Monday, November 01, 2010

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution is problem solving.

One problem is emotion. Each human involved in the conflict brings a series of emotional problems. Insofar as they block all other problem solving efforts, they outrank all the other problems. The emotional problems arise alongside the presentation of all other problems. Solving one emotional problem does not solve the next one.

Then the problems are in three basic categories.

First, de-escalation. Escalation of the aspects of any conflict is what makes it progressively more destructive. Stopping the escalation is key to starting transformation.

Second, substance. How can each aspect of the stated content of the conflict be worked out to everyone's satisfaction? This is the nominal conflict over land, rights, freedom, property, ownership, liberty, etc.

Third, communication and process. How do we talk about this? Are there more functional ways we can treat each other throughout this relationship? Are there systems we can design to handle conflict now and in the future?

All of these conflict transformation considerations are vital in the creation of civil society movements as well as inside families. Variants of these elements of conflict management should inform efforts to plan, to recruit, to confront, to negotiate and to move forward together. Each human enterprise down to the most libertarian individualistic activity immediately or eventually needs to transform conflict from destructive to constructive. This is how we work with each other, friend or foe, and we can do it in ways that either keep us spinning our wheels, stuck in the ditch, or that get us moving forward.

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