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Glasl’s Stages of Conflict Escalation

Are you a facilitator? Have you ever been in a situation were you’ve tried to help two parties resolve a conflict and it just didn’t work. Not despite several meetings? At least one of the parties was probably too far down Glasl’s Stages of Conflict Escalation. It’s a model for how conflicts can get out of hand to a point were the conflicting partners dehumanize each other.

Facilitation can only help when the opponents can still recognize good qualities in each other. A win win solution is possible then. After that you need mediation and on the lowest stages you need the intervention by someone more powerful such as a boss or judge. The parties are not able to help navigate towards a resolution, anymore. I find this model helpful to recognize cases in which facilitation will not help so that we can look for more advanced help.

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Glasl’s Stages of Conflict Escalation

Conflict is normal. It becomes a problem if it spirals out of control. Friedrich Glasl’s model can help you figure out, what stage each conflict party is on and what type of involvement might help. The model applies to all kinds of conflicts such as fights at work, divorce, and wars.


  1. Tension
    Conflict isn’t voiced at this stage as it’s
    often not recognized as conflict yet.
  2. Debate
    Parties start to talk, trying to convince
    each other. Black and white thinking.
  3. Actions replace words
    No more discussions. Actions underline
    each parties’ stance. Empathy shrinks.

At this level the discussions are mostly factual. When asked, parties can still name positive qualities of the other party.


4. Coalitions
Parties look for supporters. Original issue
became unimportant. It’s about winning now.

5. Loss of face
Opponents are disparaged, including
exaggerations and lies.

6. Threats
Parties try to gain control
with threats.

At this level the conflict is about the relationship.

Forcible Intervention

7. Limited Destruction
Opponents not seen as human. Damage them!
Own losses okay if hey lose more.

8. Annihilation
Opponents and their supporters are annihilated with all means.

9. Abyss
Personal annihilation acceptable as long as oppenents go down too.


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1 Comment

  1. Bence Szalai 2020/04/24

    Great resource! Thank you!

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