Interpersonal and Intergroup Processes
By Morton Deutsch
This Article Summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff
Citation: Deutsch, Morton, et al. "Interpersonal and Intergroup Processes" in The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, Morton Deutsch and Peter T. Coleman, eds. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000, pp. 21-209.
Most conflicts involve a mix of cooperative and competitive motives, and so Deutsch develops a theory of cooperation and competition in order to better understand conflict processes and resolutions.
A key element in understanding cooperation/competition is the type of goal interdependence found between the involved parties. Parties goals' may be negatively interdependent--one party's success correlating with the other's failure. Such situations tend to yield competitive relationships with a win-lose orientation. Parties' goals may be positively interdependent--success correlating with success, or failure with failure. These situations tend to yield cooperative relationships where the parties have a win-win orientation.
Cooperative relationships display a number of positive characteristics, including more effective communication and coordination, open and friendly attitudes, a sense of mutuality and a willingness to increase the other's power. Competitive processes tend to yield the inverse, negative effects: obstructed communication, inability to coordinate activities, suspicion and a lack of self-confidence, desire to reduce the other's power and to dominate them.
Deutsch's research "suggests that constructive processes of conflict resolution are similar to cooperative processes of problem solving, and destructive processes of conflict resolution are similar to competitive processes."(p. 27) A key question then is how to foster cooperative relationships. In response Deutsch offers his eponymous Crude Law of Social Relations: "The characteristic processes and effects elicited by a given type of social relationship also tend to elicit that type of social relationship."(p. 29) Friendly, empowering gestures tend to evoke cooperative responses. Suspicious, domineering attitudes tend to provoke competitive responses.
Deutsch identifies some of the implications that this theory of cooperation and competition has for our understanding of conflict, for our practice of conflict management, and for training in conflict resolution. A cooperative orientation on the part of the parties will facilitate constructive resolution of a conflict. Social support is key to creating and maintaining such a cooperative orientation. Constructive resolution is also more likely when the parties can reframe their understanding of their goals and conflict, coming to see their respective goals as positively interdependent and the conflict as a joint problem. This initial reframing, and so constructive resolutions, will be facilitated by the parties' adherence to the norms of cooperation. These norms include honesty, respect, responsiveness, acknowledging responsibility and extending forgiveness, emphasizing the positive and seeking common ground. Constructive conflict resolution rests on the very basic values of reciprocity, human equality, human fallibility, shared community, and nonviolence. These values are widely shared, and can provide common ground between otherwise starkly opposed parties.
In addition to these attitudes and values, effective conflict management requires skills and knowledge. First are the skills required to establish and maintain effective working relationships between the various parties and third parties to a conflict. Second are the skills needed to sustain a cooperative conflict resolution process over the course of the conflict. Third are the skills for developing effective group problem-solving and decision-making processes.
These theoretical insights also have implications for practitioner training. The teaching methods and the learning context itself should embody the cooperative, constructive problem-solving orientation. Practitioners will also need access to a supportive environment, if they are to maintain their own cooperative attitudes in the face of unfavorable or even hostile conflict situations. Finally, Deutsch emphasizes the need for practitioners to reflect upon their own practice and their own frameworks for conflict resolution, so that they may both learn from and contribute to the growing understanding of conflict and its resolution.
Many conflicts rest on a claim or perception of injustice. Destructive conflicts often generate new injustices. Deutsch explores different types of justice, and considers their implications for our understanding of conflict and for training in conflict resolution.
Deutsch distinguishes five aspects of that concept, or types of justice. First is distributive justice, which is concerned primarily with fair outcomes. Different principles of distribution may seem fair for different goods. For instance, justice requires that votes be distributed equally, medical care be distributed according to need, and wages be paid equitably, according to work done. People's sense of whether they are unjustly deprived depends on how they compare with others, and on which others they choose to compare themselves. Conflicts may also arise over which principles of distribution are most appropriate for some good.
Procedural justice focuses on fair treatment. Deutsch says, "fair procedures yield good information for use in decision-making processes as well as a voice in the processes for those affected by them, and considerate treatment as the procedure is being implemented."(p. 45) Fair procedures are often assumed to generate fair outcomes, and thus make it easier to people to accept disappointing outcomes.
