Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict by meeting at least some of each side’s needs and addressing their interests. Conflict resolution sometimes requires both a power-based and an interest-based approach, such as the simultaneous pursuit of litigation (the use of legal power) and negotiation (attempts to reconcile each party’s interests). There are a number of powerful strategies for conflict resolution.

Knowing how to manage and resolve conflict is essential for having a productive work life, and it is important for community and family life as well. Dispute resolution, to use another common term, is a relatively new field, emerging after World War II. Scholars from the Program on Negotiation were leaders in establishing the field.

Strategies include maintaining open lines of communication, asking other parties to mediate, and keeping sight of your underlying interests. In addition, negotiators can try to resolve conflict by creating value out of conflict, in which you try to capitalize on shared interests, explore differences in preferences, priorities, and resources, capitalize on differences in forecasts and risk preferences, and address potential implementation problems up front.

These skills are useful in crisis negotiation situations and in handling cultural differences in negotiations, and can be invaluable when dealing with difficult people, helping you to “build a golden bridge” and listen to learn, in which you acknowledge the other person’s points before asking him or her to acknowledge yours.

Articles offer numerous examples of dispute resolution and explore various aspects of it, including international dispute resolution, how it can be useful in your personal life, skills needed to achieve it, and training that hones those skills.


In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.

How to Resolve Cultural Conflict: Overcoming Cultural Barriers at the Negotiation Table

Katie Shonk   •  08/25/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

After recently losing an important deal in India, a business negotiator learned that her counterpart felt as if she had been rushing through the talks. The business negotiator thought she was being efficient with their time. In this useful cross-cultural negotiation example, how should this negotiator improve her negotiation skills? … Read More 

Cognitive Biases in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution – Common Negotiation Mistakes

PON Staff   •  08/16/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Negotiators planning to engage in conflict resolution in a personal or business disputes should be aware of cognitive biases in negotiation, particularly when your dispute is being decided by a judge. Before doing so, you should consider carefully what psychologists, political scientists, and legal scholars have learned about judges from negotiation research and social science: … Read More 

Case Study of Conflict Management and Negotiation: To Resolve Disputes and Manage Conflicts, Assume a Neutral 3rd Party Role

PON Staff   •  08/11/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

In their book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin Putnam, 2000), authors Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen tell us how to engage in the conversations in our professional or personal lives that make us uncomfortable by examining a case study of conflict management. Tough, honest conversations are critical for managers, … Read More 

Tough Topics in Negotiation: Negotiating a Non-Compete Agreement with Employers

PON Staff   •  07/28/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

In integrative negotiations, each side seeks to create and claim value with an eye towards the future of the negotiating relationship. One way of securing this relationship is a noncompete agreement: Employers sometimes ask potential employees to agree not to work for their competitors in the future but don’t assume such requests are nonnegotiable. … Read More 

Integrative Negotiations Examples: Dispute Resolution Through Joint Fact-Finding

PON Staff   •  07/25/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Sometimes parties to a dispute disagree on key facts and forecasts but lack the technical or scientific expertise needed to come to a consensus. Suppose, for instance, that a developer is seeking to build a high-rise condominium building in a village that is experiencing a development boom. Longtime residents fight the proposal, arguing that another … Read More 

What is an Arbitration Agreement?

Katie Shonk   •  07/19/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

If you have ever owned a cell phone or been issued a credit card, odds are you’ve signed an arbitration agreement. You also may have signed an arbitration agreement when you started your current job or a past one, whether you remember doing so or not. … Read More 

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