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Introduction to conflict resolution

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Conflict resolution or conflictology is the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict. Successful conflict resolution occurs by providing each side's needs, and adequately addressing their interests so that they are each satisfied with the outcome. Conflict resolution aims to end conflicts before they start or lead to physical fighting.

Conflict resolution usually involves two or more groups with opposing views regarding specific issues, and another group or individual who is considered to be neutral in their opinion on the subject. This last bit though is quite often not entirely demanded if the "outside" group is well respected by all opposing parties. Resolution methods can include conciliation, mediation, arbitration or litigation.

These methods all require third party intervention. A resolution method which is direct between the parties with opposing views is negotiation. Negotiation can be the 'traditional' model of hard bargaining where the interests of a group far outweigh the working relationships concerned. The 'principled' negotiation model is where both the interests and the working relationships concerned are viewed as important.

It may be possible to avoid conflict without actually resolving the underlying dispute, by getting the parties to recognize that they disagree but that no further action needs to be taken at that time. In a few cases, such as in a democracy, it may even be desirable that they disagree, thus exposing the issues to others who need to consider it for themselves: in this case the parties might agree to disagree.

It is also possible to manage a conflict without resolution, in forms other than avoidance. Fore more, see conflict management.

Conflict resolution has also been studied in non-human primates (see Frans de Waal, 2000). Aggression is more common among relatives and within a group, than between groups. Instead of creating a distance between the individuals, however, the primates were more intimate in the period after the aggressive incident. These intimacies consisted of grooming and various forms of body contact. Stress responses, like an increased heart rate, usually decrease after these reconciliatory signals. Different types of primates, as well as many other species who are living in groups, show different types of reconciliatory behaviour. Resolving conflicts that threaten the interaction between individuals in a group is necessary for survival, hence has a strong evolutionary value. These findings contradicted previous existing theories about the general function of aggression, i.e. creating space between individuals (first proposed by Konrad Lorenz), which seems to be more the case in between groups conflicts.

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