Active listening is a way of listening that focuses entirely on what the other person is saying, and confirms understanding of both the content of the message and the emotions and feelings underlying the message, to ensure that understanding is accurate.
The adversarial approach to a conflict sees the other party or parties as an enemy to be defeated. It can be compared to the problem-solving approach, which views the other party or parties as people who have a common problem that needs to be jointly solved. The adversarial approach typically leads to competitive confrontation strategies, while the problem-solving approach leads to cooperative or integrative strategies for approaching the conflict situation.
Adversaries are people who oppose each other in a conflict. They are also called opponents, parties, or disputants.
Advocacy is the process of taking and working for a particular side's interests in a conflict. Lawyers engage in advocacy when they represent a client in a legal proceeding. Disputants can also engage in advocacy themselves--arguing for their own position in negotiation, mediation, or a political debate. Any attempt to persuade another side to agree to your demands is advocacy.
The granting of a pardon for past offenses--especially political offenses--including, for example, human rights violations and war crimes.
Analytical Problem Solving
This is an approach to deeply-rooted or intractable conflicts that brings disputants together to analyze the underlying human needs that cause their conflict, and then helps them work together to develop ways to provide the necessary needs to resolve the problem.
Arbitration is a method of resolving a dispute in which the disputants present their case to an impartial third party, who then makes a decision for them which resolves the conflict. This decision is usually binding. Arbitration differs from mediation, in which a third party simply helps the disputants develop a solution on their own.
An arms race occurs whenever two adversaries race each other to make sure that each has at least as many armaments as the other. This typically leads to an escalation spiral with each side building and/or acquiring more and more weapons in an effort to stay ahead of its enemy.
This is a variation of Fisher and Ury's concept of BATNA--which stands for best alternative to a negotiated agreement. We use "ATNA" to refer to any alternative to a negotiated agreement, not just the best one.
Backlash is a negative response to an action. When an individual or a group is forced to do something against their will, they will often resist or try to get back at the person or group who forced them in the first place. This can result in a reversal of an apparently resolved situation, and may even escalate the conflict further.
BATNA is a term invented by Roger Fisher and William Ury which stands for "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." Any negotiator should determine his or her BATNA before agreeing to any negotiated settlement. If the settlement is as good as or better than one's BATNA, the agreement should be accepted. If the alternative is better, it should be pursued instead of the negotiated settlement. When one party's BATNA is good (or even if they just think it is good), they are unlikely to be willing to enter into negotiations, preferring instead to pursue their alternative option.
Citizen diplomacy (sometimes called "track two diplomacy") refers to unofficial contacts between people of different nations, as differentiated from official contacts between governmental representatives. Citizen diplomacy includes exchanges of people (such as student exchanges), international religious, scientific and cultural activities, as well as unofficial dialogues, discussions, or negotiations between citizens of opposing nations.
Co-existence means living together peacefully in the same geographical area.
Common ground or commonalities refers to the things two people or groups share, or hold in common. These may include living in the same place, having similar values, interests, or needs, or even similar experiences or fears. Although disputants often assume they have nothing in common with their opponents, they almost always have some common ground--even if it is only a common desire to live in peace and security without having to fear the other.
Communication channels are the means available to communicate with another person or group. They may include direct face-to-face communication, telecommunications (telephone, e-mail, written communications), or indirect communication--through third parties or the media, for example.
Community organizing is a process through which an expert helps a group of individuals engage in collective action to address a social problem. Community organizers help people work together to get what they want or need -- they may help people work together to get more jobs in a community; they may help people fight an unfair government law or ruling; they may help people work together to force a polluter to clean up its industrial process, so that it no longer pollutes the environment (or at least, pollutes it to a lesser extent.)
See adversarial approach
Conflict-complicating factors are dynamics such as communication problems or escalation which, while common, are usually extraneous parts of the conflict, which confuse the core issues in the conflict and make them more difficult to understand and deal with.
A solution to a mutual problem that meets some, but not all, of each of the parties' interests.
Concessions are things one side gives up to try to de-escalate or resolve a conflict. They may simply be points in an argument, a reduction in demands, or a softening of one side's position.
