Five Basic Methods for Resolving Conflict

from Judy's notebook

how it works when to use it when not to use it
or withdrawal
person tries to solve problem 
by denying its existence -
results in win/lose
issue is relatively unimportant;
timing is wrong; cooling-off
period is needed; short term use
issue is important;
issue will not
disappear, but build
suppression or 
smoothing over
differences are played down;
surface harmony is emphasized;
results in win/lose; leads to 
resentment and possible sabotage
if issue remains suppressed
issue is relatively unimportant;
preservation of the relationship
is primary; timing is wrong;
cooling-off period is needed
issue is important;
others are ready and
willing to work on the
or dominance
decision by majority rule or by
person in authority;
results in win/lose and
resentment by the loser
when this method has been
agreed upon in advance,
process is seen as fair;
authority is respected and trusted
losers feel unheard 
ignored, or 
or negotiation
each party gives up something
in order to meet halfway.
results in win/lose if "middle of
the road position ignores the
real diversity of needs or viewpoints
all parties have enough
leeway to give; they trust and
respect each other;
resources are limited
issues of deeply-held
principle rather than 
material interests;
parties are not fully 
committed to the relationship
collaboration abilities, values and expertise of
all are recognized; each party's
position is clear, but the
emphasis is on group solution.
results in win/win for all
there is enough time available
to complete the process;
parties are committed to
relationship and process;
and trained in use of process
when time, abilities, 
commitment and/or
trust are not present

to learn more, read:

  • Avruch, Kenneth, et. al., eds. Conflict Resolution: Cross-Cultural Perspectives Westport, CT: Praeger, 1991
  • Coover, Virginia, et. al. Resource Manual for a Living Revolution Philadelphia: New Society, 1985

  • (see part 2: "Working in Groups" pp. 43-99.)
  • Fisher, Roger and William Ury Getting to Yes NY: Penguin, 1981
  • Gastil, John Democracy in Small Groups Philadelphia: New Society, 1993
  • Kaner, Sam, et. al. Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision Making Philadelphia: New Society, 1996
  • or visit:
  • The Conflict Resolution Information Source

  • go back to

  • Counseling Basics menu
  • Proteus Library



    The address of this page is
    Contents of this page are taken from Judy's counseling notebook: original author is not known.