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.

Conflict Resolution Success Stories: A Surprising Tale from Congress

Katie Shonk   •  04/29/2019   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution success stories

Conflict resolution success stories in the news can be few and far between. Too often, when a dispute arises, parties escalate the conflict through hardball tactics in negotiation (threats, lies, and the like) rather than taking steps to address and minimize it. When conflict resolution success stories do appear, we typically fail to absorb their … Read More 

Conflict-Solving Strategies: The Value of Taking a Break

Katie Shonk   •  04/08/2019   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Business negotiators coping with deeply entrenched conflict often feel defeated and hopeless when conflict-solving strategies fail. However, research from the world of international conflict suggests that taking repeated breaks from conflict can improve the odds of reaching agreement down the road. The research and resulting negotiation strategies may offer new hope to business negotiators. … Read More 

Conflict Resolution Scenarios: Negotiating Values

Katie Shonk   •  02/18/2019   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

The most heated types of conflict in organizations and in our personal lives often concern our core values, such as our personal moral standards, our religious and political beliefs, and our family’s welfare. Such values conflicts can escalate and intervening quickly in cases of conflict is essential. The following three conflict resolution scenarios can help … Read More 

Ask A Negotiation Expert: Facing Difficult Problems? Bring High-Level Values to the Table

PON Staff   •  01/31/2019   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Melvin Shakun is a management consultant, professor emeritus at New York University, and founding editor of the international journal Group Decision and Negotiation. He spoke with Negotiation Briefings about how negotiators can break through impasse and resolve conflict by appealing to common values.
Negotiation Briefings: How do you define values in the context of negotiation?

Melvin Shakun: … Read More 

Facing controversy? Don’t forget to negotiate

PON Staff   •  11/30/2018   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Looking back, it’s almost hard to imagine, but when then–San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began sitting down for pregame performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” no one noticed. He’d sat through two national anthems during the 2016 preseason before reporters asked him about it. Citing racial oppression and police brutality, Kaepernick explained that he planned … Read More 

How to Manage Conflict at Work

Katie Shonk   •  08/27/2018   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

A 62-year-old salesman believes he has convincing evidence that his boss passed him over for a promotion because of his age. What options does he have? He could let the matter drop and perhaps look for another job. He could file an employment-discrimination lawsuit. Or, if his company offers mediation services, he could have the … Read More 

Successes & Messes: Courtroom drama: An unscripted dispute over to Kill a Mockingbird adaptation

PON Staff   •  06/30/2018   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

This spring, the estate of Harper Lee, the deceased author of the classic American novel To Kill a Mockingbird, sued the producers of a Broadway stage adaptation of the novel for deviating too much from its character and plot. The story, as reported in the New York Times, highlights the value of exploring every viable … Read More 

Family Business Conflict Resolution and Negotiation

Katie Shonk   •  05/14/2018   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Business transactions between family members and friends can be difficult. Close ties are generally founded on the expectation that we’ll look out for each other’s welfare and not “keep score.” In business relationships, by contrast, we expect to be compensated based on how much effort, time, and money we expend. We’re likely to experience a … Read More