Social conflicts generally arise when people pursue their self-interests with less regard to other people’s interests or values. As a result, one party perceives the goals or actions of the other as incompatible with its own leading to a conflict. Although conflict may affect relations between the parties involved, if well understood, it offers an opportunity for ending oppression and promoting better human relations.
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In addition, conflict forces people to engage in resolving a common problem. If a conflict is effectively managed, peace is achieved as the concerned parties reconcile their differences and reach a mutual agreement (Giroux, 1993, p.137). In achieving peace, it is important that parties involved in a conflict develop a deeper understanding of their culture and the cultures of the others, which can facilitate dialogue between parties involved in a dispute.
To achieve peace and tranquility in conflict situations, there is nothing better than personal interactions and communication through dialogue. Dialogue is one way of achieving peace and solving interpersonal, national, and international disputes. Additionally, increasing cross-cultural interactions is important in peace-building initiatives as it promotes understanding, which results to peace and prosperity (Giroux, 1993, p.141).
To promote interactions between parties involved in a conflict, dialogue is essential. The major impediment to peace is failure of the conflicting parties to understand and appreciate each other’s perspectives to an issue. To achieve peace, therefore, it is important that the parties involved learn to understand and appreciate one another’s values and interests through dialogue and interactions.
Conflicts primarily arise when various parties pursue self-interests while neglecting the other people’s needs. The pursuit of individual interests creates a social dilemma, which may turn out to be detrimental to all people. However, through and communication, the social dilemmas can be resolved. Dialogue promotes group identity, which consequently promotes concern for collective welfare (Giroux, 1993, p.142).
Conflicts also arise when groups or people compete for scarce resources leading to group identity and polarization. Due to competition, one group perceives the other as the ‘outside group’ and develops negative perceptions towards the ‘outside group’ members. Meanwhile, the in-group members become more cohesive and at the same time proud. Nevertheless, through dialogue, the two groups can reconcile and find a way of resolving their differences.
Perceived injustices can also lead to a conflict especially if one party feels that he/she is unfairly treated. If resources are not distributed equitably, the party that feels exploited can turn aggressive and harass the one perceived to have over benefitted or plan for revenge.
However, through collective dialogue, the group perceived to have over benefitted unfairly can offer an apology or compensation to the other group. This would also prevent future retaliation by the exploited group. Misperceptions of each other’s goals or actions may also cause a situation to degenerate into a conflict.
Misperceptions arise when an individual interprets information or a situation in a biased or self-serving way. As a result, negative stereotypes of the out-group are developed, as each group perceives the other’s goals as incompatible with its own. Dialogue allows the conflicting parties to understand each other’s perspectives in a particular conflict and dispels negative stereotypes and misperceptions.
The strategies that mitigate the causes of conflicts provide effective ways of preventing a situation deteriorating into a conflict. To solve conflicts and attain peace, dialogue is integral to any peace building initiatives. Dialogue encompasses contact or interactions, communication, cooperation, and conciliation, which are the main strategies of achieving peace (Myers, 2010, p.483-501).
By encouraging communication between the conflicting parties, people are able to resolve their interpersonal differences. Communication can occur through bargaining, where the parties seek an agreement by engaging in direct negotiations. Mediation is also another way of achieving peace through communication.
In mediation, a third party, who should be bipartisan, facilitates communication between the two groups and suggests recommendations to both parties (Potegal, 1997, p.309). Communication can also be facilitated through arbitration, where a neutral third party imposes a settlement that each party must adhere.
In a case where communication may not be possible like during tense international relations, conciliation is the most appropriate strategy. Under conciliation, each party is required to reciprocate positive initiatives from the rival party, which helps to reduce retaliation that prevents the conflict from escalating. One effective conciliatory strategy is GRIT (Graduated and reciprocated initiatives in tension reduction); the most effective strategy in resolving international conflicts (Myers, 2010, p.503).
Peace can be achieved through cooperation, which is particularly important in reducing hostility between groups. By promoting cooperation in various activities, competition, which is one of the causes of conflicts, is avoided. Contact is another strategy of achieving peace in that, contact through frequent interactions enables both groups to understand each other’s cultures and viewpoints, which in turn promotes dialogue to attain peace.
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In order to achieve peace, it requires all the involved parties to engage in a collective effort towards achieving peace. Prior to engaging in conflict resolution, information about the causes of the conflict and the context of the conflict is important. Given that conflicts generally arise due to pursuit of individual interests, dialogue through cooperation, communication, interaction, and conciliation ensures that the diverse interests of each individual are addressed for a common good.
Giroux, H. (1993). Living dangerously: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Difference. New York: Peter Lang.
Myers, D. G. (2010) Social Psychology (9th Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Potegal, M. (1997). Appeasement and Reconciliation. Aggressive Behavior, 23, 309-314.