I have noted earlier in my writings that the Dual Concern Model in appropriate for analyzing conflicts that involve exactly two parties. The parties can be individuals or groups, but the requisite feature of conflicts wherein the dual concern model is of any use is that there are only 2 sides.
Not all conflicts are that simple. Some conflicts engulf numerous participants with multiple incompatible aspirations. These conflicts can create what is call the fog of war. Wikipedia offers this definition, “the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations.” A conflict does not have to involve military actions for the fog of war to be a factor, any multi-party conflict offers many opportunities for miscommunication, poor decisions, ill intent, and mean spiritedness. All these, and other, factors combine to make dealing with multi-party conflict difficult on even its easiest days.
So then, how does one pick sides in a multi-party conflict? If you are smart, you don’t get involved. However, these types of conflicts inevitably draw neighbors and bystanders in by threatening their interests. In many cases the only way to remain neutral is to be a complete stranger in the area with no interest at stake in the conflict.
Whether you are a neutral outsider or a local caught up in the drama, your number one priority should be to assess the conflict. This is a fancy way of say you need to figure out who is involved in the conflict, what their interests are, and their positions and agendas. If you hope to deescalate the conflict in any way you also have to understand and navigate the impediments to resolution.
I know what you are probably thinking right now, that this seems like it is a difficult thing to do. I guarantee you, it is! A takes a special kind of person to interject themselves into a multi-party conflict and attempt to communicate with everyone involved in the hopes of solving the problems creating the conflict. Assessment is the beginning of any such endeavor.
I have written a very simple introduction to a complex subject. Over the coming weeks I will be writing in more detail about the many aspects of conflict assessment. When this series is finished you will have a few answers about the subject, but you will have many more questions than answers. If you develop any interest in assessing conflict, you will realize that even though you can start with the same questions for any given conflict, each conflict will lead you to surprisingly unique answers. Stay tuned.