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   •  06/16/2016   •  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 

Conflict Management Training and Negotiation Research: How Nervous Energy Affects Negotiation Scenarios and Attempts at Conflict Resolution

Katie Shonk   •  06/13/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Negotiation is often characterized as a physiologically arousing event marked by pounding hearts, queasy stomachs, and flushed faces. We might assume that heightened physiological arousal would mar our negotiation performance, but this is only true for some, researchers Ashley D. Brown and Jared R. Curhan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in a new … Read More 

Conflict Management: Intervening in Workplace Conflict

PON Staff   •  05/31/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Question: I’m aware of lots of unresolved personnel issues that seem to be festering in my department, such as complaints about someone who is not doing his share of the work, another person whose griping is causing a drop in morale, and two coworkers who can’t seem to get along. I’m comfortable negotiating with customers, … Read More 

Conflict and Negotiation Case Study: The Pitfalls of Negotiations Over Email

Keith Lutz   •  05/26/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Negotiation research suggests that email often poses more problems than solutions when it comes to relationships, information exchange, and outcomes in conflict resolution negotiation scenarios. First, establishing social rapport via email can be challenging. The lack of nonverbal cues and the dearth of social norms regarding its use can cause negotiators to be impolite and … Read More 

Conflict and Negotiation Case Study: Long-Term Business Partnerships and Negotiated Agreements

PON Staff   •  05/12/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

To protect the future interests of their organization, negotiators sometimes must accept fewer benefits or absorb greater burdens in the short run to maximize the value to all relevant parties – including future employees and shareholders – over time.

Suppose that the operations VPs of two subsidiaries of an energy company are preparing to negotiate the … Read More 

Negotiation Games

PON Staff   •  04/28/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Going to trial, it’s said, is like rolling the dice. That proved true in June 2006, when an exasperated federal judge, the Honorable Gregory A. Presnell, ordered litigants to play a game of Rock Paper Scissors if they could not privately resolve their differences over a procedural issue. The lawyers were stalemated on where to … Read More 

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