Third is the sense of injustice. The psychological need to maintain a positive self-image, and the social power to define justice and injustice, often prevent those who perpetrate injustice from acknowledging it. Typically the victims of injustice are more likely to recognize its existence, given the strong stimulus of its negative effects. Even so, the need to maintain self-esteem may lead some people to deny that they are victims of injustice, and even to identify with their victimizers. The sense of injustice may be activated by challenging social ideologies and stereotypes that rationalize the injustice, and by community -building among the victims.
Retributive and reparative justice concerns determining the appropriate response to moral wrongdoing. Deutsch observes that generally a person's response to wrongdoing will be "influenced by the nature of the transgression, the transgressor, the victim, and the amount of harm suffered by the victim, as well as by the person's relations to the transgressor and victim."(p. 48) Retribution in general serves a number of purposes. It reinforces the violated norm. It may serve as deterrence to others or to reform the transgressor. It may provide emotional release to the wronged community, or restitution to the victim.
A fifth issue concerns the scope of justice. Terrible injustices have occurred when some group considers another to be outside the bounds of their moral community, that is, as beings to whom issues of justice or fairness are not relevant. Nazi excluded Jews in this way, and white slave owners excluded blacks. Exclusion is more likely to occur under conditions of perceived material hardship and political instability, and in the presence of authoritarian social institutions, chauvinist ideologies, and culturally sanctioned violence. Targeted groups are usually socially isolated from the aggressor, and perceived as a threat. The target group may simply be a scapegoat for the aggressor's internal conflicts and dissatisfactions.
A more thorough understanding of justice has implications for understanding conflict. First perceived injustice may itself be a source of conflict. Second, unfair processes undermine peoples' commitment to the associated institutions or policies. Thus a conflict resolution is more likely to be stable if the conflict resolution procedure is perceived as being just. Third, some conflicts may be reasonable disagreements over which principles of justice apply in a given situation. Such conflicts are best managed by reframing them as shared problems. Finally, seeking to portray one's own position as the more just (and implicitly oneself as morally superior) is often used as a negotiating tactic. However this tactics has the negative effects of hardening one's own position, provoking a defensive response from the other side, turning the conflict toward a win-lose orientation, and of escalating the conflict overall.
Deutsch also list several implications for training in conflict resolution. First is that effective training must include knowledge of the role of injustice in conflict, and must educate the practitioner regarding current sources of structural injustices. Second, training should explore the practitioner's own scope of justice, the ways in which that scope can be enlarged, and the dynamics which tend to narrow it. Third, effective training develops the practitioner's empathy. Empathy in turn fosters helpfulness toward and better understanding of others. Finally, Deutsch argues, "it is well for students of conflict to be aware that exposure to severe injustice can have enduring harmful psychological effects unless the posttraumatic conditions are treated effectively."(p. 59) When a conflict involves such injustice, an effective resolution will need to include mechanisms to foster reconciliation and forgiveness, to join the opposing parties in a shared moral community and facilitate cooperative relations between them.
3. Constructive Controversy: The Value of Intellectual Opposition, David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson, and Dean Tjosvold, pp. 65-85.
Intellectual conflicts can be constructive, motivating people to seek new knowledge, to accommodate others' perspectives. The authors offer a theoretic description of constructive controversy, and discuss how this theory might be applied.
Constructive controversy involves deliberative discussions aimed at creative problem solving. It can be contrasted to debate (a competitive process where one view "wins" over the other), concurrence seeking (which suppresses disagreement and consideration of alternatives), or various individualistic processes.
The authors sketch the basic process of constructive controversy. When presented with a problem people form an initial conclusion and supporting rationale. They become uncertain of that initial opinion when confronted with others' differing opinions and rationales. This uncertainty motivates parties to search for more information and more valid forms of reasoning. In constructive controversies this search is a cooperative effort, seeking to accommodate the perspectives and reasoning of others. It yields creative solutions and positive feelings among the parties.
Controversies are more likely to be constructive (as opposed to destructive) when they occur in a cooperative context. Participants must be skilled collaborators, and follow the norms of cooperation and the rules of rational argumentation. Necessary skills include criticizing ideas not people, and being able to take another's perspective.
Participants in constructive controversies benefit in a number of ways. Participants are strongly motivated to produce solutions, and display high-level reasoning and greater mastery and retention of new knowledge gained. They generate high quality, creative solutions. Expertise is more effectively shared, and participants often undergo a lasting change of attitude. Participants develop a stronger sense of mutual friendship and support. They become more able to cope with stress and adversity, and have higher self-esteem.
