Difference between conflict and dispute resolution


Most people might question the above title, their main argument being that there is no difference between the terms Conflict and Dispute Resolution.

The dictionary defines conflict as a serious disagreement or argument, typically a long-drawn one. Further, it elaborates on this definition by revealing that the term Conflict refers to a state of disagreement or disharmony. This state of disharmony or opposition is generally between persons, interests, ideas, principles, or values. Conflict is defined as a long-term disagreement, a problem that runs so deep that its issues are generally “non-negotiable.” Given that they are non-negotiable, it also indicates that the possibility of resolving such issues is remote or difficult. Issues considered deep or extremely serious include differences of opinion, morals or values, security, authority, power, and more. Conflicts with such issues, if not resolved, tend to transform into physical violence after that war. The key to identifying the difference between Conflict and Dispute resolution is to think of Conflict as representing a broad, wide circle of issues within which several Disputes may arise. Think of Conflict as a disagreement between persons with a prolonged existence and is more serious. It is not a specific disagreement and thus can include several issues. It is a continuing state of disharmony.

To differentiate between Conflict and Dispute resolution, a Dispute is defined as a short-term disagreement that can be resolved. It further elucidates that a Dispute can be resolved by considering and evaluating the interests of the parties concerned and determining their rights through a reasonable solution. In a legal context, a Dispute is defined as a disagreement on the point of law or fact or over certain legal rights, obligations, and interests between two or more parties. It follows, then, that a Dispute refers to a specific disagreement, one in which the issues can be resolved by applying relevant law or rules. Thus, in the case of a Dispute, the parties can argue their case and come to some form of settlement. Typically, a Dispute entails one party seeking to enforce certain rights or claims and the other party opposing such a position. Disputes can be heard in court or through alternative forms such as arbitration and mediation. An example of a Dispute is when an employee seeks to enforce a certain right or claim against their employer. This claim can be about working hours, overtime, or leave.

What is the difference between Conflict and Dispute?

• A Dispute is a short-term disagreement, while a Conflict is a long-term disagreement.

• Conflicts, unlike Disputes, cannot be easily resolved, and the possibility of resolving them is very remote. In contrast, a Dispute can be resolved through judicial or other means.

• A Conflict refers to a broad area of issues, and within this broad area, specific Disputes can arise. Thus, Disputes may stem from a Conflict.

• Disputes can be easily resolved by dealing with the specific issue at hand and coming to a final determination. This is not the same with Conflict.

• Conflicts are more serious and sensitive in nature and volatile in terms of resolution.

A better approach is to keep the long-term Conflict in mind to resolve disputes. If disputes are resolved collaboratively, it paves the way for de-escalation of the long-running Conflict and a transformation of hostile relations.