Research Suggests Emotions are Both the Cause and Solution to Social Conflicts

Summary of:

Ramirez Munoz, S. (2017). Understanding social conflict: Reason or emotion? In E. Morales-Lopez & A. Floyd (Eds.), Developing new identities in social conflicts (pp. 67-82). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Background & Theory

The author explores social conflict theory, how we understand it currently, and how we should view it moving forward. Ramirez Munoz does this through an epistemological study of social conflict.

Research Questions

The author seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. Is the current theory surrounding social conflict resolution through means of objective reasoning accurate?
  2. How do emotions play a role in creating and resolving social conflict?

Methods

To discover the answers to the research questions, Ramirez Munoz evaluates how we currently view social conflict, the social nature of human beings, what truths are and how we come to our own truths, how we hold conversations, and how conflict originates and is resolved. These are all studied through the lens of an epistemological framework established by the author (found on pages 69-70).

Results

The results of this study show that the origins of conflict originate from emotions, not necessarily logic. While we aim to resolve conflict objectively, Ramirez Munoz found that the most efficient way to resolve conflict is found at the root of humanity: love. As he states in his reflection, “love is not blind, but accepts and sees.” Conflict arises when our emotions, not our reasoning, have an issue with an idea/action/viewpoint of someone else, whose emotions differ from ours. He finds that emotions dictate our reasoning and our individual truths and moral compasses. However, when we seek to understand one another and find a mutual respect for one another despite our differences, we are much more apt to resolve social conflicts.

What This Means

  • Conflict theory often mentions to be objective and resolve the conflict at hand through rational explanations or solutions. It may be worth further evaluation of using emotions as a tool, rather than a weapon, in conflict resolution theory.
  • Emotions are ultimately the driving force in creating conflict, and ultimately need to be the driving force in resolving conflict. 

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Every person engaged in a conflict has a specific viewpoint, fueled by their emotions. Instead of looking at things objectively, it may be worth evaluating the emotions at play and find ways for those involved to connect on an emotionally positive level.

For everyone: In conflict, every person involved is reacting based on their emotions. Try to consider what others might be feeling and how you can better understand one another. Be open to respecting each other and work on finding a real solution.