The authors offer examples of how a constructive controversy process can be implemented in two different settings. In a decision-making setting constructive controversy would proceed by assigning an advocacy team to each of the various possible courses of action. Each team develops the best possible case for their assigned position, and presents that case to the whole group. The group then turns to open discussion of the options. Teams challenge other's cases, and seek to strengthen their own rationales. Constructive controversy then requires next that "advocacy teams reverse perspectives and positions by presenting one of the opposing positions as sincerely and forcefully as they can."(p. 78) In the final decision-making stage, all group members drop their advocacy, review the best arguments for all the options, and reach a decision by consensus. They group may then reflect on how the decision-making process went, and how future performances could be improved.
Constructive controversy procedures can also be used to promote academic learning--for instance, to examine whether civil disobedience is constructive or destructive, or which scientific explanation or mathematical approach is better. Students are divided into small groups, each assigned a position to research and defend. They proceed by advocacy, open discussion, reversal of perspectives, and finally by synthesizing a consensus position. Students are graded by being tested on both sides of the issue, and on their final group report on their consensus position.
In conclusion, the authors observe that "American democracy was founded on the premise that 'truth' results from free and open-minded discussion in which opposing points of view are advocated and vigorously argued."(p. 83) The skills needed to engage in constructive controversy are also crucial to maintaining democracy.
4. Trust, Trust Development, and Trust Repair, Roy J. Lewicki and Carolyn Wiethoff, pp. 86-107.
Lewicki and Wiethoff focus on the role of trust in personal and professional relationships. They explore the importance of trust to effective conflict management, and suggest techniques for managing distrust and rebuilding trust.
The authors define trust as "an individual's belief in, and willingness to act on the basis of, the words, actions, and decisions of another."(p. 87) Distrust is not merely the absence of trust, but is an active negative expectation regarding another. They identify two bases for trust (or distrust). Calculus-based trust rests on assessments of costs and rewards for violating or sustaining trust, and is more typical of professional relationships. Identification-based trust rests on the parties' mutual understanding and affinity, and is more typical of personal relationships such as friendship.
As relationships develop and change over time, so does the nature of trust in those relationships. Our trust in another person also varies in different situations and contexts, and so different types of trust, and even trust and distrust, may coexist in the same relationship.
The authors draw on their account of trust to characterize relationships based on four variables: calculus-based trust, calculus-based distrust, identification-based trust, identification-based distrust.
Research shows that calculus-based trust can be built by engaging in predicable, constant, reliable ways. The authors offer several strategies for managing calculus-based distrust. First, have explicit agreements on goals, deadlines and penalties, and on monitoring procedures. Develop alternatives to relying on another, and use those alternatives as a threat. Show the other how their performance may be (unintentionally) provoking distrust, and attempt to understand the logic of another's seemingly inconsistent behavior.
Identification-based trust can be fostered if the parties take time to develop their common interests, values, perceptions, motives and goals. Identification-based trust has a strong emotional component, and so is sensitive to a number of non-logical factors. This makes managing identification-based distrust difficult. One strategy is to increase the parties' calculus-based trust. Another is to openly acknowledge areas of distrust, and jointly develop ways to work around those areas.
Frequent or severe violations of trust (or conversely of distrust) are likely to change the trusting relationship. Violations of calculus-based trust are likely to encourage calculus-based distrust (and vice versa). Such violations of trust can be managed in a relatively straightforward manner, by determining the cause of the lapse and the likelihood of further such lapses.
Violations of identification-based trust have a greater effect on the parties' emotional well-being. Violations of identification-based trust are likely to end the relationship itself, if they are not properly addressed. To repair such a violation parties must first communicate in an attempt to identify and understand the breach, and then explicitly recommit themselves to their trusting relationship.
This account of trust has a number of implications for conflict management. First, trust facilitates effective conflict resolution. Second, conflicts diminish trust and build distrust. Third, the authors argue that "creating trust in a relationship is initially a matter of building calculus-based trust."(p. 101) Identification-based trust can further strengthen a relationship, as the parties come to have a shared interest in maintaining their relationship. Distrusting relationships are more prone to conflict, and those conflicts are more prone to increase distrust. Most relationships are a mixture of both types of trust and distrust, and so are marked by varying degree of ambivalence. Finally, trust can be rebuilt. However, sine the rebuilding process is often lengthy, conflict management may be more effective if it emphasize managing distrust.
