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.

Negotiation research you can use: “Twinning” at negotiation: Using similarities to measure our differences

PON Staff   •  04/30/2018   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution


We might hope that when we adopt negotiation best practices—such as spending lots of time preparing and asking questions at the table—we would achieve consistently strong results in our negotiations. Yet as most of us have experienced, our outcomes and personal satisfaction can vary a great deal from one negotiation to the next. Why?

First, individual … Read More 

Got Issues? In Negotiation, the More, the Better

PON Staff   •  12/31/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

No one expected Brexit negotiations to be simple. The talks, aimed at setting the terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, got under way in mid-2017, with Michel Barnier representing the European Union (E.U.) and David Davis leading the U.K. delegation. Negotiators have two years to come to agreement. After a few months, the … Read More 

Negotiation Update: In Senate health care defeat, it’s déjà vu all over again

PON Staff   •  09/30/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

In negotiation, learning from past mistakes is a critical skill. In our July issue, we detailed errors that Republicans made in their initial attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the House of Representatives. Although the House narrowly passed its American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May, Senate Republicans repeated many of … Read More 

Manage Family Conflict When Business Negotiations Go Bad

Katie Shonk   •  09/04/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Conventional wisdom warns us against doing business with family members. Negotiations between people linked by close ties can result in hurt feelings, damaged relationships, or simply the nagging feeling that a better deal was within reach.

Yet circumstances sometimes require us to negotiate financial matters with a relative. In other situations, someone close to you may … Read More 

For Hollywood Writers, a Heavily Negotiated New Script

PON Staff   •  07/31/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

In its negotiations for a new contract with entertainment companies this spring, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) delivered at the bargaining table what many film and TV viewers crave onscreen: plenty of suspense and a hard-won, if imperfect, victory.
The WGA, which represents more than 12,000 film and TV writers, negotiated for seven weeks with … Read More 

How the “Party of No” Didn’t Get to Yes

PON Staff   •  06/23/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

For Republican leaders, the desire to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health-care legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has been a unifying goal for seven years. So it was no surprise that after Donald Trump won the presidency and the Republicans retained both houses of Congress in the 2016 election, they made health-care reform their … Read More 

Resolving Conflicts Over Deeply Held Values

PON Staff   •  03/14/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

Astronomers consider Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that rises more than two miles above the Pacific Ocean on the island of Hawaii, to be the premier site in the world for viewing the night sky. Due to the volcano’s high altitude and tranquil, dark nights, NASA and groups of scientists from around the globe began … Read More 

Negotiation Research: A Downside of Anger

PON Staff   •  02/08/2017   •  Filed in Conflict Resolution

We know that anger leads negotiators to make riskier choices and blame others when things go wrong. In a new study, researchers Jeremy A. Yip and Maurice E. Schweitzer find that anger also leads us to engage in greater deception in negotiation—even when it’s not our counterpart who angered us.
In one of the study’s experiments, … Read More