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.

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 

Arbitration vs Mediation and the Conflict Resolution Process in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

PON Staff   •  04/25/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Arbitration, mediation, and the dispute resolution process – how negotiators can effectively use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) conflict management and conflict resolution techniques to resolve disputes, repair relationships, and find opportunities for value creation at the bargaining table.

It’s often the case that when two people or organizations try to resolve a dispute by determining who … Read More 

In Acrimonious Disputes, Conflict Management is Key

Katie Shonk   •  04/14/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Parties to a business dispute often become so focused on beating the other party that they lose sight of their most important goals. Conflict management efforts can be even more intense and seeming insurmountable between estranged romantic partners with a history of acrimony and distrust.

Consider rock star Madonna’s ongoing legal dispute with her ex-husband, film … Read More 

Using Mediation to Resolve International Disputes

PON Staff   •  04/11/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

As businesses increasingly branch out globally, they also face the possibility of broken contracts and strained relationships. Mediation can be an effective means of resolving disputes and getting business partners back on track, but do intercultural differences complicate the process? If so, how can disputants and mediators adjust?

Elizabeth D. Salmon of the University of Maryland … Read More 

Why Is Sincerity Important? How to Avoid Deception in Negotiation

PON Staff   •  03/29/2016   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Why is sincerity important at the bargaining table and how do negotiators avoid deception in negotiations? Your counterpart may not realize that her behavior is unethical, and even when she does, she may justify her behavior as being ethical in this particular case.

What unethical behavior?

Ethical dilemmas often are more obvious to passive observers than to … Read More 

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