5. Power and Conflict, Peter T. Coleman, pp. 108-130.
Power plays a role in most conflicts. Coleman draws on a variety of the social sciences to develop a working definition of power. He then explores the implications of this definition for conflict resolution, focusing on power strategies commonly used during conflicts. Finally, he examines the implications of his findings for training in conflict resolution.
Popular misconceptions about power include the belief that it has some physical location, that there is only a fixed amount of it, that it operates in only one direction, and that the use of power is basically adversarial or competitive. Within the social sciences Coleman finds four perspectives on power. Some theorists emphasize "power over"--the ability to compel someone to do something. This view suggests a view of power as coercive and competitive. Other theorists have developed the concept of "power with," which emphasizes the effectiveness of joint or cooperative action. A third set of theorists focus on issues of powerlessness and dependence, while other explore the obverse: empowerment and independence. Empowerment theorists employ the notion of "power to," as in the power to act effectively without constraint or disability.
Coleman draws on Deutsch's work to synthesize a working definition of power. "Power can be usefully conceptualized as a mutual interaction between the characteristics of a person and the characteristics of a situation, where the person has access to valued resources and uses them to achieve personal, relational, or environmental goals, often through using various strategies of influence."(p. 113) Power is understood in relational terms, and power itself is distinguished from sources of power, the effective use of available power, and strategies for deploying power.
Coleman then seeks to identify which aspects of persons and of situations are most relevant to power. Personal factors include different cognitive, motivational and moral orientations regarding power. In their concepts of power, people may adopt any of the four perspectives commonly found in the social sciences. In terms of motivation, some people have an authoritarian orientation that stresses obedience to authority. People may be motivated to pursue personal power, or power for their group. Peoples' moral orientations toward power vary with their degree of moral development, their degree of egalitarian sentiment, and with their perception of the scope of justice.
Understanding situational factors requires examining the larger structural and historical context. One significant aspect of situation is role a person plays. Also significant is the individual's place in the hierarchy. Culture is also an important factor, influencing, for instance, peoples' attitudes toward power inequalities.
This approach to understanding power has significant implications for understanding conflict. First, Coleman argues that the predominant understanding of power is the competitive "power over" view. Given this understanding, power conflicts are then viewed as win-lose competitions, thus impairing their chances of a satisfactory resolution. More emphasis on cooperative, dependent and independent power is needed. Cooperative conflicts, for instance, actually generate power, understood as "power with." Second, parties' conceptions of power shape the strategies the employ in conflict. Here again a broader understanding of power would offer alternatives to the competitive strategy.
Third, when evaluating the balance of power between parties in conflict, it is important to note that some of the parties' power may be irrelevant or useless in that particular situation. Assessments of relative power must focus on relevant power. Similarly, parties should reflect carefully on their goals in a conflict, and ask themselves which types of power could be effective, and which detrimental, in reaching those goals.
Finally, research shows that high-power groups "tend to like power, use it, justify having it, and attempt to keep it."(p. 124) They pay less attention to low-power people, and have an "unreflective tendency to dominate."(p. 125) High-power groups tend to alienate low-power groups, and to elicit resistance. Low-power groups, on the other hand, tend to be shortsighted and discontent. They may express their discontent by projecting blame onto even less powerful groups, undermining their ability to empower themselves through cooperation and coalition building.
In conclusion, Coleman makes suggestions for training in conflict resolution, and offers an example of a useful training exercise. Students should reflect on their current conceptions of power, and on their own typical reactions to being powerful of powerless. They should become aware of structural sources of privilege or disadvantage. Students should be able to identify the various types of power, of personal orientations to power, and available sources and strategies of power, in a given conflict setting.
The authors seek to address the question: Under what conditions does communication reduce conflict? They examine four models of communication. From these models they derive seven principles of conflict-reducing communication.
The encoding-decoding model views human communication as a matter of encoding information (e.g. formulating a sentence), transmitting that message (e.g. speaking), and decoding the message (e.g. listening and understanding). Successful communication requires clear channels of transmission, and shared codes. Misunderstandings result from mistranslated messages, or from gaps or extraneous noise in the message. From this model the authors derive their first principle: "Avoid communication channels with low signal-to-noise ratios; if that is impossible, increase redundancy by restating the same idea in various forms."(p. 133).
