8.7.2 Learning about conflict

Exercise, handout number Time Method material
Opening session 10 min Exchange in a circle – what has happened since our last meeting regarding conflicts?
 Conflict definition 10 min Brainstorming of the students and then presentation of the Glasl definition Copies
Guideline conflict styles 40 min Self-assessment: How do you handle conflicts? Understanding of behavior patterns Copies
Types of conflict 15 min Copies
Conflict escalation model 15-30 min Copies
Evaluation 5 min

Handout 3: Conflict definition

 At two who interact

There is a difference in goals, values, interests, needs, perceptions, ideas, resources

Negative emotions arise

At least one person is hindered in what he/she wants to achieve.


  • Katharina Schilling, Peacebuilding and conflict resolution – Methods and games to facilitate training sessions, 2012, p. 99

Handout 4: Guideline conflict styles

Self-assessment: How do you handle conflicts?



40 minutes


In order to understand behavior patterns of other persons (students) in a conflict situation it is helpful to reflect one´s own conflict behavior. How do the participants handle conflicts?  Is a direct confrontation preferred or other strategies (e.g. avoidance, distraction, finding compromises)?


Flipchart and markers

Instruction for implementation:

The facilitators/trainers  inform the participants  that they  will introduce an exercise reflecting different conflict behavior patterns.  There are five different personal types which are symbolized by animal metaphors:

Tiger –  Attack
A tiger stands for an attitude which wants to discuss problems right away. Being strong and self- confident the tiger puts things on the table, attacks rather than withdraws. His attitude can be challenging or even frightening to others.

Dog  –  Defense
A dog symbolizes someone who defends himself and tries to justify his or her own behavior without really listening or trying to understand the other position.

Mouse   –  Escape
A mouse prefers to escape potentially dangerous situations. She will hide in her mousehole until the storm is over. The conflict strategy is to avoid or flee.

Fox    – Distraction
A fox represents an attitude of distraction in a conflict situation. The fox doesn´t comment the problem but rather brings up another issue or tries to involve other persons to change the focus of the given situation.

Owl- Reconciliation
An owl is able to turn her head completely thus seeing everything and valuing all parties in a conflict. She tries to build bridges, to encourage conversation and find compromises. She doesn´t take sides.

The trainers ask the participants to choose an animal which reflects their own patterns, not to a hundred percent but as the main characteristic. Form working groups according to the animal identification.  Ask the participants to brainstorm advantages and disadvantages of the specific conflict type.

The working groups meet for appr.  20 minutes, afterward the facilitators collect the results on a flipchart.

Evaluation procedure: Participants will be encouraged to discuss whether there is an optimal strategy how to deal with conflicts and will discover that each behavior pattern offers chances but has also traps. The position of the owl is representative of an attitude which tries to see both sides of a conflict.


  • The categories are based on V. Satir, in Claude Helene Mayer, Trainingshandbuch Interkulturelle Mediation und Konfliktlösung, 2006

Handout 5: Types of conflict

Conflicts over information and priorities

  • Are not sufficiently informed.
  • Have different opinions/ priorities concerning facts or data.
  • Got the wrong information.
  • Different sets of criteria.

Conflicts of interest

  • Have different interests and needs.
  • Experience assumed or actual competition
  • Try to enlarge their personal power.

Relationship conflicts

  • Experience strong positive or negative feelings with regard to another student.
  • Don´t communicate appropriately anymore .
  • Don´t listen to each other.
  • Develop false perceptions or prejudices.

Values conflicts

  • Have different values and norms.
  • Pursue differing goals.
  • Represent differing lifestyles, basic convictions, religious views, ideologies, values…

Structural conflicts

  • Show destructive patterns in their behavior and interaction.
  • Have different personal or social resources.
  • There is an imbalance of power and authority.

  • Bensberger Studien 18, Anders streiten lernen, Konflikte schlichten in der Sekundarstufe, 2010, p.11, revised by Beate Roggenbuck

Handout 6: Conflict escalation model

9 stages of conflict escalation – Background information for trainers
The Dynamics of Escalation in Conflicts

Friedrich Glasl defines nine stages of conflict escalation to describe the dynamics of escalation.

A central task within the framework of constructively dealing with conflicts is to compare signs of escalation in conflict with the various stages of de-escalation and find answers and potential for action at all stages, in order to limit violence or prevent it altogether and achieve cooperation and solutions for negotiation. Sensitivity and a realistic perception of what is happening in the conflict are just as important as consciously rethinking and planning one’s own steps.

The Nine Stages of Conflict Escalation according to Friedrich Glasl

  1. Hardening
    Standpoints harden and take on a collision course. Awareness of the impending impact leads to agitation. Despite this, the conviction still remains that tension can be dissipated through discussion. The parties or positions are still flexible.
  1. Debate
    Polarisation of thought, emotion and will take place. Thinking in terms of black and white occurs along with a viewpoint of superiority and inferiority.
  1. Actions, not Words
    The idea that ‘talking no longer helps’ and the strategy of fait accompli gains in importance. Empathy for the ‘other side’ diminishes, and the danger of wrong interpretations grows.
  1. Images/Coalitions
    Rumors spread, stereotypes and clichés are formed. The parties manoeuvre each other into negative positions and fight. A search for supporters takes place.
  1. Loss of face
    Open and direct aggression (unlawful) ensues which aims to cause the opponent to lose face.
  1. Strategies of threats
    Threats and counter threats increase. Escalation of the conflict accelerates due to ultimatums.
  1. Limited attempts to overthrow the opponent
    The opponent is no longer viewed as a person.
    Limited attempts to overthrow the opponent are seen as a ‘fitting’ and carried out. Reversal of values: relatively slight personal damage is seen as a victory.
  1. Dissipation
    The destruction and dissolution of the hostile system are pursued intensively as a goal.
  1. Together into the abyss
    Total confrontation ensues and there is no way back. Extermination of the opponent at the price of self-extermination is seen and accepted.

Conflict escalation model adapted for students: Until the bitter end
  1. The guy/girl is getting on my nerves – tension
    He/she is staring at me. He/she talks behind my back. I can´t stand him/her.
  1. I should talk with him/her – first verbal attacks
    I will talk to him but not listen anymore. I´m not putting up with anything anymore.
    I think about his/her bad sides and talk to others about them.
  1. I´ll show it to him/her – actions, not words
    I will show him/her what I am able to do. He/she is going to remember that.
    I will teach him/her a lesson
  1. I will look for friends and supporters – enemy images and allies
    I will involve my friends. I will draw others who are impartial on my side.
    I am completely innocent, he/she started.
  1. I will embarrass him/her – loss of face
    I will arrange embarrassing situations. I will put him/her down in front of others.
    I spread rumors about him/her.
  1. If I catch you I will… – threats
    I think about something mean. I threaten him/her.
  1. I will wear him/her down – limited strikes
    I carry out my threats. I just want him/her lying on the ground.
  1. I can´t retreat anymore – destruction
    I don´t listen to others anymore. Too much has happened so I can´t give up.
  1. The bitter end – together into the abyssWe successfully destroyed each other. The costs were high but we made it. I don´t really remember what it was all about in the beginning but – I didn´t give up because at the end it was all his/her fault.

  • Jamie Walker (Ed.), Mediation in der Schule, 2005, p. 171 Bensberger Studien 18,  Anders streiten lernen, 2010, p.11