Conciliation involves efforts by a third party to improve the relationship between two or more disputants. It may be done as a part of mediation, or independently. Generally, the third party will work with the disputants to correct misunderstandings, reduce fear and distrust, and generally improve communication between the parties in conflict. Sometimes, this alone will result in dispute settlement; at other times, it paves the way for a later mediation process.
This phrase refers to the long-term management of intractable conflicts and the people involved in them, so that they do not escalate out of control and become violent.
This term (along with dispute resolution) usually refers to the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict permanently, by providing each side's needs, and adequately addressing their interests so that they are satisfied with the outcome.
This term is being used more and more to refer to a change (usually an improvement) in the nature of a conflict--a de-escalation or a reconciliation between people or groups. Unlike conflict resolution, which denies the long-term nature of conflict, or conflict management, which assumes that people and relationships can be managed as though they were physical objects, the concept of conflict transformation reflects the notion that conflicts go on for long periods of time, changing the nature of the relationships between the people involved, and themselves changing as people's response to the situation develops over time.
Conflicts of Interest
This term refers to the situation in which a person has a vested interest in the outcome of a decision, but tries to influence the decision making process as if they did not. In other words, they stand to benefit from a decision if it goes a particular way, but they participate in the decision making process as if they were neutral. An example would be an expert from the tobacco industry testifying that tobacco is safe and does not cause cancer. If he argued this on the basis of scientific merits, rather than his connection to the tobacco industry, he could be charged with having a conflict of interest which altered his position on tobacco research.
Consensus decision-making requires that everyone agree with a decision, not just a majority, as occurs in majority-rule processes. In consensus-based processes, people must work together to develop an agreement that is good enough (though not necessarily perfect) that all of the people at the table are willing to agree to it.
Constituents or one's constituency refers to the people a decision- maker represents. The constituents of a governmental leader are the citizens he or she represents in Parliament or other legislative body. The constituents of a negotiator are the people he or she is negotiating for -- members of a union, perhaps, or of an interest group or business.
We use the term "constructive" to refer to a conflict which has more benefits than costs--one that pulls people together, strengthens and/or improves their relationship (by redefining it in a more appropriate or useful way,) and one that leads to positive change in all of the parties involved. It is contrasted with destructive conflict, which has largely negative results--pushing people apart, destroying relationships, and leading to negative changes including an escalation of violence, fear, and distrust.
In cooperation, disputants work together to solve a mutual problem. According to Morton Deutsch, (Resolution of Conflict, 1973) a cooperative situation is one in which the goals of the participants are so linked that any participant can attain his goal if, and only if, the others with whom he is linked can attain their goals. It is contrasted with a competitive approach, in which it is assumed that it is impossible to win unless the other side loses.
We distinguish between core issues in a conflict, which are the fundamental interests, values, and needs which are in conflict with each other, and complicating factors, which are dynamics such as communication problems or escalation which, while common, are usually extraneous parts of the conflict which confuse the core issues and make them more difficult to understand and deal with.
Costing is the process of assessing the costs and benefits of a particular action -- not only in monetary terms, but in terms of time, resources, emotional energy, and other intangible effects on people's lives.
Credibility refers to the factors that determine whether or not a person or a statement is believed or trusted. Sometimes leaders or expert witnesses are not considered by the public to be credible because they have a personal interest in the outcome of a situation or a conflict which would likely influence their views and/or statements about that situation or conflict.
The decision-making process is the process that is used to make a decision. It can be an expert process, where the decision is made by one or more "experts" who look at the "facts" and make the decision based on those facts; it can be a political process through which a political representative or body makes the decision based on political considerations; it might be a judicial process where a judge or a jury makes a decision based on an examination of legal evidence and the law.
De-escalation is the opposite of escalation. It is the "ratcheting-down" of the intensity of a conflict which occurs as parties tire out, or begin to realize that the conflict is doing them more harm than good. They then may begin to make concessions, or reduce the intensity of their attacks, moving slowly toward an eventual negotiated resolution.
This is the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment.
Destructive conflict and confrontation has largely negative results -- it pushes people apart, destroys relationships, and leads to a host of negative personal and social changes including an escalation of violence, fear, and distrust. It is contrasted with constructive conflict and confrontation, which has more benefits than costs -- one that pulls people together, strengthens and/or improves their relationship (by redefining it in a more appropriate or useful way) and one that leads to positive change in all of the parties involved.
