Oct 26, 2010

Contemplating Conflict

By: Rebecca Irvine

My (late) post idea today comes (again) from teaching communications. Lately we have been studying conflict, which of course is a central element to good writing. See if you have considered use of all the various types of conflict in your manuscript.

Substantive Conflict: conflict over issues, goals, or ideas; this type of conflict is healthy and good as it enables a group to move closer toward its end goal. Groups without substantive conflict are unhealthy and fall into groupthink.

Affective Conflict: conflict between personality types, backgrounds, personal beliefs, etc. Affective conflict is present in every relationship. It should be balanced with an appreciation for diversity in others.

Procedural Conflict: conflict over how things are accomplished/done. Procedural conflict is almost always present in generational gaps between people, as well as in gender and cultural differences.

Quite often there are overlaps between these three types of conflict. For example, a newlywed couple may argue about taking out the trash. There may be elements of substantive conflict (his idea of a clean house is different than hers), affective conflict (her approach to the trash conflict is bossy and his is laid back), and procedural conflict (in his family the mother always took out the trash, while in hers it was the father) in one single argument.

Happy conflict writing!


  1. I'm rolling applying this to my dad and I. How can I be his child and have such different ways???? And no I'm not like my mom either.

  2. Love the information, Rebecca. With 7 extra people staying with us (from a total of 4 different families)it really helps to stand back and look at the different perspectives and the conflicts that can follow. and..I am usually somewhere in the middle of it. hugs~

  3. This is really good information for analyzing relationships both fictional and nonfictinal.


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