Social theorist Axel Honneth explains the significant role conflict plays for a person’s healthy sense of identity and individualisation as follows: Individuals learn about who they are through interactions with others. Thus they derive a sense of self and identity through social processes of approval and recognition.
Any forms of disrespect, for example rudeness, insult, humiliation, the withholding of care or support, the withholding of rights that are enjoyed by other members of society, discrimination, marginalisation, the lack of appreciation or acceptance for one’s way of life, abuse, rape, or torture cause a threat to a person’s integrity and self-development and could bring the whole identity of a person to a collapse.
Thus conflict is to a large extent unpleasant and difficult to cope with because it threatens a person’s positive sense of self and evokes shame, rage, hurt, or indignation.
Conflict is all around us in marriages, partnerships, families, working teams, institutions, between friends, businesses partners, countries, religious groups, and competitors. Conflict arises when individuals, groups, or organisations find themselves in situations where their needs, values, or interest clash. Three other factors have a significant part in establishing and maintaining conflict. They are: misperceptions, transference, and prejudice. Add to it greed and sheer stupidity, you have a mix that makes conflicts one of the most complex social experiences.
Because people respond to their perception rather than reality, their behavioural and emotional responses are based on evaluations of any given situation that are easily flawed. Elegant, constructive, and effective conflict resolution relies on understanding the true threat to one’s identity and applying strategies that are able to manage the conflict.