Dialogue is a process for sharing and learning about another group's beliefs, feelings, interests, and/or needs in a non-adversarial, open way, usually with the help of a third-party facilitator. Unlike mediation, in which the goal is usually to reach a resolution or settlement of a dispute, the goal of dialogue is usually simply to improve interpersonal understanding and trust.
Generally, diplomacy refers to the interaction between two or more nation-states. Traditionally carried out by government officials, who negotiate treaties, trade policies, and other international agreements, the term has been extended to include unofficial exchanges of private citizens (such as cultural, scientific, and religious exchanges) as well as unofficial (sometimes called "citizen" or "track two") diplomacy in which private citizens actually try to develop solutions to international diplomatic problems.
Disarming strategies are actions that are designed to break down or challenge negative stereotypes. If one person or group is seen by another as extremely threatening and hostile, a gesture of friendship and goodwill is a disarming move, which may alter perceptions of the other and can significantly de-escalate the conflict.
Disputants are the people, groups, or organizations who are in conflict with each other. They are often also called "parties." (Third parties, however, are not disputants, but rather people who intercede to try to help the disputants resolve their dispute.)
See Conflict Resolution
These are conflicts over placement in the social hierarchy (i.e. who has more status and power in a society, and who has less.)
This is a variation of Fisher and Ury's concept of BATNA -- which stands for best alternative to a negotiated agreement. We use "EATNA" to refer to one's estimated alternative to a negotiated agreement -- meaning what you think you can get, which may be different from what you really can get if you use a power strategy other than negotiation to pursue your goals.
Emotions are psychological feelings that people have that usually result from--and contribute to--a conflict. Examples are anger, shame, fear, distrust, and a sense of powerlessness. If emotions are effectively managed, they can become a resource for effective conflict resolution. If they are not effectively managed, however, they can intensify a conflict, heightening tensions and making the situation more difficult to resolve.
Empowerment means giving a person or group more power. This may be done by the party alone, through education, coalition building, community organizing, resource development, or advocacy assistance. It can also be done by a mediator, who can work with the lower power person or group to help them represent themselves more effectively. Although this approach causes ethical dilemmas (since helping one side more than another compromises a mediator's impartiality), it is quite commonly done in the problem-solving or "settlement- oriented" approach to mediation, since this approach works best when the two parties are relatively equal in power. Baruch Bush and Joe Folger, however, advocate the empowerment of both parties simultaneously through transformative mediation, which seeks to restore disputants' "sense of their own value and strength and their own capacity to handle life's problems." This approach avoids the ethical dilemmas of one-sided empowerment, though it sacrifices emphasis on achieving a settlement as primary.
Escalation is an increase in intensity of a conflict. According to Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin (1986, 7-8), as a conflict escalates, the disputants change from relatively gentle opposition to heavier, more confrontational tactics. The number of parties tends to increase, as does the number of issues, and the breadth of the issues (that is, issues change from ones which are very specific to more global concerns). Lastly, disputants change from only wanting to win themselves, to wanting also to hurt the opponent. While conflicts escalate quickly and easily, de-escalation, a diminishing of intensity, is often much harder to achieve.
Extremists are people who take extreme views--those which are much stronger, and often more fixed than other people's views of the same situation. In escalated conflicts, extremists may advocate violent responses, while more moderate disputants will advocate less extreme measures.
"Face" refers to one's image, both to oneself and to others. A face-saving approach is an approach that does not damage one's own or the other side's image--it does not make oneself or the other side appear weak, inept, or otherwise as a failure, but makes them look like they are wise and victorious, even when they are not. By allowing all disputants to save face, a negotiated settlement is much more likely to be reached.
Facilitation is done by a third party who assists in running consensus-building meetings. The facilitator typically helps the parties set ground rules and agendas, enforces both, and helps the participants keep on track and working toward their mutual goals. While similar to a mediator, a facilitator usually plays a less active role in the deliberations, and often does not see "resolution" as a goal of his or her work, as mediators usually do.
Fact-based disputes are disputes about what has occurred or is occurring. Such disputes can be generated from misunderstandings or inaccurate rumors (when someone is accused of doing something they did not actually do). Fact-based disputes can also be generated by differing perceptions or judgments about what has occurred or is now occurring. For example, a dispute over the level of threat caused by the ozone hole or the greenhouse effect is a "fact-based dispute," even though all the scientific facts are not readily discernable or agreed to.
