The Difference Between Conflicts and Disputes

Most people probably do not recognize a distinct difference between the terms “conflict” and “dispute.” However, many conflict scholars do draw a distinction between the two terms. As is unfortunately common in this field, different scholars define the terms in different ways, leading to confusion.

Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict

When individuals or parties enter into a negotiation process to resolve conflict, they will bring a certain orientation to the table in their effort to settle the conflict. The two most basic orientations people adhere to when entering into negotiations are cooperative or competitive.

Settlement, Resolution, Management, and Transformation: An Explanation of Terms

Disputes are generally considered to be disagreements that involve negotiable interests. Such issues can be settled through negotiation, mediation, or adjudication. They are generally short-term and, given the right process, lend themselves to the development of mutually satisfactory solutions.

Conflicts and Disputes

Most people probably do not recognize a distinct difference between the terms “conflict” and “dispute.” However, many conflict scholars do draw a distinction between the two terms. As is unfortunately common in this field, different scholars define the terms in different ways, leading to confusion.

Convening Processes

Convening is the first stage in conflict intervention. Its role, as the name implies, is to bring disputants to a preliminary meeting where they will discuss the issues of a conflict and consider options for its resolution. Its goal is to pave the way for an actual conflict resolution process such as mediationnegotiation, or consensus building.

Conflict Transformation: Unit 10: What Is Cooperative Negotiation?

For my first five years of teaching middle school, many of my units involved debates. Students loved them. They were actively engaged and enthusiastic about their roles. After studying conflict resolution, I realized that debates reinforce unproductive communication habits. Negotiations and simulations, designed to teach cooperation, demand that students demonstrate flexibility, critical thinking, empathic listening, clear speaking, and creativity.

Reality Testing

Reality testing involves “techniques used to adjust perceptions that do not conform to the realities of the situation.”[1] In conflict resolution, it is a process that may be helpful when negotiations breakdown. Sometimes, a party to a negotiation will think they have an alternative or option that is better than what they will get through negotiation.

Consensus Building

Consensus building (also known as collaborative problem solving or collaboration) is a conflict-resolution process used mainly to settle complex, multiparty disputes. Since the 1980s, it has become widely used in the environmental and public policy arena in the United States, but is useful whenever multiple parties are involved in a complex dispute or conflict. 

Option Identification

Option identification is an essential step in the process of resolving any conflict, including seemingly intractable situations. In a conflict resolution scenario, once all parties to the conflict have identified the issues under contention, they should systematically list ALL options that they see available to them for advancing their interests.