What's the Difference Between a Conflict and a Problem?

Conflicts and problems are part of everyday life. However, do you know the difference between them?
What's the Difference Between a Conflict and a Problem?

Last update: 27 April, 2022

When you’re faced with difficult situations, your negative emotions are triggered and often cloud everything that’s important, leading you to total paralysis in the face of difficulty. You suddenly feel trapped, submerged, and unable to find a solution. Facing these kinds of situations may not be an easy task, but you can come out of them stronger.

Indeed, without a doubt, throughout your life, you’ll come across certain challenging situations. In these moments, it’s important to either be able to solve them or seek help.

Conflict

A conflict always involves at least two parties and points of view. Conflicts surround you, they’re a part of your life, a part of being human, and also a powerful source of learning… that’s if they’re well focused. As Sigmund Freud said, “If two individuals always agree on everything, I can assure you that one of them thinks for both ”.

Woman in conflict with her partner

Therefore, you have to accept conflicts and know how to manage them. However, what’s the solution to a conflict? The obvious answer is the most important: the resolution of a conflict is as simple and complex as ‘reaching an agreement’.

Sometimes, you get involved in never-ending arguments that don’t lead to any conclusion, just because you think you’re ‘right’ when, in most cases, this is totally secondary. Almost all the conflicts that you face can be resolved through agreements. In most cases, it’s a discussion of personal convictions that have nothing to do with what’s really happening. Therefore, conceding a little in your position to reach a common agreement would be a possible solution.

Agreements imply that both parties concede in some way for the common good. Every resolution has consequences, but those consequences don’t invalidate the agreement. You lose one part but you gain another. The part you lose is just a consequence, so it doesn’t have the power to disrupt the agreement.

Internal conflict

What if your conflict is internal? This may seem more complex but, in essence, it’s the same structure. Again, you have two different points of view concerning the same situation. What should you do? The answer is the same as before. You must reach an agreement. You need to dive inside yourself and find out which solution is the best for you. It’s there that you’ll find the answer you’re looking for. However, it’s worth noting that the best long-term solution is often the one that entails the greatest sacrifice in the short term.

You have to assess the alternatives and make a decision, even if it has consequences that involve losses. Nevertheless, these losses will be assumable, since your gains will also be valued and the balance will end up being positive. Therefore, there’s no reason for self-punishment or self-criticism.

It’s simply a matter of accepting and validating the consequences. As with the conflicts that you resolve externally, you’ll find gains and consequences that you must accept. In fact, the consequences are inherent in the resolution. Therefore, you must accept them and not punish yourself with feelings that are contaminated by emotion.

You have to carry out your resolution free from emotion, evaluating the alternatives, even though you may be tempted to think with your heart. For example, your emotions may lead you to perpetuate a toxic relationship, even though your mind tells you that it’s time to leave. In this case, you must put those emotions aside and coldly think about what’s best for you.

Problems

A problem is understood as a situation that arises that, at the moment in question, has no solution. What do you do? You return to the obvious and no less important action of looking for the solution. In this case, the first thing is to set a goal, where you want to go, what your aim is, and what you want to achieve.

Once you’ve established your goal, you put into practice the possible alternatives to reach the solution to your problem. You value and weigh them up and then you get started. As with conflicts, emotion acts as a paralyzing enemy.

Men having a problem

The resolution will sometimes be simple and sometimes not, but that doesn’t mean that your goal is no longer valid. The road can be difficult but, if you know where you want to go, you’ll be able to keep going. The important thing is to trace a clear path and follow it, correcting your course as many times as necessary.

However, just as two types of conflicts appear (internal vs. external), we also find two types of problems. There are those with a solution and those without. You already know what to do with the former, but what about the latter? Can you do something? Yes, you can, it’s called acceptance. Accepting that a problem has no solution will free you from any unnecessary extra discomfort. Without a doubt, you might have a hard time, but, on the other hand, if you fight against the inevitable, you’ll only increase those uncomfortable feelings.
You can’t solve the loss of a loved one nor can you recover something that’s been lost to you. However, you can accept reality and reduce its impact on your emotions. In fact, only in this way will you be able to generate new alternatives.