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Circle Of Conflict

by Jeff Thompson
April 2009

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson

Firstly, my disclaimer is the above image is not mine. I found it a long time ago, and unfortunately I do not remember the source, thus I am unable to give credit. [edit: the circle of conflict was created by Christopher Moore, in this book]
When analyzing conflict it is important to realize that it can be divided into 5 varying catagories depending on its nature. Why bother breaking conflict in catagories and give it labels? It is important, be it as the mediator or neogtiator, to be able to figure out what kind of conflict is present because if the issue(s) can not be diagnosed properly, how do you expect to find a worthy solution?
The five types of conflict are:
  1. Interests
  2. Structural
  3. Value
  4. Data
  5. Relationship

The image is pretty much self-explanatory so no reason for me to blabber on.

Remember, preparation is important when getting ready for a mediation/negotiation, so being able to properly identify the conflict will help you move towards a viable solution. Don't forget, many times the conflict can also be a combination of the categories.

The image can be a great tidbit to add to your presentation or handout; it has worked for me in the past. Sometimes, words, spoken or written, can become boring and adding an image here or there helps liven things up a bit.


Jeff Thompson is a certified international mediator. He is also a law enforcement detective in New York City.  He is currently a Research Fellow at Columbia University Law School researching crisis and hostage negotiation as well as other conflict resolution topics. 

His law enforcement work includes a being a communication and conflict specialist, interfaith dialogue, developing and implementing community engagement programs, social media projects, and designing training workshops.

Jeff is also currently a PhD candidate researching nonverbal communication and mediation at Griffith University Law School. He also received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Creighton University School of Law. Jeff has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally and has been published and featured with numerous international media organizations. He currently also writes at

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions as a mediator and not that of any organization.)

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