The intentionalist model recognizes that the same words can have different meanings. On this model communication involves recognizing each other's communicative intentions. Effective communication requires a background of shared knowledge, particularly a common language and shared culture. Miscommunication results from a lack of common background. Miscommunication happens during conflicts as speakers' words are interpreted according to their listeners preconceived notions of their intentions. The authors' second principle directs listeners to try to grasp the speaker's intended meaning. The third principle directs speakers, when deciding what to say, to consider what their listeners will take them to mean.
The perspective -taking model recognizes that even individuals with a common language and culture have different perspectives on the world. This model directs speakers to design their messages to fit their audience's perspective. Miscommunication may occur when the speaker assumes more similarity in perspective with the listener than actually exists, or when the speaker's understanding of the listener's perspective is based in prejudice and inaccurate stereotypes. Another difficulty arises when a speaker is simultaneously addressing different audiences. Despite these problems, the authors' fourth principle directs speakers to take their listener's perspective into account in formulating their message.
The dialogic model views communication as a cooperative, collaborative process. Meaning arises from the communicative situation, and can only be understood within that context. This model, unlike the others, treats the listener as an active participant in the creation of a shared understanding. "Active listeners raise questions, clarify ambiguous declarations, and take great pains to ensure that they and their counterpart have the same understanding of what has been said."(p.140) Principle five is: Be an active listener. In conflict situations, principle six suggests "focus initially on establishing conditions that allow effective communication to occur; the cooperation that communication requires, once established, may generalize to other contexts."(p. 141)
In general, it is important to remember that the form of a message can obscure or undermine its content. For instance, an ironic form of address can reverse the usual meaning of words. The authors' seventh principle then is this: pay attention to message form.
Communication does not assure conflict resolution. Indeed, research has shown that in certain cases, communication can actually worsen bargaining outcomes. The authors stress however that poor communication is very likely to exacerbate conflicts. Good communication, coupled with a genuine desire to resolve a conflict and with quality proposals, makes conflict resolution more likely.
7. Persuasion in Negotiations and Conflict Situations, Shelly L. Chaiken, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, and Charles M. Judd, pp. 144-165.
The authors offer an overview of persuasion theory, directed toward negotiators. Persuasion is defined as "the principles and processes by which people's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are formed, are modified, or resist change in the face of others' attempt at influence."(p. 144) To better understand these principles and processes, the authors employ a dual-process model of information processing, which combines aspects of both systemic and heuristic models. They hope that a better understanding of persuasion will improve negotiators' competence and success.
Systemic processing involves thinking deeply about information, examining its background reasoning or causes, searching for further information, and formulating subsequent attitudes and behaviors in light of the information. It takes significant time and mental effort, and so requires an able and motivated subject.
In contrast, heuristic processing is more nearly automatic. Heuristic thinkers focus on relevant cues, and automatically apply simple rules (heuristics) to evaluate information. Cues include such elements as the speaker's credibility or the number of supporting arguments. Rules include "experts' statements are trustworthy" and "argument length implies argument strength."(p. 147) Heuristic processing is quick and requires little effort.
Both types of processing can be valid, or can be fallible. Heuristics rules may be well grounded in experience, and allow for effective decision-making in a complex, fast-paced environment. Yet they will yield poor judgements in cases which deviate from prior experience. Some heuristics are little more than bias or prejudice.
Systemic processing can yield more depth of understanding and be more responsive to the particular situation. Systematic processing yields less overconfidence, less bias, more tolerance for alternative viewpoints, and deeper and more lasting cognitive changes. Research has also associated systematic processing with improved performance in-group problem-solving, identifying integrative solutions, facilitating political compromise and avoiding war. However, systematic processing may serve to reinforce existing bias, as people tend to select, remember and more positively evaluate information that agrees with their existing attitudes.
Unbiased, systemic processing is more likely to be used when people need very accurate judgements. People who are primarily defensive, or who are trying to make a specific impression on another, typically use heuristic processing or biased forms of systematic processing.
Persuasion plays a crucial role in successful conflict resolution. The authors explain, "negotiated settlements most typically fall apart if the parties to the settlement do not truly believe that it is in their self-interest. For a negotiated settlement to stand the test of time, both parties have to be persuaded that the settlement is in some sense optimal."(p. 157) Negotiators will be more persuasive if they understand which type of information processing is predominates at each particular stage of negotiations, and if they formulate their persuasive appeals in light of that understanding.
