Career & Jobs

Conflict Resolution, Management, Or Engagement?

Have you ever thought about the difference between the terms conflict resolution and conflict management? According to Google trends, the term conflict resolution is at least three times more popular than conflict management.

Conflict is an inevitable part of our lives, and addressing it is crucial to building strong, long-lasting relationships. The terms conflict resolution and conflict management are often used interchangeably, but they have different connotations that may affect how we approach conflict and our mindset around the topic.

Conflict resolution implies a final solution and may give a false sense of security that once the conflict is resolved, it’s over. However, Jon-Rico Wigfall, Ed.M., an Account Executive at Google suggests that, while some conflicts can be resolved, others require ongoing management, and there are a variety of variables that impact the level of conflict intensity.


Conflict is not an event with a beginning and an end, it’s a continuous process that requires ongoing engagement. Conflict management is a more practical term that recognizes the ongoing nature of conflict and helps us manage it while understanding that we may never fully resolve it.

The terms conflict management and conflict resolution may come with some negative connotations. Management can feel like a burden, and resolution implies a problem that needs to be solved. But conflict can be an opportunity for positive change.

How can we reframe our perspective?


Andrea Flack-Wetherald, author of The Funny Thing About Forgiveness, suggests using the term “conflict engagement.” She believes that conflict is not an event with a beginning and an end, it’s a continuous process that requires ongoing engagement and that process starts as soon as the relationship begins.

The concept of conflict engagement takes it a step further by acknowledging that conflict is a continuum. Conflict management begins before a discernible conflict even begins, and when a conflict arises, we need to continue managing it by using more acute conflict management skills. And if during that process we have the opportunity to resolve the conflict, we do so. But as long as the relationship continues to exist, we will continue to stay in the continuum of engagement through perpetual conflict management.

It’s crucial to recognize that there’s more to conflict than just resolving it. Flack-Wetherald notes that even after a conversation ends, feelings may linger, and new ones may arise. Conflict engagement requires holding a wide lens when it comes to conflict and holding space for the reactions and ripple effects after we leave the room.


However, I will say that as a lawyer, I believe the term conflict resolution has its place in the legal world, where people come with problems that need to be resolved in order for the parties to move on. But in personal and business relationships, conflict engagement is a more appropriate term. In these relationships, conflict is ongoing, and continuous engagement it is crucial to building long-lasting connections.

Our mindset around how we think about conflict will impact how we engage with it. If we approach it with the expectation of a final solution, we may miss opportunities for growth and learning. But if we approach it with the understanding that conflict is ongoing and requires continuous management and engagement, we can build stronger, more resilient relationships.

In conclusion, conflict management and conflict engagement are more appropriate terms than conflict resolution. Conflict is a continuum that requires ongoing engagement, and managing it is crucial to building strong, long-lasting relationships. By understanding the ongoing nature of conflict, we can approach it with the right mindset and build stronger connections.


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