We use the term "force" to refer to any situation when one disputant is made to do something against their will through threat. In Kenneth Boulding's terms, force is used when people are told to "do something that I want, or else I will do something that you don't want." Force does not need to be violent. It can simply be a coercive statement that says that if you do not comply with my demand, I will fire you from your job, or I will stage a hunger strike, or I will organize a work slow-down nor do anything else that is likely to harm the opponent in some significant way.
Forcing Power Shortcuts
Forcing Power Shortcuts are ways to measure relative power without having a protracted (and destructive) power struggle. For example, polls can measure public opinion without having to have a full vote on an issue. Shortened alternative dispute resolution procedures, such as arbitration or mini-trials, can be used to replace costly litigation. Even wars can be avoided by measuring relative military strength and then making an assessment of which side would be likely to win. If both sides agree (at least approximately) on the likely outcome, then a negotiated solution can be worked out which is consistent with that outcome, avoiding the high costs of a protracted struggle.
Frames are ways of defining a problem. Some people may define a problem in terms of rights, while others may define it in terms of interests or relative power. These different positions are sometimes referred to as different "frames."
Framing is the process of defining what a problem is about. Just as a frame can be placed around a photograph, including some portions of the picture, but cropping other portions out, people can define some aspects of a problem as important, while they ignore (or are unaware of) other issues that do not concern them.
GRIT (Gradual Reduction in Tension)
This is a term invented by Charles Osgood to refer to a gradual de-escalation process, in which one side makes a unilateral, minor concession in the hopes that the other side will then be encouraged to do the same. This is then followed by a second concession, which hopefully is matched, and the de-escalation process then continues with matched concessions and disarming moves.
This is a term used to refer to adversarial, competitive bargaining that assumes that the opponent is an enemy to be defeated, rather than a partner to be worked with cooperatively. Fisher and Ury contrast hard bargaining with soft bargaining (which is highly conciliatory, to the point of giving in on important points). They contrast both these approaches with a third approach, principled negotiation, which is neither hard, nor soft, but rather integrative in its approach.
Human needs are things that all humans need for normal growth and development. First identified by psychologist Abraham Maslow, human needs go beyond the obvious physical needs of food and shelter to include psychological needs such as security, love, a sense of identity, self-esteem, and the ability to achieve one's goals. Some conflict theorists, referred to as "human needs theorists," argue that the most difficult and intense conflicts, such as racial and ethnic conflicts, are caused by the denial of one or both groups' fundamental human needs: the need for identity, security, and/or recognition. In order to resolve such conflicts, ways must be found to provide these needs for all individuals and groups without compromise.
Identity refers to the way people see themselves--the groups they feel a part of, the significant aspects of themselves that they use to describe themselves to others. Some theorists distinguish between collective identity, social identity, and personal identity. However, all are related in one way or another to a description of who one is, and how one fits into his or her social group and society over all.
Identity conflicts are conflicts that develop when a person or group feels that their sense of self (i.e. who one is) is threatened or denied legitimacy or respect. Religious, ethnic, and racial conflicts are examples of identity conflicts.
This refers to the attitude of the third party. An impartial third party will not prefer one side or one side's position to another side's position, but will approach them both as equally valid. In reality, this objective can be hard to achieve, although a third party can make an active effort to treat each side the same, even if he or she tends to prefer one party or one party's argument over the other.
Incompatible interests are things that people want that cannot be simultaneously achieved. If a community has a limited budget to spend on public services, for example, and each of four agencies (the police, the schools, the hospital, and the roads department, for instance) all need a budget increase to even maintain current services, these departments have incompatible interests--not all of their funding requests can be met simultaneously.
Integrative Power and the Integrative System
Integrative power is the power of social ties and the power of identity--the power of the integrative system (the system of social bonds that hold people together in groups.) Although seldom considered a source of power, Kenneth Boulding argued that integrative power is the strongest form of power because all others depend on the integrative system in order to work.
Interest-Based Problem Solving
Interest-based problem solving defines problems in terms of interests (not positions) and works to reconcile the interests to obtain a mutually-satisfactory solution.
