A Proper Definition of Conflict Resolution

In order to begin implementing effective strategies for conflict management, one ought to be clear on the actual definition of conflict resolution. Many of our clients come to us with interpersonal relationship problems in need of solutions, or with organizational and employees conflicts which require resolution; but they aren’t quite sure what conflict resolution actually means and entails.

To understand conflict resolution and how peace can be found from problem-solving, first let’s discuss some basics about conflict.

Conflict is a Natural Part of Life

None of us will live a life without conflict. Because we all come from different backgrounds, circumstances, experiences, and perspectives even those of us from similar backgrounds have our own unique experiences we will probably disagree with someone about something on quite a regular basis. We may even disagree with a lot of people about a lot of things. Hence, we experience conflict — a divergence of interests, values, or desires.

Conflict is normal and natural, but the way we deal with conflict can set others and ourselves up for growth and productivity, or for frustration and even harm. Families, organizations, and workplaces frequently experience conflict between individuals; for these relationships and their communities or workplaces to function optimally, effective conflict resolution is a must.

What is Conflict Resolution?

In the loosest terms, conflict resolution is essentially just solving a problem; we all do this multiple times a day. We run into a problem or conflict, and we figure out a solution. However, the definition of conflict resolution as it is most often used today, refers to a more formal practice of "alternative dispute resolution" or ADR. At the most basic level, ADR is a simple negotiation, either carried out by a skilled person who has studied conflict resolution practices or facilitated by a conflict specialist, mediator, or consultant.

So for example, when two or more people cannot work out their differences on their own through negotiation, a neutral third-party conflict resolution expert may be brought in to help all individuals understand one another's perspectives and how these perspectives are impacting the general conflict. The conflict consultant will then attempt to facilitate a resolution using any one or a variety of different conflict resolution methods and philosophies, depending on the situation and the consultant's particular expertise. Most conflict resolution practitioners today implement interest-based and facilitative practices, meaning their jobs are to help all parties arrive at their own solutions, which should be mutually satisfactory, whenever possible.

So, we define conflict resolution as any methodology that effectively get all parties’ needs met, as sufficiently as possible, in order to restore peace and cooperation.

Now technically, any form of dispute resolution, including traditional adjudication (in a court of law), can be considered a form of conflict resolution. But again, when most people talk about or define conflict resolution these days, what they are really referring to are the variety of practices under the umbrella of ADR—all those methods that do not require adjudication.

The Definition of Conflict Resolution Focuses on Interests

When examining the definition of conflict resolution, at least as most people have used the term over the last half-century, there are a few key practices that are typically implied:

  • Producing a solution that is agreeable to all parties
  • Focusing on underlying interests and needs, rather than on positions or desires
  • Improving and/or transforming the relationship between all parties going forward

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems offers conflict resolution and conflict management strategies that assist individuals and groups in a variety of circumstances. We help people in many dynamics benefit from easier and more enjoyable relationships at home, at work, and in communities. To learn how we translate the basic definition of conflict resolution into a practical system of building better relationships, contact us today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *