Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution generally refers to one of several different processes used to resolve disputes between parties, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, and litigation. Dispute 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. Dispute resolution strategies include fostering a rapport, considering interests and values separately, appealing to overarching values, and indirect confrontation.

Conflict 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.

Mediation can be effective at allowing parties to vent their feelings and fully explore their grievances. Working with parties together and sometimes separately, mediators try to help them hammer out a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding. In arbitration, the arbitrator listens as each side argues its case and presents relevant evidence, then renders a binding decision. Litigation typically involves a defendant facing off against a plaintiff before either a judge or a judge and jury. The judge or jury is responsible for weighing the evidence and making a ruling. Information conveyed in hearings and trials usually enters the public record.

There are many aspects of disputes, including value creation opportunities, agency issues, organizational influences, ethical considerations, the role of law, and decision tools.

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


In this FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School,  Dispute Resolution, Working Together Toward Conflict Resolution on the Job and at Home, the editors of Negotiation Briefings cull valuable negotiation strategies and curate popular content to provide you with a concise guide on how to improve your dispute resolution skills.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Definition and Negotiation Skills: New York Fast-Food Workers Find a Workaround to Protest for Higher Wages

PON Staff   •  07/01/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

On November 28, dozens of employees at several fast-food restaurants in New York City walked off their jobs and demanded better pay and unionization. In doing so, they launched what is believed to be the largest coordinated campaign in the United States to unionize fast-food workers from different restaurants, reports Steven Greenhouse in the New … Read More 

Define Dispute Resolution: Understanding Uncertainty, Risk, and Opportunity

Lawrence Susskind   •  06/24/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

When countries face contending water claims, one of the biggest obstacles to reaching an agreement is uncertainty. Specifically, there are three types of uncertainty: uncertainty of information, uncertainty of action, and uncertainty of perception. In part 2 of this 5 part series, Program on Negotiation faculty member Lawrence Susskind explains the uncertainties facing negotiators trying … Read More 

Program on Negotiation associate Paola Cecchi Dimeglio Edits a Collection of Dispute Resolution Essays in “Interdisciplinary Handbook of Dispute Resolution”

Keith Lutz   •  06/22/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

Program on Negotiation associate and researcher Paola Cecchi Dimeglio, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Research Project, was the editor for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary guide to dispute resolution that combines negotiation research written in both French and English.

Cecchi Dimeglio’s “Interdisciplinary Handbook of Dispute Resolution,” published by Larcier, is currently available in the Program … Read More 

Employee Grievances: Most Legal Disputes are Resolved in Litigation or Arbitration?

PON Staff   •  06/15/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

A common question asked is, “If most legal disputes are resolved in litigation, is there room for arbitration or mediation?”

In 2000, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), seeing the surge in employee grievances and litigation in other companies, implemented a revolutionary dispute system they called SOLUTIONS to deal with its own internal disputes.

Dispute Systems Design, or DSD, is … Read More 

Teambuilding Negotiating Skills and Negotiation Tactics Using Negotiation Examples: The Hostage Negotiator’s Drill

PON Staff   •  06/08/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

Here are some negotiating skills and negotiation techniques from the world of crisis negotiations: Hostage negotiators stress the importance of discussing the “drill”—goals, ground rules, and operating principles—with their team before beginning talks with a hostage taker.

Such negotiation teams are likely to commit to working together as slowly as needed to resolve a standoff. This type of agreement can … Read More 

How to Overcome Cultural Barriers in Communication – Apple’s Apology in China

Katie Shonk   •  05/06/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

In China this April, Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook made the unusual move of apologizing to Chinese customers for his company’s warranty policy and promised to make amends, the New York Times reports.

On March 15, International Consumers’ Day in China, the nation’s largest state-run television network criticized Apple for giving iPhone customers in China a … Read More 

Examples of Difficult Situations at Work – Negotiation Skills for Dealing with Difficult People

PON Staff   •  04/29/2015   •  Filed in Dispute Resolution

Learning how to overcome emotions in negotiation can help you create better agreements and claim more value in your negotiation scenarios. Examples of difficult situations at work are used to illustrate the negotiation skills you can incorporate into your negotiation strategies when you learn how emotional triggers impact your decision making ability. … Read More 

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