Interpersonal conflict - what is it, reasons, examples, main types

Interpersonal conflict is a confrontation that arises in the process of an individual’s communicative interaction with the social environment. In other words, an interpersonal conflict in a group is in some way a contradiction that arises in a separate situation among subjects when they begin to perceive events as a problem with a psychological component that requires immediate resolution. A prerequisite for the emergence of interpersonal conflict is the presence of a contradiction that creates an obstacle to communication or the achievement of personal goals.

Interpersonal conflicts in a team are more common than other types of confrontations.

Basic concept

In psychology, interpersonal conflict is a situation in which the needs and goals of one person come into conflict with the ideas about them of another individual.

Some experts are of the opinion that collisions are bad. In fact, their appearance in a person’s life is inevitable. Real social life will always be filled with various clashes.

Through confrontation, relationships are strengthened. The individual begins to better understand the other person, his needs and goals. At the same time, conflict can lead to a complete end to communication.

Principles of conduct

Intrapersonal conflict in psychology - types, causes and consequences

Experts identify 5 main behavioral models:

  1. Competitive - people try to put their own interests above others.
  2. Adaptive - one is ready to give in to the other.
  3. Avoidant – the individual tries with all his might to get away from the confrontation.
  4. Compromise - both sides are ready to make concessions.
  5. Collaborative - all parties to the conflict try to resolve it in such a way that everyone wins.

Is it possible to live your whole life without conflict with anyone?

Few people like constant swearing and quarrels. Many people would dream of living without ever having conflict with anyone. However, this is currently impossible in our society.

Starting from early childhood, a person conflicts with others. For example, the kids did not share the toys, the child does not obey the parents. In adolescence, generational conflict often comes first.

Throughout our lives, we have to periodically defend our interests and prove that we are right. At the same time, it is impossible to do without conflicts. All we can do is reduce the number of conflicts to a minimum, try not to succumb to provocations and avoid quarrels without good reason.


Types of conflicts in psychology and ways to resolve them

Confrontation may arise due to a clash of characters. Each person has his own special personal qualities. Subconsciously, he is confident that he is right, so it is difficult for him to accept someone else’s point of view.

Important! The conflict will continue until someone changes their behavior.

Confrontation may arise due to different views on life. An individual may have his own point of view on family and other values. Other opinions on these issues are not accepted. This is where family quarrels often begin.

Sometimes a person may not realize that he is in a dependent relationship. In such an alliance, his behavior is distorted, it seems to him that he is not responsible for his actions, this becomes a reason for confrontation.

At work, confrontations can flare up over shared projects.

Quarrels often arise between close people. The less individuals yield to each other, the more disputes they will have. It is constant conflicts that lead to divorce.

Relationships between people always lead to periodic clashes. The outcome of the confrontation depends only on the behavior of the parties. Sometimes it helps to better understand the feelings and position of another.

Important signs

Not every confrontation can be considered something serious. A conflict situation has three main characteristics:

  1. Difference in views on one problem;
  2. Activity on each side;
  3. Reluctance of people to look for a solution to the situation.

Stages of conflict - a brief description of the main stages in psychology

Two or more people can participate in a conflict. Everyone will defend their position and point of view. Often the process of confrontation is associated with high emotional intensity.

Important! In psychology, it is generally accepted that conflict is always conscious. Each participant understands well what he is doing and why. Therefore, such situations do not arise on their own. Conflicts arise in any environment and at all social levels.

An experienced specialist will easily give a brief forecast of the outcome of the confrontation, because this phenomenon has already been well studied in psychology.


Rivalry is a type of behavior when a subject strives to satisfy his own interests, causing damage to the interests of the opposing subject. Following the presented strategy, a person is confident that only one participant can gain the upper hand in a conflict, and victory for one will always mean defeat for the other. A person who prefers competition will “push his line” in every way available to him. They will not take into account the opposite position.

Basic human actions with the “Competition” strategy

  • Tight control over your opponent's actions
  • Constant and deliberate pressure on an opponent by any means
  • The use of deception and tricks to create an advantage in one’s favor
  • Provoking your opponent to make mistakes and ill-considered steps
  • Reluctance to engage in constructive dialogue due to overconfidence

Pros and cons of the “Rivalry” strategy

Rigidly defending one's position can, of course, help the subject gain the upper hand in the event of a conflict. But such a strategy cannot be applied if the subsequent interaction of people involves long-term relationships, for example, joint work, friendship, love. After all, relationships can develop and generally have the right to exist only if the desires and interests of all people are taken into account, and the defeat of one will mean defeat for everyone. Therefore, if the person with whom you have a conflict is dear to you or the relationship with him is important to you for some reason, it is better not to use the strategy of competition to resolve the conflict.



There are several types of conflicts. Each of them has its own characteristics and consequences.


This group includes confrontations that affect interests. For example, a husband and wife have different views on creating a common budget.

Disputes may also concern who will watch TV.

In severe cases, this type of conflict leads to separation. Its main symptom is the reluctance to make concessions and the desire to defend one’s interests at all costs.


It begins when the sphere of values ​​is affected. Different views on life do not always lead to conflicts.

Important! Problems begin when one person decides to infringe on the values ​​of another.

For example, a husband and wife do not have the same views on family life. The husband sees himself as the head of the family, and the wife at this time wants to build a career. If they start forcing each other to change their beliefs, then conflict is inevitable.


Occurs when a person violates accepted standards of decency. For example, rules of behavior may be established in a team. If an individual begins to consciously violate them, this will lead to confrontation.


There are different definitions of conflict, which made it possible to identify five ways to classify them.