Interest groups are advocacy groups -- groups of people who join together to work for a common cause. Environmental groups, groups defending human rights, and groups working for social causes are all interest groups.
Interests are the underlying desires and concerns that motivate people to take a position. While their position is what they say they want, such as "I want to build my house here!", their interests are the reasons why they take that position (because I want a quiet lot with a good view of the city). Often parties' interests are compatible, and hence negotiable, even when their positions seem to be in complete opposition.
Intolerance is the unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of another person, group, or idea that differs from one's own. It may result in an effort to get rid of the "objectionable" person or idea, or it may simply result in treating them in a subservient way, as occurs when people of certain racial or ethnic groups are discriminated against by the dominant group in a society.
We use this term to refer to conflicts that go on for a long time, resisting most (if not all) attempts to resolve them. Typically they involve fundamental value disagreements, high-stakes distributional questions, domination issues, and/or denied human needs -- all of which are non-negotiable problems. They often involve unavoidable win-lose situations as well.
I-Statements and You-Statements
"I statements" state the way someone feels about a situation, while "you statements" are accusations that another person did something wrong. By stating problems in terms of one's own feelings (using I statements) instead of accusing the other person of causing the problem (as occurs with you-statements) defensiveness and hostility can be minimized and the chances of resolution improved.
Joint fact-finding is a process in which two or more disputants work together to clarify disputed facts in a conflict--for example, they might cooperate on a scientific study of environmental impacts of a proposed project, or on an inquiry into the extent of human rights abuses during or after a war.
Legitimacy refers to the perceived fairness of a dispute resolution process. For example, fair elections or litigation based on socially-accepted laws are generally considered legitimate, as are the decisions that result from such processes. On the other hand, elections where voters are harassed or forced to vote a particular way are usually considered illegitimate, as are court decisions handed down by biased courts. Legitimacy of decision-making procedures is important, because illegitimate procedures almost always escalate conflicts, making their ultimate resolution more difficult.
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum situations (often called "games,") which everyone can win (also referred to as "win-win"), negative-sum games in which all sides lose (also referred to as "lose-lose"), and zero-sum games in which one side wins only if another side loses.
Mediation is a method of conflict resolution that is carried out by an intermediary who works with the disputing parties to help them improve their communication and their analysis of the conflict situation, so that the parties can themselves identify and choose an option for resolving the conflict that meets the interests or needs of all of the disputants. Unlike arbitration, where the intermediary listens to the arguments of both sides and makes a decision for the disputants, a mediator will help the disputants design a solution themselves.
This term has been developed recently to reflect the idea that international exchanges can take many forms beyond official negotiations between diplomats. Examples of multi-track diplomacy include official and unofficial conflict resolution efforts, citizen and scientific exchanges, international business negotiations, international cultural and athletic activities, and other international contacts and cooperative efforts.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that all people are driven to attain certain biological and psychological requirements, which he called fundamental human "needs." Several conflict theorists, for instance John Burton and Herbert Kelman, have applied this idea to conflict theory, suggesting that the needs for security, identity, and recognition underlie most deeply-rooted and protracted conflicts. They argue that most ethnic and racial conflicts, for instance, are not interest-based conflicts (and hence cannot be negotiated), but are driven by the subordinate group's desire for these fundamental needs. Only by restructuring the society so that all groups' fundamental needs are met, can needs conflicts be resolved.
Negative-sum Situations or Games
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum situations (often called "games,") which everyone can win (also referred to as "win-win"), negative-sum games in which all sides lose (also referred to as "lose-lose") and zero-sum games in which one side wins only if another side loses.
Negotiation is bargaining -- it is the process of discussion and give-and-take between two or more disputants, who seek to find a solution to a common problem. Negotiation occurs between people all the time -- between parents and children, between husbands and wives, between workers and employers, between nations. It can be relatively cooperative, as it is when both sides seek a solution that is mutually beneficial (commonly called win-win or cooperative bargaining), or it can be confrontational (commonly called win-lose or adversarial bargaining,) when each side seeks to prevail over the other.
This term refers to the return to negotiation after rights-based and power-based processes are used to clarify respective rights and relative levels of power. These tests of rights and power determine the parties' best alternatives to a negotiated agreement (their "BATNA"s). Once these are known, the parties can "loopback" to negotiation to avoid a protracted and costly struggle, while usually obtaining the same result.
