VIE+W | Conflict management in the youth field

Conflicts are an integral part of young people’s everyday life. They are related to going through different phases of awareness, identification and realization. The common idea is that they represent negative situations which are related to falling into profound crisis. In fact, conflicts are to a great extent a motive power towards change and development. They help for the development of the ability to overcome hostile feelings and searching for things that bring people together. Going all the way to solving conflicts, young people learn to cooperate and put themselves in the shoes of the opposite party. Conflicts are a great catalyst for initiating an effective communication.

Conflicts exist in all communities – social, national, professional, religious, etc. In this connection, Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of Sociology, writes: ‘Conflicts are universal phenomena in social life, but they are not quite universal with respect to cooperation, contacts and unity between people. If the conflict is solved effectively and peacefully, it has a twofold role – a signal for social issue and simultaneously, a means for restoring social balance’.

Therefore, it should be assumed that conflicts are a natural and integral part of young people’s lives, so this is why it is important for conflicts to be foreseen and it is necessary to adopt methods for overcoming them.

Psychological strain occurs as a result of the accumulation of numerous unsettled conflicts which has its negative physical and material consequences. Young people get stressed and this reduces the limen of sensations, it narrows one’s awareness, it manifests as rigidity in the mental process, depression, a drop in one’s motivation and desire to work. As a result of the great amount of energy spent during the conflict process, one’s activity is also lowered. Having in mind all these negative consequences over individuals and communities, we understand why it is so important to solve conflicts.

The key to overcoming a conflict is to create a connection or regenerate such within the community. We don’t have to like someone in order to create a connection with him or her. The common goal unites and provokes towards tolerance and making compromise. It is necessary to create an environment of friendship and trust, mutual respect, positivism and cooperation. Leaders must learn how to create balance and listen patiently to young people. They must encourage other people to talk about the issue so that a constructive strategy for problem solving is formed.

It is important to keep an open and calm conversation which focuses on the positive result and is directed towards a common goal. Each attempt to manifest hostility, criticism or aggression is inappropriate. It is necessary to provide an atmosphere of comfort and safety. Conversations must be interactive, and everyone should be able to share his or her opinion freely without being afraid of rejection. These components will result in the establishment of sincere and productive two-sided relationships. An essential aspect of positive communication in moments like this is to use the energy of the body, emotions, intellect and spirit by taking part in team games and amusements.

In order to maintain an effective dialogue, we must find the reason behind the conflict. Among the common reasons behind disagreements are differences in goals, interests and values. It is crucial to determine if a certain conflict relates to interests or to needs. Interests are more fleeting and shallower – like property, money or career; needs are more fundamental, they are not subject to negotiations – such as identity, security and respect. Many conflicts arise over interests, but they actually refer to needs. For instance, when losing his or her promotion at work, one can seem upset by the loss of additional money, but the real pain is caused by the loss of respect or loss of identity.

We must also mention the positive results from conflicts. These are: solving issues which are caused by contradiction and clashes when having mutual interests and goals, achieving understanding and trust and strengthening partner relationships. The establishment of cooperation, the overcoming of conformism, subordination and the aspiration towards supremacy are all an integral part of coping with conflict situations.

by Krasimira Drumeva


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