The 7 Basic Elements of Conflict

What Are the 7 Basic Elements of Conflict?

One of the causes of resistance to change is fear of the unknown. I believe that most people are very uncomfortable in addressing conflicts because they can’t understand how conflict emerges nor do they know how to approach them.

In his book “The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution”, Dudley Weeks provides an interesting description of the basic elements that characterize conflicts. I have found his description very enlightening and use it often to help my clients understand why conflicts arise.

The 7 Elements

Diversity and Differences



Values and Principles

Feelings and Emotions

Internal Conflicts

I am sharing here what Dudley Weeks actually wrote.


Diversity and Differences

“Within our diversity as humans there are differences in perceptions, needs, values, desires, goals, opinions, and many other components of human interaction. These differences often lead to conflict.”

“The point is not to remove the differences but to use those differences to (1) clarify our understanding of each other and the (2) consider ideas and possibilities we may not have thought about, and (3) see if there are aspects of the relationship on which we can build effectively to improve the relationship.”


“Needs are conditions we perceive we cannot do without, or that we believe are critical to well-being and development of a relationship.”

“Conflicts can arise when we ignore the needs of the other party, our own needs, or the needs of the relationship. We harm the relationship when we ignore the needs of others. They feel they are not being treated as valuable and their contribution to the relationship suffers,”

“Failing to clarify and act on other peoples’ needs as they perceive them, creates conflicts. Some people become so concerned with not appearing selfish that they ignore their own needs in the relationship.”

For a detailed tool on how to uncover needs see my article Questions to Uncover Needs in Conflict, 2015/07/28


“People interpret reality differently. Many conflicts are the direct result of perceptions and misperceptions. Unless people first clarify how each is actually perceiving the situation, effective conflict resolution is unlikely.”


As Dudley Weeks explains, “How we define power and how we use it greatly influence the number and nature of conflicts within our relationships and the way we deal with them.”

“Many people behave as though they see power as the ability to make others behave as they want them to.” This often happens in labour negotiations.

So, how do you personally define power?

How do you use your power?

What have been the results?

Values and Principles

According to Wikipedia, personal values provide an internal reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable and constructive. Values generate behaviour and influence the choices made by an individual.

According to Weeks, values and principles can lead to conflict when people jump to the conclusion that the conflict they are involved in is one of values and principles. The key question is, how important is the particular value to the overall relationship?

Feelings and Emotions

“Most conflicts involve some investment of feelings and emotions. In many cases, people let feelings and emotions become the primary determiners in dealing with conflict.”

Internal conflicts arise when you do not control emotions and often ignore your own needs.

We have looked at the basic elements of conflict. We can use those descriptions to help us reflect on the situations we face and have a much better understanding of what is really happening. It will then be easier to start dealing with the differences.

Jean-Paul Gagnon, ACC, CHRP is a professional coach, certified as CINERGY Conflict Management Coach. He is also a trained practitioner in conflict resolution. He is a mediator in the workplace and a volunteer community mediator. He has over 35 years of experience in Human Resource Management.                    

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