What Is Conflict Resolution?
There are many ways to resolve conflicts – surrendering, running away, overpowering your opponent with violence, filing a lawsuit, etc. The movement toward Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), sometimes referred to simply as conflict resolution, grew out of the belief that there are better options than using violence or going to court. Today, the terms ADR and conflict resolution are used somewhat interchangeably and refer to a wide range of processes that encourage nonviolent dispute resolution outside of the traditional court system. The field of conflict resolution also includes efforts in schools and communities to reduce violence and bullying and help young people develop communication and problem-solving skills. Common forms of conflict resolution include:
Negotiation is a discussion among two or more people with the goal of reaching an agreement.
Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third-party facilitator helps people discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement. Basic steps in the process include gathering information, framing the issues, developing options, negotiating, and formalizing agreements. Parties in mediation create their own solutions and the mediator does not have any decision-making power over the outcome.
Arbitration is a process in which a third-party neutral, after reviewing evidence and listening to arguments from both sides, issues a decision to settle the case. Arbitration is often used in commercial and labor/management disputes.
What Types of Disputes Can Be Addressed Through Conflict Resolution?
Conflict resolution can be used to help resolve almost any type of dispute. Family mediators, for example, help people with divorce, custody issues, parent-child or sibling conflicts, elder care issues, family business concerns, adoption, premarital agreements, neighbor disputes, etc. Other types of conflicts that respond well to alternative dispute resolution include workplace disputes, labor/management issues, environmental/public policy issues, health care disputes, international conflicts, and many others.
Our thanks to the Association for Conflict Resolution at