What are the conflict stages?

Updated February 21, 2017

Conflict can derail a business or ruin a friendship. Recognising that conflict is about to happen and working toward a resolution can get you back on track. Conflict happens in four recognisable stages. Before the actual conflict arises, warning signs, such as poor communication, a visible lack of teamwork and parties with different perceptions of events, can all be a sign conflict is about to occur.

Conflict Potential

This phase also is known as the latent conflict stage. This occurs before the actual conflict happens and at this stage, differences in culture, understanding or habits might lead to a conflict without sensitivity or intervention. Differences exist between groups or individuals that bother the other side, but those differences haven't caused a conflict yet. The differences aren't enough to cause one side to act and confront the other side, or otherwise act on the conflict.

Open Conflict

Usually a triggering event brings the conflict into the open phase. The triggering event might be words or actions by someone on the other side or even a neutral third party. Conflict is obvious and one or both sides acts on the conflict, including confronting the other side or even using physical violence. Acts of passive aggression, such as talking behind the other person's back also are common during this phase. If more than two people get involved at this stage, the conflict usually lasts longer.


Conflict stops through negotiation. In friendships, this means sitting down and talking about differences and how both friends can come to an agreement or forgive each other for past grievances. Often an intermediary is used to get two sides to start negotiation talks. In the workplace, this often means a supervisor instructs all sides to work together. The threat of a loss of job can make all parties willing to work toward a solution.

Aftermath Conflict

Even after negotiations, conflict can re-arise or never stop in the aftermath phase if both sides aren't satisfied or a new triggering event occurs. If one of the parties is a self-perceived loser in the first conflict, this phase can trigger an even larger conflict. However, often conflicts are ended at this phase. This is often called the peacemaking phase because the conflict is set aside and both parties reach a resolution.

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About the Author

Kristine Brite worked as a community journalist and public relations specialist before moving onto freelance writing. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Indiana University and has six years of professional writing experience.