When we analyze through history, psychology and politics, how conflicts arise and more importantly, how they evolve , we realize that they all follow a general pattern.
In this article, we are going to learn about the 4 phases of a conflict, which, although initially described for military conflicts such as wars, can even be applied to interpersonal conflicts by adapting some of the particular features. What is a war/conflict
First of all, in the event that we want to apply the different phases of a conflict to the specific case of a war, we must define what it is. To do this, we are going to list the 7 characteristics that make up every war, in order to differentiate it from a simple conflict. Of course, any conflict has several of these characteristics .
As we can see, if we change certain elements that are going to be mentioned (especially those related to legal issues), many of these characteristics can be applied to a conflict between two street gangs, a couple that is divorcing or even political parties. They are “at war” . Characteristics of a war or conflict
Wars meet these 7 characteristics, while conflicts may present only some of them, and others vary substantially. 1. Incompatibility
There are two groups that perceive each other as incompatible. 2. Polarization
Both groups have opposite ideas . Each perceives their ideas and characteristics as positive and those of the other as negative. 3. Submission
The main objective is to submit the other group to one’s own ideology. 4. Organization
The armed conflict follows rules (written or not) according to the institutions that confront each other. Each of the opposing groups will take legal action(apparently) that they justify their actions in favor of the welfare of the people and the need to mitigate the threat.
This is seen for example in the media and propaganda , or the resolution of the so-called “preventive war” (attack before they attack me). 5. Harm
Decisions made revolve around harming the other group and lessening the damage to one’s own . 6. Social phenomenon
In one way or another, the entire society (or the majority) that makes up each of the groups joins the conflict or is involuntarily involved in it. 7. Own rules
Even before the war itself, there were already a series oflaws that regulate everything related to conflict . The 4 phases of any conflict
Next, we are going to break down the 4 stages of any conflict according to its characteristics. 1. Forge
Strictly speaking, this first phase explains what variables are necessary for the conflict to appear , therefore, there is still no conflict as such. Anyway, its characteristics are essential, important and the following. 1.1. Opposed groups
They are perceived as opposite and incompatible. They are not usually more than two since in the long run there is a tendency to make alliances for convenience . They tend to disagree especially on economic, ideological and religious issues.1.2. Enemy
search When a group has problems, they usually look for those responsible. The vast majority of the time, the easiest thing is to look for people in charge outside the group. 1.3. Identification and polarization
When an enemy has been identified, the group gains cohesion because a common goal is created . In addition, as we have mentioned in the characteristics of any conflict, the people in the group feel identified with it because of the ideals for which they are fighting and they label themselves as positive, unlike the ideals of the other group. 1.4. First violent acts
Due to all of the above, any violent act, sometimes however minimal, will be interpreted as a major attack that deserves to be punished. In fact,this happens because the group wants to confront each other and they use that act to justify the beginning of the conflict. 1.5. Intensification of the violence
Right after the first act, the violence will begin to spread between all the components of the group and to become more intense. 1.6. Time
The longer the above characteristics are maintained, the more likely a conflict or war will break out . 2. Escalation
Already having the gunpowder and having fired the detonator, the escalation of the conflict begins, making the situation go from bad to worse. 2.1. Tactics
More premeditated tactics and plans are put into motion, whichThey increase in hardness over time . 2.2. Proliferation
Problems go from being, from a few, to many or even to being everyone. This makes the participation higher. 23. Displacement
People go from fighting for the problems they suffer to fighting for people. Namely, the focus shifts to people and not so much to initial issues or ideologies . In such a way that the important thing is not what the other group does or what the people who belong to it do, but rather the simple fact of belonging to the other group is already a problem, regardless of the way of acting. 2.4. Motives
Motivations begin to change. It is no longer important to achieve the initial objectives , but rather to harm the other and get them to earn as little as possible, even if one has to make sacrifices. 3. Stagnation
After the escalation, there is a phase of stagnation or plateau. In this, the situation does not evolve, things do not get worse, but they do not improve either.. This phase is only reached if there has been no “winner” and no one has given up. However, the possibility of a re-escalation cannot be ruled out. 3.1. Failure
Both groups begin to realize that, despite the time, resources and efforts invested, the expected objectives have not been met . In such a way that the options contemplated are not viable. 3.2. Exhaustion
The resources that were initially available have been exhausted or are in reserves. This can reach such a point that even if it is intended to continue, it can be materially impossible . 3.3. Loss of support
More and more people in the group begin to question the conflict and lose interest in it .. Also the external organizations and groups that supported the conflict, can rethink it and doubt it. 3.4. Too high costs
The benefits that were initially thought to be obtained lose weight and are no longer profitable . 4. De-escalation
When the characteristics of the stalemate take on sufficient force, the sustenance of the conflict begins to collapse and dissolve. On the other hand, to reach an effective de-escalation, both groups must go from competing to cooperating. 4.1. Increased contact
Communication and understanding between the two groups increases. This allows to eliminate stereotypes and reduce the initial polarization. 4.2. Creation of meetingsPhysical spaces are created and time is devoted to dialogue . All this accompanied by times of truce that allow contact with the minimum presence of tensions. 4.3. Common
objectives Shared objectives are sought, such as the reduction of resources destined for the conflict, the reduction of deaths and damage, etc. In this way , the importance of seeking desirable objectives for both sides is emphasized . 4.4. Unilateral
concessions These concessions are characterized by being small demonstrations of faith towards the other side. Only then can lasting peace be built . Thus, each will give in to the requests of the other for the good of all. conflict management
Knowing now the different phases and characteristics of any conflict, it will be much easier to anticipate and take action against it. In the first place, the phase of the conflict
must be identified . In this way, we will understand the situation that is experienced. In addition, it will be very important to analyze the conflict from the two (or more) groups that are participating.
Then we will look for the motivations that encourage each group to continue with the dynamics and the objectives that each one seeks. It will be at this moment when, taking into account the characteristics of the phase they are in, we will try to find tools that cut the vicious circle. In general,boosting the factors of the fourth phase is usually the best way to accelerate peace. To learn more:
Alzate, R. (1998), Analysis and conflict resolution: a psychological perspective. Bilbao, Spain. UPV-EHU.
del Nogal, M. (2015), Psychological Warfare, Madrid, Spain. Ed. Group 5.
de la Corte, L., Blanco, A. and Sabucedo, JM (2004). Psychology and human rights. Barcelona, ​​Spain. Ed. Icaria.
Redorta, J. (2001). Community mediation today. Social Services and Social Policy, 53: 105-110.