Conflict is part of being human … but it can be avoided.

ALL … and I mean ALL conflict arises from a CONFLICT of NEEDS. While this seems trite on the surface, I want each reader to remember this key point for now. So the next time you or a loved one (or you AND your loved one) are in ANY kind of conflict you’ll now be armed with this simple personal insight.

A conflict of needs can be between two people, two groups of people, two institutions1, or even two or more conflicting needs in one person. I’ll give examples below, but for now, know that conflicting needs by definition are mutually exclusive. That means that both parties CANNOT get their needs met at the same time. The two opposing needs are in conflict. One party must relinquish their need, or some compromise must be found where each party gets a portion met. When I say “list” of needs, it’s rare when a person or group is trying to get a single need met. More common is that the party is seeking to get several needs me, or a need that is based on another foundational need (see my post on “Chained Needs”.

Here are some examples:

1. Institutional, Country, Political needs:

International conflict

International conflict of needs

PARTY A) “We need this land. The creator gave it to us. Therefore, we’re entitled to it.2 It is OURS!”

PARTY B) “We need this land. We’ve been farming it for the last 500 years. Therefore, we’re entitled to it.It is OURS!”

[The need is for the same piece of land.]

2. Two people in conflict:

PARTY A) “That’s MY parking spot! I saw it first!”

PARTY B) “That’s MY parking spot! I was waiting here!”

[The need is for the same piece of land … errr … parking space.]

3. Conflict between an organization* and a customer:

PARTY A, organization) “We need to cut costs*. We’ll relocate our customer support center to a country where we can pay lower wages.”

PARTY B, customer) “I need to get my issue resolved quickly. I really need to talk to a human being who speaks my language.”

* There’s no such thing as an organization when it comes to needs. It’s really the needs or collective needs of those running the organization.

** [unsaid: “… so that we can make more profits.” This is an example of a “Chained Need”.]

[In this case, PARTY A’s need conflicts with that os PARTY B (by increasing the time and efficiency in getting PARTY B’s issue resolved). Furthermore, the potential for frustration and loss of “customer loyalty” is created causing a conflict with PARTY A’s need to make more profits. If they alienate customers, profits will decrease in the long term.]

4. Conflict between two people:

PARTY A) “I have so much anger inside of me and I need to express it in any way I can.” (PARTY A acts out against PARTY B with physical violence)

PARTY B) “I need to maintain my physical safety.”

[Here the needs differ … and are clearly mutually exclusive. While both PARTIES needs’ ARE valid, PARTY’A’s actions in order to get his/her need met is certainly inappropriate.]

5. Conflicting needs in one person

SCENARIO A) “I really need to do my taxes, otherwise I’ll be in a very uncomfortable situation.”

SCENARIO B) “Oh my god! Andrew asked me out on a date tonight and I’ve been dying for him to notice me.”

[In this scene, one person has two conflicting needs. However there might be room for compromise or alternative solutions … thus alleviating the conflict.]


conflict of needs

1 See my post titled “Do Governments Have Needs? ”

2 See my post titled “Entitlement Part I

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