This term means that a third party is not connected to, and/or has not had a prior relationship with, any of the disputants.
The term "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs) refers to international organizations that are not associated with any government. Examples include many religions that cross borders, international humanitarian aid organizations such as CARE or the International Red Cross, sporting organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, and many scientific, business, educational, and other professional organizations.
Nonviolent Direct Action/Nonviolent Struggle
Nonviolent direct action is action, usually undertaken by a group of people, to persuade someone else to change their behavior. Examples include strikes, boycotts, marches, and demonstrations--social, economic, or political acts that are intended to persuade an opponent to change its policies. While not violent initially, nonviolent direct action can provoke a violent response. Thus, forcing someone to do something at gunpoint would not be nonviolent direct action, but if demonstrators are forced to retreat by police using or threatening to use weapons, the initial action is still considered to be nonviolent.
In past writing, we have used the term "overlay problems" the same way we use "complicating problems" in this material. Both terms refer to dynamics such as communication problems or escalation which, while common, are usually extraneous parts of the conflict which confuse the core issues and make them more difficult to understand and deal with.
The parties are the people who are involved in the dispute. Most parties are disputants--the people who are in conflict with each other. Other parties -- often called "third parties," -- are parties that intervene in the dispute to try to help the disputants resolve it. Mediators and judges, for example, are third parties.
Peace-building is the process of restoring normal relations between people. It requires the reconciliation of differences, apology and forgiveness of past harm, and the establishment of a cooperative relationship between groups, replacing the adversarial or competitive relationship that used to exist.
Peacekeeping is the prevention or ending of violence within or between nation-states through the intervention of an outside third party that keeps the warring parties apart. Unlike peacemaking, which involves negotiating a resolution to the issues in conflict, the goal of peacekeeping is simply to prevent further violence.
Peacemaking is the term often used to refer to the process of negotiating the resolution of a conflict between people, groups, or nations. It goes beyond peacekeeping to actually deal with the issues in dispute, but falls short of peace-building, which aims toward reconciliation and normalization of relations between ordinary people, beyond the formal resolution which is written on paper.
Persuasion involves convincing another party to change its attitude and/or its behavior. Although this can be done through coercion, we generally use the term "persuasion" in a more positive sense--to refer to emotional or rational appeals based on common values and understandings.
Polarization of a conflict occurs as a conflict rises in intensity (that is, escalates). Often as escalation occurs, more and more people get involved, and take strong positions either on one side or the other. "Polarization" refers to this process in which people move toward extreme positions ("poles"), leaving fewer and fewer people "in the middle."
Positions are what people say they want--the superficial demands they make of their opponent. According to Fisher and Ury, who first distinguished between interests and positions, positions are what people have decided upon, while interests are what caused them to decide. Often one side's position will be the opposite of its opponent's, although their interests may actually be compatible.
Positive-Sum Situations (Positive-Sum Games)
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum situations (often called "games,") which everyone can win (also referred to as "win-win"), negative-sum games (also referred to as "lose-lose"), and zero-sum games in which one side wins only if another side loses.
Power is the ability to get what you want, or as conflict theorist Kenneth Boulding put it, to "change the future." This can occur through force (sometimes referred to as "power-over"), through cooperation (referred to as "power-with" or exchange power), or through the power of the integrative system -- the system of identity and relationships that holds people together in groups.
Power Strategy Mix
This term refers to the mix of force, exchange, and integrative power that is used by a disputant in an effort to prevail in any conflict situation.
Practitioners are people who engage in conflict resolution as a profession (i.e. mediators, arbitrators, facilitators, diplomats, etc.)
This approach to negotiation was developed by Fisher and Ury and first presented in their best-selling book, Getting to Yes, in 1981. Basically, an integrative negotiation strategy calls for "separating the people from the problem," negotiating on the basis of interests rather than positions, identifying options for mutual gain, and using objective criteria to judge fairness of any proposed settlement.
This term is sometimes used to refer to analytical problem-solving workshops that seek to analyze and resolve conflicts by identifying and providing the underlying human needs. In other situations, it refers to an approach to mediation that focuses primarily on resolving the conflict (as opposed to transforming the relationships of the people involved).
