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.

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Negotiation training leads to more effective water diplomacy

PON Staff   •  07/01/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Negotiation skills are a critical, although often overlooked, aspect of water management, especially in situations where water crosses boundaries. Conflicts arise when water is managed as a fixed or scarce resource, and allocated in a way that assumes some parties will gain while others lose. In a recent blog post, Professor Lawrence Susskind examines … Read More 

How Subtle Favoritism Harms Negotiators

PON Staff   •  06/27/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Adapted from “The Robin Hood Effect in Negotiation,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, March 2009.

Business transactions often occur between people of different socioeconomic levels, and our choice of clothing, cars, and other material possessions can signal such differences. We may attempt to treat everyone equally in our negotiations, but do we always succeed?

Just as … Read More 

Bringing Mediators to the Bargaining Table

PON Staff   •  06/06/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Daily

Adapted from “Mediation in Transactional Negotiation,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, July 2004.

We generally think of mediation as a dispute-resolution device. Federal mediators intervene when collective bargaining bogs down. Diplomats are sometimes called in to mediate conflicts between nations. So-called multidoor courthouses encourage litigants to mediate before incurring the costs—and risks—of going to trial.

Scott … Read More 

How Accountable are Your Negotiators?

PON Staff   •  05/30/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Adapted from “Disappointed by Results? Improve Accountability,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, January 2009.

How satisfied are you with the outcomes that negotiators in your organization achieve? Most likely, you can think of a few successes worth crowing about, a few you’d like to sweep under the carpet, and many more that turned out just … Read More 

Decisions Without Blinders

PON Staff   •  05/27/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Daily

Max H. Bazerman (Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School) and Dolly Chugh (Assistant Professor, Department of Management and Organizations, New York University Stern School of Business )

What causes even highly intelligent, focused professionals to miss glaring warning signs and render bad, risky or unethical decisions? In this article, the authors discuss … Read More 

Sad Negotiators, Poor Outcomes?

PON Staff   •  05/24/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Daily

Adapted from “How Mood Affects Negotiator Trust,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, September 2006.

In recent years, social psychologists have begun to explore connections among emotions, negotiation, and decision making. Negotiation contributor Jennifer S. Lerner of Carnegie Mellon University and her colleagues have identified two critical themes. First, they have studied the carryover of emotion … Read More 

Unlocking Labor Disputes

PON Staff   •  05/23/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Daily

Adapted from “How the Writers Got Back to Work,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, May 2008.

When labor talks reach a stalemate, negotiators may be able to get back on track by avoiding extreme demands, thinking carefully about the other side’s point of view, negotiating in smaller groups, and enlisting the help of a neutral … Read More 

Dr. Ury featured in Washington Post article on debt ceiling negotiations

PON Staff   •  05/20/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

In a recent article published in the Washington Post, Dr. William Ury, co-founder of the Program on Negotiation, suggests that Republicans and Democrats hammering out a deal on the national debt ceiling could benefit from the experience of negotiators.

Professional negotiators know that certain tactics can backfire in tense situations.  Issuing ultimatums, publicly criticizing your counterpart, … Read More 

Other People’s Interests: How Two Sisters Can Share a Diamond Ring

PON Staff   •  05/20/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Tufts Magazine: Negotiating Life

Jeswald W. Salacuse (Henry J. Baker Professor of Law; former Dean, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University; author of The Global Negotiator and Seven Secrets for Negotiating with Government)

The first rule of negotiation is to understand both your own and the other person’s interests. Easier said than done. In this … Read More 

Negotiating Across Borders

PON Staff   •  05/16/2011   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution, Daily

Adapted from “Hidden Roadblocks in Cross-border Talks,” by James K. Sebenius (professor, Harvard Business School), first published in the Negotiation newsletter, September 2009.

Imagine you are leading a team that will soon be negotiating for the first time in several foreign countries. You’ve researched likely cultural factors, such as differences in etiquette or risk taking, while … Read More 

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