Conflict Management Conflict Management

Why the study of conflict is important

Key elements of conflict

The nature of conflict

Variables in the study of conflict

Skills for conflict managers

Self test

Sources for this Web site



EEC Home


A Conflict Management Glossary

ADR:  Alternative Dispute Resolution is the general term that includes conflict management, mediation, arbitration, and other processes that are alternative to the judicial system.

Adjudicationsettlements within the legal system before a judge or jury. 

Agreement in principle:  a bargaining strategy to first establish agreement on the general boundaries of the settlement, then to move toward packages of other agreements that fulfill or implement the general agreement in principle (see Moore, 1996). 

Aggression:  an intentional act to cause distress or harm to another being (see Bjorkqvist, 1997). 

Arbitrationa form of binding or non-binding third party decision-making. 

BATNA:  Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.  Negotiators can more realistically assess their options when they know the range of possible outcomes that may result from the situation being negotiated.  If no other outcome is better than what one can achieve through negotiation, then bargaining in good faith to achieve a solution during a negotiation is the optimal strategy.  If many other alternatives are superior to the one achieved through negotiation, then other alternatives may need to be examined.  Negotiators also are encouraged to know their WATNA or Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

Bargaining:  a means of reaching agreement or settlement through give and take, often synonymous with negotiation. Lulofs (1994) makes the distinction that bargaining refers to business contexts, usually involving money, and negotiation refers to all other contexts. 

Bargaining range/Settlement range:  in a single issue negotiation, the range of overlap in solutions where both parties would prefer a settlement to no settlement.  For example, Party A has a car to sell and is asking $5,000, but will actually be satisfied with as little as $4,300.  Party B wishes to purchase the car and has an initial desire to pay no more than $4,000, but is willing to pay as much as $4,600. 

Beltlines/Hitting below the belt:  a metaphorical name for tactics which are perceived as unfair or intended to harm another person, as in hitting below the belt in boxing. 

Bottom line:  the point in bargaining or negotiation where no additional concessions can be made. 

Buyer's remorse:  a feeling after an agreement is consummated that a person could have negotiated a better outcome.  The term is often used as a metaphor for car purchasers who discover a friend "got a better deal" on a similar vehicle. 

Claiming value/Negotiator’s dilemma:  Claiming value is the taking of resources during a conflict or negotiation; the opposite of creating value which is the discovery or invention of options or resources (see Lax and Sebenius, 1986).  The negotiator’s dilemma is knowing when to create value and when to take value.

Competition/Competitive conflict systems: a win/lose, power-over, aggressive, style which focuses on self-interest. 

Conciliation:  a more informal negotiation or third-party intervention process with focus on relationship maintenance.  Moore (1996) defines conciliation as the emotional or psychological portions of mediation. 

Constitutive rules:  rules about what counts in the construction of meaning, for example, what constitutes respectful behavior? 

Coercion:  achieving compliance through force. 

Conflict episode:  a relatively definable manifestation of conflict as an event in time within a longer conflict. 

Conflict resolution styles:  "patterned responses or clusters of behavior that people use in conflict" (Wilmot and Hocker, 1998, 111). 

Cooperation:  working jointly or collectively with others. 

Distributive/Win/Lose:  bargaining where more outcome for one party automatically means less outcome for the other party; limited resources are "distributed" to or claimed by one party and therefore are not available to the other party. 

Face-saving:  "face" is a person's image of him/herself.  Face-saving refers to tactics and strategies which permit persons in conflict to maintain a positive image of self, with friends, and with constituents (see Folger, Poole, and Stutman, 1997, 127-151; Lulofs, 1994, 189-196; Wilmot and Hocker, 1998, 60-64). 

Goals:  the desired outcome. 

Gunnysacking:  a metaphor for the unproductive practice of saving grievances until one's limit is reached (the sack is full), then relating all of the stored grievances to another person in one large clump (emptying the sack). 

Incremental concessionsbargaining moves made in small steps rather than in a few large jumps. 

Intrapersonal:  within the self. 

Interests/Interest-Based:  interests are needs which drive desires in conflict situations.  Interests sometimes are subdivided into procedural, substantive, and psychological (Moore, 1996). 

Interpersonal conflict:  "an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals" (Wilmot and Hocker, 1998, 34). 

Issue:  identifiable and specific, usually concrete, concerns that must be addressed to manage a conflict. 