The problem-solving approach to conflict involves working cooperatively with the other disputants to solve a common problem. It can be contrasted with the adversarial approach which views the other disputants as opponents or enemies to be defeated, not cooperated with.
Procedural problems are problems with decision-making procedures. Examples are decisions that are made without considering relevant and important facts, decisions that are made arbitrarily without considering the interests or needs of the affected people, or decisions that are made without following the established and accepted process. Often, procedural problems can intensify and complicate disputes which could be resolved relatively easily if proper procedures were followed.
Reconciliation is the normalization of relationships between people or groups. According to John Paul Lederach, it involves four simultaneous processes: the search for truth, justice, peace, and mercy. When all four of these factors are brought together, then reconciliation, Lederach says, is achieved.
Reframing is the process of redefining a situation--seeing a conflict in a new way, based on input from other people who define the situation differently than you do.
Relationship problems are problems between two or more people that involve, most importantly, the relationship between those two people. For example, conflicts can arise because two people don't trust each other, or because they are in constant, hostile competition with each other.
See Conflict Resolution
We use this term to refer to conflicts that are highly difficult, but not impossible, to resolve. The term "intractable conflict" means the same thing, but often we use "resolution-resistant" instead, because some people interpret "intractable" to mean "impossible."
Restitution involves paying a person or group back for harm that was done to them. Although lost lives can never be replaced, making a symbolic repayment of money, social or economic assistance, or otherwise alleviating damage or harm that was done, can go a long way toward resolving a conflict and moving toward reconciliation.
Restorative justice is justice that is not designed to punish the wrong-doer, but rather to restore the victim and the relationship to the way they were before the offence. Thus, restorative justice requires an apology from the offender, restitution for the offense, and forgiveness from the victim. Often this is accomplished through victim-offender reconciliation programs, which may operate at either the interpersonal or intergroup level.
Retribution is retaliation -- getting back at someone for something they did to hurt you.
A conflict is said to be "ripe" for settlement or negotiation when it has reached a stalemate, or when all of the parties have determined that their alternatives to negotiation will not get them what they want or need. In this case, they are likely to be ready to negotiate a settlement which will satisfy at least a portion of their interests -- more than they are getting otherwise, or stand to get if they pursue their force-based options further.
Most negotiations and other conflict resolution processes occur among a small group of people. In intergroup, inter-organizational, and international conflicts, the negotiators represent a large number of other people, not just themselves. Getting those people -- the constituents -- to agree to the settlement developed by the negotiators is often a problem, as they have not gone through the same trust-building and understanding-improving processes that the negotiators have experienced. We refer to this as the "scale-up problem," as the small group understandings and trust must be "scaled up" to the larger population if peace-building is to be effective.
Scoping is the process of determining who else is involved in a conflict and what their interests, needs, and positions are. It also involves the determination of external constraints that affect the situation and any other factors that define the conflict situation beyond one's own view of the conflict.
The term "social context" refers to the social relationships that exist in a community at the time a conflict occurs. For instance, is one group socially and/or economically dominant, while other groups are less successful or discriminated against?
This is a term used to refer to very cooperative, conciliatory bargaining that focuses primarily on reaching an agreement and not making the other side upset. Fisher and Ury contrast it with adversarial, competitive bargaining, which assumes that the opponent is an enemy to be defeated, rather than a partner to be worked with cooperatively. They contrast both of these approaches with a third approach, principled negotiation, which is neither hard nor soft, but rather integrative in its approach.
Stable peace is the situation in which two countries do not even consider war to be an acceptable or possible option for dispute resolution between them. It is contrasted with unstable peace (in which countries are at peace but think that war is possible at a future time).
Stakeholders are people who will be affected by a conflict or by the resolution of that conflict. They include current disputants, and also people who are not currently involved in the conflict but might become involved (because they are likely to be affected by the conflict or its outcome sometime in the future.)
A stalemate is a standoff; a situation in which neither side can prevail in a conflict, no matter how hard they try. Often parties must reach a stalemate before they are willing to negotiate an end to their conflict.
Stereotyping is the process of assuming a person or group has one or more characteristics because most members of that group have (or are thought to have) the same characteristics. It is a simplification and generalization process that helps people categorize and understand their world, but at the same time it often leads to errors. Examples of stereotypes that are often wrong include, "women are weak and submissive, while men are powerful and domineering." This may be true for some women and some men, but it is not true for all. When stereotypes are inaccurate and negative (as they often are between groups in conflict) they lead to misunderstandings which make resolving the conflict more difficult.
