills.

I have been reading a book called “Healing Resistance” by Kazu Haga. I want to share some tips on conflict resolution that I have learned.

If you realize the conversation is stuck and not going anywhere, you might want to examine Four Types of Conflicts. It helps you see the real issues underneath emotional arguments.

Four Types of Conflict

Pathway Conflict

Trying to achieve the same goal, but approaches are different.

Ex: A & B both want to party but cannot agree on where to go.

Mutually Exclusive Conflict

Goals are different but function together for the benefit.

Ex: A’s goal is to preserve the land. B’s goal is to protect clean water. They join the same protesting event.

Distribution Conflict

Not enough resources

Ex: The school lunch was limited. Some students did not get what they wanted.

Value Conflict Different value and vision

Ex: A & B have opposite believes on parenting.


It is also essential to understand that conflicts are usually the product of layered stress. Identifying the level of conflict may help you evaluate the urgency in each conflict.

3 Level of Conflict

  1. Normal: Everyday stress; easy to manage.
  2. Pervasive: You can feel the tension in the air.
  3. Overt: Real harm happens.

We do not want to reach the point of Overt conflict! Having too many everyday conflicts can trigger Pervasive conflict.


As much as conflict makes us uncomfortable, facing it with creativity can result in a deepening relationship. Here are three ways to have a better conversation during a conflict.

  1. Relationship: Make sure the dynamic is trusted.
  2. Skills: Skills to facilitate the conversation
  3. Structure: Agenda, setting clear rules, taking turns, etc.

In Haga’s book, he said we need to have at least two of these conditions to have a successful conversation. For example, if the issue itself is about trust, you have to make sure you have skills to facilitate the conversation and you have a clear structure such as “everyone has five minutes to share” or “using I statements,” etc.

If you are interested in discussing your conflict and finding resolutions, contact us to book an appointment!


Haga, Kazu. “Healing Resistance.” Parallax Press, 2020.

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