Conflict loops are conflicts that repeat themselves regularly. Conflicts have cycles. Practical experience has shown that a conflict passes through various phases over the course of approximately seven weeks, after which time it redevelops. It has often changed by this point but the core problem is the same. This process continues until the disruption caused by the conflict is cleared. Conflicts can be handed down from generation to generation. Conflict loops appear everywhere where interpersonal communication is disrupted. But it is possible to remove them and the process for doing so can be included in indoor/outdoor team building sessions. Team trips, team awaydays and process-oriented travel for board members and managers are also suitable vehicles for this process. These kinds of loops can also be remedied within conflict management, conflict consulting, conflict moderation, conflict facilitation, and mediation.

Why it is important to remove conflict loops?

You have to imagine the situation like the battle for an aphid-infested plant you don’t want to throw away. You don’t want to use poison, as poison also weakens the plant, so you try something different. If you rinse the plant with water or tea, leaving only a few aphids remaining, these few will multiply. It happens quickly, regardless of how much rinsing effort you put into it. In conflicts, everything happens a bit more slowly. In this scenario, the disruptions are the aphids and you’re seeing to it that the conflict continues. And even if you only miss one, it’s enough to keep the conflict alive.

How do you recognise conflict loops?

Be wary of disruptions that don’t disappear, i.e. they appear time and again. Here is where you will find a conflict loop. The purpose of identifying conflict loops is to win back the options for action that have been lost as a result of the conflict. Here is an example of an acoustic contact loop: the more the pressure increases, the more irritable the atmosphere. Partner A and partner B are doing their work. Every time they meet, there is a sharp undertone in both their voices. They talk superficially about their work and seemingly as matter of course engage in some incidental ‘nit-picking’. This sequence repeats itself regularly. It is an acoustic conflict loop. It is normal for there to be more than 10 conflict loops in a partnership conflict between two (business) partners.