This is intentional escalation, when one (or multiple) parties escalate a conflict on purpose to try to mobilize support for their own side.
This refers to all forms of electronic communications--telephone, television, and computers, for example.
A "third party" is someone who is not involved in the conflict, but who gets involved to try to help the disputants work out a solution (or at least improve the situation by communicating better or increasing mutual understanding.) Examples of third parties are mediators, arbitrators, conciliators, and facilitators.
Third Party Intervention
The term "third party" usually refers to a person who gets involved in a dispute in an effort to help the disputing parties resolve their problem. This third party can be a neutral outsider, or he or she may be a person already involved in the conflict (an insider) who takes on the role of a mediator to help work out a mutually-acceptable resolution.
A threat is any statement that takes the form "you do something I want, or I will do something you do not want." According to Kenneth Boulding's theory of power, threat is one of three forms of power, the other two being exchange and what he calls "love," (which we refer to as the "integrative system").
Track Two Diplomacy
"Track two" diplomacy involves unofficial dialogue, discussions, or even negotiations between ordinary citizens about topics that are usually reserved for diplomats -- for instance, about arms control agreements, or negotiations to end to long-standing international conflict. It is differentiated from "track one" diplomacy, which involves formal discussions between official diplomats.
A triggering event is an event that initiates a conflict. It can be minor--a simple statement that is misinterpreted, or a careless mistake. Or it can be major--for instance, the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand was supposedly the "triggering event" that started World War I.
Value differences are differences in people's fundamental beliefs about what is good and bad, right and wrong. When people's values differ significantly, the resulting conflict is often very hard to resolve, as people are not willing to change or compromise their fundamental values and beliefs.
Values are the ideas we have about what is good and what is bad, and how things should be. We have values about family relationships (regarding, for instance, the role of the husband with respect to the wife), about work relationships (regarding, for instance, how employers should treat employees), and about other personal and relationships issues (regarding, for example, how children should behave towards adults, or how people should follow particular religious beliefs).
Win-Lose (Adversarial) Approach
This is the approach to conflict taken by people who view the opponent as an adversary to be defeated. It assumes that in order to win, the opponent must lose. This is opposite to the "win-win" approach to conflict, which assumes that if the disputants cooperate, a solution which provides a victory for all sides can be found.
Win-Win (Cooperative or Problem-solving) Approach
This is the approach to conflict taken by people who want to find a solution that satisfies all of the disputants. In "win-win" bargaining, the disputing parties try to cooperate to solve a joint problem in a way that allows both parties to "win." This is contrasted with the "win-lose" (adversarial) approach to conflicts, which assumes that all opponents are enemies and that in order for one side to win a dispute, its opponent must lose.
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum situations (often called "games") which everyone can win (also referred to as "win-win"), negative sum games (also referred to as "lose-lose"), and zero-sum games, in which one side wins only if another side loses.
A world view is a person's fundamental image of the world -- one's set of core beliefs about how his or her social environment is put together. It involves one's fundamental values about what is good and bad; it involves beliefs about who does what and why; it involves assumptions about what causes events and what those events might later cause. World views are closely linked with a person's sense of identity. People see themselves as part of some groups and not part of others, of having a particular role to play in society, and particular relationships with others. One's image of who one is results from one's fundamental image of the world and one's image of how one relates to other people in it.
Zero-Sum Games or Situations
Zero-sum games or situations are situations in which the only way one side can get ahead (or get more of something) is if the other side gets less. This occurs when there is a finite amount of a resource to be distributed, and together the parties want more than is available. In this situation, no side can get what it wants unless the other side gets less than it wants. This is also referred to as a "win-lose" situation.
Phase I Now Complete
Please contact us if you encounter problems using the new site.
If you prefer, the old homepage is also still available.
Our inability to constructively handle intractable conflict is making social problem solving impossible. Find out more about the problem and how Beyond Intractability can help you help address it.
An extensive collection of resources covering the destructive dynamics of intractable conflict, strategies for limiting those dynamics, and techniques for more wisely and equitably resolving disputes.