Power is considered to play one of the most important roles in any type of conflict. In order to study the nature of power, it is necessary to consider the ways of power distribution, the way power is viewed and how it is used (Laing, 1981). Very often power conflict or power struggle starts between people, who have enough power or feel themselves powerful enough and between those people, who have either no power or very little of it. This is evident, that the notion and nature of power are perceived in various ways if to speak about a conflict and this certainly has a strong impact upon communication process.
Power can be distributed in three distinct ways: distributive, designated, and integrated (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007).
Distributive power is characterized by the ability to obtain something overcoming the resistance of the other.
Designated power belongs to a person based on his position, like for example a general director of a corporation or a political leader, who was voted for to present the interest of certain group of people. Integrated power is the most mutually convenient, as it helps to reach objectives, which can be accepted by all parties, which take part in the conflict. These various forms of power are likely to have different impact upon conflicts.
If to take the first type ”“ distributive power ”“ it is possible to see what would be the position and feelings of the person who has high power and of the one, who has low power. In some situations distributive power can lead to the so-called power imbalance, which will be later followed by conflict. “A characteristic of a destructive conflict is that parties start focusing on the power”¯ (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007). During the development of the conflict, the parties might find justification for the usage of “dirty tricks”¯ in order to vanquish the opponent and win more power in the conflict. As a result one of the parties would be in a role of a victim. “It can also lead to one person feeling like a victim. In such a situation, communication may be hindered if one is power hungry loses sight of the actual conflict.
Things may start to be seen as a win / lose situation and the dispute becomes a struggle”¯ (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007). In such a situation there is little to no hope, that a person, who realizes that he is in a low power position, thinks that the necessary information and resources should not be horded. Distributive power is sometimes used by parents towards their children and often results in misunderstandings during their communication. This happens if parents think, that they should completely control and subdue their children and give them no chance to free choice or free will. Children in their turn might obey only to some moment of time and then their reactions might be unpredictable and rather negative.
Designated power, as it was already mentioned, is provided to a person due to his position and thus is different in the process of communication. What is really important, is that in this case power can be transferred from one party to the other, like for example in the situation with political vote. As long as vote is not finished and voters are choosing their political leader they are in the position of the high power, whereas the politicians have lower power. However, as soon as the choice is finally made and the politician, who gathered the greatest amount of votes becomes the leader, he gets the higher power in comparison to his voters, because since that moment he is appointed to embody the interests and views of his voters. This is a great example of how power is fluid (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007).
During the voting progress, people feel more self-assured and confident with the politicians they are voting for. But when the politician, who became the leader, enters his office and starts his work, he becomes rather distant from each person that voted for him, and people might feel themselves like victims, because they dot not have the chance of personal communication and politicians are not working so open any more after the elections are finished.
Speaking about personal relations an example of conflict, related to designated power might happen in a company, where two managers worked together and developed friendly relations, but one of them proved to be a better specialist and was assigned to a higher position. Due to his new position and new duties, he might have no time or no wish to continue relations with his former colleagues or even completely change his attitude and manner of communication with them, which could initiate a conflict between them.
“Integrated power is perhaps the most sought after form of power in a conflict. This type of power helps the different parties involved in the conflict achieve mutually acceptable goals”¯ (Wilmot and Hocker). The possibility of a constructive conflict, focused on interdependence, might grow and the flow of communication between the parties, which take part in it, opens. “When people heighten their interdependence on each other, all sources of power increase”¯ (Wilmot and Hocker, 2007). Thus constructive usage of power provides much more chances to resolve a conflict because the approach to the conflict and relationships with colleagues or other member of the family for example is changed.
Overall, in this paper we studied the nature of power, the main types of power and the ways they are related to the conflicts and their solutions and the process of communication in conflict situations.