There are five main causes of conflict: information conflicts, values conflicts, interest conflicts, relationship conflicts, and structural conflicts.
Information conflicts arise when people have different or insufficient information, or disagree over what data is relevant. Allowing sufficient time to be heard, in a respectful environment facilitated by a neutral person can allow parties to clear up information disparities.
Values conflicts are created when people have perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Where a person or group tries to impose its values on others or claims exclusive right to a set of values, disputes arise. While values may be non-negotiable, they can be discussed and people can learn to live peacefully and coherently alongside each other.
Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived or actual incompatible needs. Such conflicts may occur over issues of money, resources, or time. Parties often mistakenly believe that in order to satisfy their own needs, those of their opponent must be sacrificed. A mediator can help identify ways to dovetail interests and create opportunities for mutual gain.
Relationship conflicts occur when there are misperceptions, strong negative emotions, or poor communication. One person may distrust the other and believe that the other person’s actions are motivated by malice or an intent to harm the other. Relationship conflicts may be addressed by allowing each person uninterrupted time to talk through the issues and respond to the other person’s concerns.
Structural conflicts are caused by oppressive behaviors exerted on others. Limited resources or opportunity as well as organization structures often promote conflict behavior. The parties may well benefit from mediation since the forum will help neutralize the power imbalance.
Regardless of the cause of conflict, an experienced mediator can help parties shift their focus from fighting to resolution. Since they are necessarily unbiased, neutrals create an environment where parties can trust the process and work toward a solution.