Thus, the basis of the first classification was the method of resolving the problem: antagonistic and compromise. In the first case, people turn to competition, in the second, they find concessions.

Nature of occurrence

Conflicts can arise against the background of social, ethnic, religious and other problems. A difference in views in itself does not lead to confrontation. The problem begins when one person believes his values ​​are the only correct ones. In this case, the other will defend his point of view.

Direction of impact

With horizontal confrontation, people are at the same social level, with vertical confrontation, one is subordinate to the other. The difference between them is the presence of authority and power. The manager has more methods of coercive influence, while colleagues have an equal position.

Degree of expression

In an open form of confrontation, the participants understand well what is happening; in a hidden form, they are poorly aware of the consequences of their decisions. With a potential confrontation, the atmosphere only becomes tense and can escalate at any moment.

Number of participants

There are various factors that lead to conflicts. They can involve either 2-3 people or entire groups. Therefore, confrontations are distinguished according to the number of participants: intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup.

Features of interpersonal conflict

Situations of confrontations between individuals are observed in various areas of human activity. After all, any conflict in any case comes down to interpersonal confrontation.

The problems of interpersonal conflicts were studied to a greater extent by followers of the psychological approach in conflictology. The following main concepts of interpersonal confrontation can be distinguished:

— psychoanalytic approach (K. Horney);

— theory of needs satisfaction (K. Levin);

— theory of context dependence (M. Deutsch).

According to the psychoanalytic tradition, Horney interpreted interpersonal confrontation as the result of intrapersonal conflict. In other words, intrapersonal confrontation is primary, and interpersonal conflict is secondary. Thus, intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts are always interconnected, since the interpersonal interaction of an individual is predetermined by the nature of his resolution of his own intrapersonal differences. Since conflicts that occur within an individual are a collision of opposing values ​​of an individual (interests, motives, needs, ideals), they affect the behavioral response of the individual, his well-being, aspirations, etc. Acute conflicts occurring within the individual lead to the destruction of existing interpersonal relationships at work or in family life.

A subject who is in a state of frustration caused by intrapersonal confrontation experiences emotional stress, as a result of which his behavior in interpersonal confrontation can often take destructive forms aimed at destroying the conditions that impede the fulfillment of needs.

Intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts are interdependent. Often intrapersonal confrontation develops into interpersonal conflicts. In addition, the lack of agreement within the individual affects the escalation of clashes between individuals in the organization.

K. Levin refers to the opposition between individuals as the disagreements that arise between the individual needs of the individual and external objective reality. The level of significance of interpersonal confrontation is explained by the global nature of the needs involved.

M. Deutsch considered confrontation between individuals as an element of the system of interpersonal relationships. He started from five key dimensions of interpersonal interaction and identified sixteen types of social interpersonal relationships.

Eight of these types relate to conflict (competitive) interaction, within which quite diverse relationships develop, taking on different forms.

Interpersonal confrontation is characterized by a number of features. Firstly, the confrontation of individuals in interpersonal confrontations is based on the foundation of the clash of their personal motives and it occurs “here and now.”

Secondly, the characteristics and problems between personalities of conflicts lie in the manifestation in them of the psychological individual characteristics of all participants in the conflict in full. Such characteristics influence the dynamics of the flare-up of interpersonal confrontation, its course, forms of interaction and outcome.

Confrontation between individuals is characterized by increased emotionality, the inclusion of almost all aspects of the relationship between the conflicting participants and affecting the interests of not only the direct participants in the confrontation, but the individuals associated with them through professional or personal relationships.

As a rule, in this type of contradiction, the emotional component prevails over the rational one.

The subjects of interpersonal confrontation are individuals whose system of claims does not coincide. The object is a certain need, the main reason is the means of satisfying it. As a rule, the subject of this type of confrontation is contradictions, including manifestations of opposing interests of the subjects of the conflict situation.

End of the problem

There are several ways to resolve a confrontation. Individuals can choose different strategies on their own. Sometimes the conflict dies down, but it can become active again. In some situations, interest in the fight is lost, then people have nothing more to argue about.

In some situations, third party intervention is acceptable

The main option for resolving a conflict is to find a way to eliminate the problem. To do this, they use negotiations, concessions, and compromise. Sometimes people reach a new stage of confrontation.

Involving third parties can help, although everyone may have a different idea of ​​the outcome of the conflict. Sometimes it is enough to eliminate one of the participants in the confrontation, remove the subject of the dispute, or try to agree on compromises.


Compromise is a partial satisfaction of the interests of all subjects of conflict interaction.

Basic human actions with the “Compromise” strategy

  • Focus on equality of positions
  • Offering your own options in response to your opponent’s offer of options
  • Sometimes using cunning or flattery to gain favor from an opponent
  • Striving to find a mutually beneficial solution

Pros and cons of the “Compromise” strategy

Despite the fact that compromise implies satisfaction of the interests of all subjects of conflict interaction, which, in fact, is fair, it is important to keep in mind that in most situations this strategy should be considered only as an intermediate stage in resolving the situation, preceding the search for the most optimal solution, completely satisfactory to the conflicting parties.



Each conflict will have its own unique characteristics. In some situations it can develop into a serious confrontation. This happens because people want to fight openly; they do not want to make concessions.

Important! Individuals may be determined to continue the confrontation.

Due to emotional tension, conflict resolution is impossible. Things get worse when the confrontation is part of the rejection of the subjects.

There are several concepts of conflict in psychology and philosophy. Such situations arise in the life of every person, so you need to know how to solve them.

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