Linear or cause-effect:  a perspective that holds events/effects have discernible causes and that direct lines may be drawn from specific causes to specific effects. The cause-effect view is in opposition to a more process view of the world, which believes events have many interconnected preceding events and, in human behavior, one cannot often isolate any one specific cause.

Mediation:  "involves the intervention of an acceptable party who has limited or no authoritative decision-making power, but who assists the involved parties in voluntarily reaching a mutually acceptable settlement of issues in dispute" (Moore, 1996, 15). 

Move:  the implementation of a tactic. 

Multiple settlement options:  generation of a list of possible solutions or settlements within a negotiation. 

Mutual gains:  a conflict management and negotiation perspective that utilizes processes to maximize the beneficial outcome(s) for all parties in a dispute (see Hall, 1993; Susskind and Field, 1996). 

Negotiated rulemaking (NEG-REG):  Representatives of agencies and private stakeholders are brought together to negotiate new government rules or regulations.

Negotiator’s dilemma/Claiming value:  Claiming value is the taking of resources during a conflict or negotiation; the opposite of creating value which is the discovery or invention of options or resources (see Lax and Sebenius, 1986).  The negotiator’s dilemma is knowing when to create value and when to take value.

NAME:  National Association for Mediation in Education 

NIDR:  The National Institute for Dispute Resolution 

Open-ended questions:  questions that call for elaborated responses (as opposed to close-ended questions such as true/false or yes/no). 

Power:  the ability to influence others. 

Position/Positional conflict systems:  a position is a demand or negotiation stance.  Positional conflict involves competitive negotiation around positions. 

Rapport talk:  a cooperative style of private speaking stereotypically associated with females that focuses on a desire among the conversation participants to show connection, likeness, similarity, cooperation, and matching of experiences (see Tannen, 1990). 

Reframe:  restating a narrow or positional comment into a larger, more general, more negotiable frame.  When people present their position in a negotiation, they often state the position within a very narrow frame, for example:  “I have to have this product delivered by five o’clock today or I will cancel all my orders with your company.”  The frame of the statement is very narrow.  To reframe the position, one might say:   “Having timely delivery is very important to you” or “You need your products as soon as possible.”  Moving from a small frame, one that is typically very difficult to satisfy as only one action is possible, into a larger frame where many possible solutions may exist makes a successful negotiation more possible.

Regulative rules:  Social rules which regulate behavior, for example, you should raise your hand before you speak in class. 

Report talk:  a competitive form of conversation stereotypically associated with males that demonstrates independence, maintains status, and exhibits unique skills (see Tannen, 1990). 

Resource:  “any positively perceived physical, economic or social consequence”  (Miller and Steinberg, 1975, 65).  In conflicts, resources can be tangible things such as money, objects, or even the last piece of a particularly delicious cake.  Resources also are non-tangible things that are perceived to have value, such as time spent with one another, trust, and the esteem of others.

Restorative justice:  instead of the state being the party which seeks restitution for crimes (in the form of jail time or financial penalties and fines), the individual or community is seen as the victim.   Consequently, offenders must negotiate directly with victims and/or community to restore community or provide compensation; persons offended are the primary victim with the state as the secondary victim (see Umbreit, 1994). 

Scarce resource:  An resource that is perceived to be in short supply. 

Self-esteem:  the need to respect oneself. 

Stakeholder:  any person who has a valid interest in the outcome of a decision. 

Strategic conflict: conflict in which parties have choices as opposed to conflict in which the power is so disparate that there are virtually no choices (Schelling, 1960). 

Substantive:  a tangible thing or an issue regarding tangible things during negotiation.  In a conflict about who in the household can use the car on Friday, the car is a substantive thing.  Related to the conflict about using the car, however, may also be procedural or psychological issues.  Procedural issues relate to how decisions are made and psychological issues include the feelings about each other that impinge on the conflict.

Target point:  in bargaining, the most desirable outcome. 

Triggering event:  a behavior that initiates expression of a conflict episode. 

Win-lose conflict:  competitive conflicts where one person's gain necessitates another person's loss. 

Win-win conflict:  a cooperative or collaborative conflict where mutual gains occur. 

Zero-sum:  a concept that describes the result in a situation where a resource actually is limited.  With limited resources, as value is taken away a point will be reached where no value remains or the sum value is zero.