Early in negotiations, parties tend to be dominated by impression and defense motives. Heuristic processing predominates and systematic thinking tends to be skewed toward reinforcing existing attitudes. Persuasion is unlikely, since these forms of information processing tend to reinforce existing attitudes and habitual way of thinking.
Unbiased, systematic processing is more conducive to persuasion and creative problem-solving. The authors suggest two approaches to changing parties ' modes of information processing toward unbiased systematic processes. The first is to decrease the parties' impression and defense motives and increase accuracy motivation. This can be done by acting in ways that explicitly violate the other party's heuristic expectation of self-interested action: making concessions, focusing on the other party's interests and gains. A direct way to increase parties' accuracy motivation is to focus interests rather than positions.
Second, parties can facilitate a shift toward a more open, information seeking process by asking questions rather than making assertions. This constitutes a direct shift to information-seeking on the part of the questioner. Answering questions often causes parties to think more systematically about their own interests and goals. In addition, questions may be targeted to elicit information that disconfirms heuristic norms, and hence encourage a shift toward systematic thinking.
Fisher offers a social-psychological approach to understanding intergroup conflicts, that is, conflicts between people that occur in terms of their group identities. He considers the implications of this approach both for conflict resolution and for the training in conflict resolution.
Fisher argues that intergroup conflicts arise from objective differences of interest, coupled with antagonistic or controlling attitudes or behaviors. Incompatibilities, which can prompt conflict, include economic, power or value differences, or differences in needs-satisfaction. Often intergroup conflicts have a mixture of these elements.
These incompatibilities can then be exacerbated into destructive intergroup conflict by common perceptual and cognitive processes. The very act of group categorization tends to create some in-group favoritism. Conflict between groups encourages negative stereotyping of the opposing group. Cognitive biases lead individuals to attribute positive personal characteristics to fellow in-group members and excuse their negative behaviors. At the same time, such biases lead people to attribute negative characteristics to out-group members and explain away any positive behaviors.
Group-level processes also play a role in intergroup conflicts. Groups have identities, and a group's sense of its particular identity will influence how it interacts with other groups. Groups display cohesiveness; members tend to be attracted to and want to remain in the group. Cohesiveness can lead to strong pressures to conform to group norms, especially in conflict situations. Cohesiveness can also lead to groupthink, which is characterized by consensus seeking to the point of irrationality.
All of these processes tend to escalate conflicts. Conflict, in turn, tends to intensify these processes. "Through a combination of cognitive rigidity and bias, self-fulfilling prophecy, and unwitting commitment to prior beliefs and action, parties are drawn into an escalating spiral wherein past investment justifies increasing risk, and unacceptable losses foreclose a way out."(p. 174) Escalation itself produces psychological and structural changes that make the parties resist deescalation. Psychological changes include negative biases and a dehumanized view of the out-group. Structural changes include incorporating hostile, destructive attitude toward the out-group into the in-group norms. Groups that benefit from conflict develop vested interests in continuing the conflict. Polarization processes draw formerly uninvolved parties into the conflict.
Fisher argues that escalated intergroup conflicts can be managed (albeit with great time and effort) and identifies a number of lessons from his approach to understanding these conflicts. Intergroup conflicts involve both objective and subjective elements, both of which must be addressed for effective deescalation. Third-party intervention is usually necessary. Deescalation may have to proceed in stages, using different methods. Because intergroup conflicts are so complex, intervention must begin with a thorough conflict analysis. Conflict resolution requires both change in subjective relationships and processes, and change in objective structures and systems.
Fisher offers a set of general principles for resolving intergroup conflicts. Such conflict resolution proceeds in three phases: analysis, confrontation, resolution. Conflict analysis should identify underlying issues, needs, fears, values, and goals of the parties, through a process that allows mutual clarification and trust-building between the parties.
After analysis comes productive confrontation, "in which the parties directly engage one another on the issues dividing them and work toward mutually acceptable solutions through joint problem solving."(p. 178) Parties must be encouraged to follow a collaborative strategy.
Conflict resolution "involves transforming the relationship and situation such that solutions developed by the parties are sustainable and self-correcting in the long run."(p. 179) Achieving such resolution will require addressing the parties' basic human needs. Mechanisms for dealing with further differences must allow for meaningful involvement by al concerned parties. At the most general level, this suggests that societies must support equality and equity between groups. Policies of multiculturalism and democratic pluralism reduce destructive intergroup conflict.
Resolving destructive intergroup conflicts is a complex and sensitive task, and as such will demand a multi-skilled team of diverse third-party facilitators. Required skills include interpersonal communication, group facilitation, intergroup problem solving, and system-level consulting.
9. Problem Solving and Decision Making in Conflict Resolution, Eben A. Weitzman, Patricia Flynn Weitzman, pp. 185-209.
The authors describe the conflict resolution process as composed of two component processes: decision-making and problem solving. They describe each component, and develop a simple model of their interaction within the broader conflict resolution process.
The problem solving process involves two main parts: diagnosing the conflict, and developing alternative solutions. Diagnosis emphasizes identifying the parties' underlying interests. The goal of problem solving approaches is to find mutually acceptable solutions to problems. Solutions may take the form of a compromise, or agreement on a fair procedure for generating an outcome. Integrative, or win-win, solutions are the most desirable. Strategies for reaching solutions include increasing contested resources (expanding the pie), finding alternative forms of compensation (nonspecific compensation), trading off small concessions (logrolling), or creating new options that satisfy underlying interests (bridging).
Research shows that problem solving approaches to conflict resolution generate more agreements, more win-win outcomes, more outcome satisfaction in the short and long terms, and more durable solutions. Research also shows that problem solving approaches are more likely to be used by people in fair and cohesive organizations that recognize success and are open to innovation. Problem solving is more likely when parties are concerned for the others welfare, as well as their own.
Cognitive psychologists describe problem solving as a four stage process: Identifying the problem, generating alternative strategies, selecting and implementing a solution, and evaluating consequences. Cognitive psychology also suggests a model of interpersonal negotiation strategies that focuses on the different developmental levels of perspective taking by the parties. An egoistic perspective sees the other party as an object, and typical reactions include whining, ignoring, or hitting. The unilateral perspective recognizes the other as an individual, but interacts with them in terms of obedience, command or avoidance. A reciprocal perspective acknowledges the others' interests but still considers them secondary. Interactions take the form of exchange-oriented negotiations. From a mutual perspective, "the needs of both the self and the others are coordinated, and a mutual, third-person perspective is adopted in which both sets of interests are taken into account."(p. 193) Interactions are collaborative. Adoption of the mutual perspective is very important for high quality problem solving.
Individual and group decision making occurs throughout the conflict resolution process. Individual decisions include choosing strategies, deciding to trust, evaluating offers, and prioritizing concerns. Rational choice theory says that people make decisions based on their calculation of the utility of the desired outcome and the chance of that outcome occurring. There are a number of factors that affect these calculations. Whether an outcome is perceived as a gain or a loss depends on a person's reference point. Anchor points-- for example, the perceived best and worst possible outcomes--can also affect assessment of a choice. Generally people are loss-averse; they see avoiding loss as more important than achieving gain. Stress and emotional reactions also affect decision making.
Group decisions include whether to continue problem solving, whether to get help, which procedures to use, and which solution to choose. The authors identify common biases that interfere with good decision making. These include irrationally escalating commitments, assuming resources are fixed and outcomes must be win-lose, using information because it is available rather than relevant, and overconfidence. People may also be biased by the way information is presented, by irrelevant anchor points, or by failing to take the other party's perspective into account. Generally, people's notions of fairness tend to be biased in their own favor. Groups are more likely to reach integrative solutions when the parties' power is equal and their aspirations are high. When power is unequal, the low-power party is more likely to make mutually beneficial offers. Parties in negative or business relationships often want to do much better than their rivals, whereas parties in positive or personal relationships prefer more equal outcomes.
The first step in conflict resolution involves deciding what sort of conflict it is, and understanding the problem by identifying parties interests, goals, reasons, options, etc. Parties need to coordinate their perspectives. The next step is to brainstorm for alternative solutions to the problem. Techniques such as idea checklists or What If questions may also be helpful. The third step is to evaluate the alternatives and decide on a solution. Individual evaluative decisions must be brought together to reach a group decision. Here parties must be on guard against the various factors and biases that can undermine rational decision making. Finally, the parties must commit to their decision.
The authors suggest that problem solving and decision making techniques should be taught together in conflict resolution training programs. Training should explain the conditions that encourage adoption of a problem solving approach, and factors that undermine good decision making.