What are the five methods of dispute resolution?

What are the five methods of dispute resolution?

Understanding just what the five strategies or methods of dispute resolution are can be incredibly helpful when engaging in a dispute resolution process.  This can help a party prepare for the process adequately with the right strategy and can give the party insight into their own needs as well as the other party’s needs.  The five strategies for conflict resolution are avoiding, accommodating, compromising, competing, and collaborating.  The parties can choose one or a combination of different types depending on what they need from the process and the perceived strength of their argument.  Different styles can accomplish different goals throughout the process and understanding when and how to use one or the other can be incredibly helpful.

However, when a party is being deceptive, either intentionally or unintentionally, this can affect the effectiveness of a strategy or the read on the other party’s strategy.  People react strongly to deception, whether actual or perceived and will shift or adjust their strategy to account for the deception.  The study of the effect of deception on communication and interpersonal relationships is known as the Interpersonal Deception Theory (IDT).  This theory studies the way that people react to deception when engaged in communication.  This article will focus on IDT and the effect that deception has on the ways that parties react to deception in conflict resolution.  It will also discuss the different types of conflict resolution strategies and how they may be used typically and when deception is suspected.

An Intro to IDT

IDT is a theory created by David B. Buller and Judee K. Burgoon to study how people perceived deception and how that affects conversations.  Before developing this theory, deception had been primarily studied as an ethical principle, but this theory shifted this thinking into the realm of communication.  The study hypothesized that most individuals are overly confident in their ability to perceive deception.  The study found that people are often interacting with people who are deceptive—both intentionally and unintentionally.  This work created eighteen propositions that shaped the view of deceptions interaction with communication.  Overall, it found that people are overly confident in their ability to detect when someone is being less than honest.  It also found that nonverbal cues that a person is not being truthful are not as reliable as originally thought.

Because so many people believe that they are more able to detect deception than actually able, this belief can have major consequences, especially in negotiations, which are a large part of all types of alternative dispute resolution.  When people are overconfident in their ability to detect deception, they may be more reckless with their negotiations.  If they incorrectly believe that someone is telling the truth, they may be overly trusting and give more than they should.  If they perceive that someone is being deceptive, they may hold back on their offers unnecessarily.  There are a variety of scenarios between these two as well.  The way that a person reacts to deception—actual or perceived—can have a lasting impact on their negotiations and conflict resolution.

Forms of Deceptive Communication

Deception can take on a variety of forms in communication, but Buller and Burgoon identified three types of deceptive communication that are the most dominant in conversations.  Before identifying the forms, it is also important to define a few terms.  First, the “sender” is the person that is being deceptive.  The “receiver” is the person that engages with the sender in the communication.  Using these terms, the three most common forms of deceptive communication are as follows:

  • Equivocation: Equivocation is the practice of avoiding the subject that they are being deceptive about.  This is often achieved by changing the subject or not answering questions.  This one is easier to see, as one may begin to notice when the other party is not providing direct answers or continuously changing the subject.  These behaviors are more noticeable and will often allow a party to discover the deception, especially when they know the person well.
  • Concealment: Concealment happens when the sender shields certain facts from the recipient.  This is most commonly done through omissions of material facts.  Concealment is harder to detect because it often involves facts that the receiver does not know and would not know are left out.  The times when concealment is detected are often when there has been some discovery and the receiver knows the facts that influence the dispute.
  • Falsification: Falsification is the most commonly addressed type of deception.  Falsification is when the sender creates facts or fiction and lies to the receiver.  This one may only be detected if the receiver knows the underlying facts and that this reiteration of the facts is false.  Without this knowledge, the receiving party cannot know that the sender is being deceptive with absolute certainty.

An important note from this list is that all of the types require knowledge of some sort to pick out the deception.  People in conversations will continuously adjust their behavior and goals based on the actions and words of the other party.  Going into a situation with knowledge about the person and the facts will help a negotiator find deception and root it out.

Additionally, when people are being deceptive, they can often be overwhelmed by the multitasking and deception that must create to uphold their story and they often display a temporary tell in a nonverbal cue.  Buller and Burgoon called this tell “leakage.” The sender must be wearing a mask at all times to keep the receiver interested in their lie, but occasionally, this mask comes off in some way.  As time continues, this will become more obvious.  Receivers will also often react to leakage by leaking themselves and giving away their suspicion.  However, IDT research has found that senders are often better at detecting suspicion than receivers are at detecting deception.  Typically, senders will adjust their behavior to suspicion to make the lie more believable.

Motivation for Deception

Buller and Burgoon not only studied the effects that deception had on communication, but they also studied the motivation behind deception and why people bring such a divisive tactic to interpersonal communication.  They identified three main motivating factors in their study of interpersonal deception.  These motivations are:

  • Goal: One of the major influences for deception in communication is the need to accomplish a task or achieve a goal.  This may be a small task that the party needs to accomplish through the negotiation, or it can be the goal of the whole conversation.
  • Face: Another reason a party may use deception is to save face for either or both parties.  The face is a concept of honor and respect in many cultures.  To save face means to preserve one’s identity in society.
  • Relationship: Finally, a party may use deception to maintain or create a relationship between the parties.  In some cases, a party may use deception because the other party or the relationship may be hurt by the information concealed or lied about.  This can also happen in instances where the parties new to a relationship and one party is trying to bolster their relationship with the other.  They may equivocate around certain facts to continue to build the relationship.

At least one of these motivations, if not a combination of them, will be present when someone uses deception in interpersonal communication.

Now that we have examined the theory of interpersonal deception and how it applies to communication, we will turn back to the discussion on the methods or strategies for conflict resolution.  As mentioned above, there are five methods of conflict resolution that people use when planning or participating in conflict resolution.  These can be affected by a person’s personality, but a person may also strategically use these communication and resolution styles to bring the negotiation toward what they hope to achieve.  Deception will also affect the decision that a party may make while choosing or moving between different styles and strategies.  The types of conflict resolution are:

  • Avoiding: Avoiding is the method of conflict where a person chooses to stay as out of the conflict as possible and ignores it until it goes away.  This type may be used by conflict-adverse parties who feel like they can leave the conflict off to the side and avoid unhappy feelings that may be present in conflict.  This type of conflict avoidance may be helpful if a person is using deception by telling untruths that are demonstrably false because avoiding the portions of the conflict where the sender is hoping to use deception can help direct the rest of the conversation and end up settling that situation as well. Avoiding is not the best option for conflict except in limited circumstances because it often causes one or both parties to lose out on the important discussion.
  • Accommodating: Accommodating is a style of conflict resolution where one party focuses on what the other party needs and allows them to accomplish that to resolve the conflict quickly.  This is most often the case in situations where one party is more powerful than the other and they are facing an impasse.  The weaker of the two parties will satisfy the concerns and needs of the other at the expense of their own.  This can be helpful in situations where the sender is using deception to either save face or maintain a relationship.  Noticing that this is likely the cause of the deception can clue in a person to the need to accommodate the feelings and relationship or face of the other.  Accommodating can be harmful when the party is already attempting to use deception to achieve its goal at the expense of the receiving party.
  • Competing: Competing is the method of dispute resolution where a party sees every decision as something they can win or lose on.  This is often seen in situations where the negotiations are over a set amount of money or other things that cannot be accommodated in another way.  This style will ignore the needs and wants of the other party to completely satisfy their own needs.  Competing can be useful when the other party is attempting to win or control the negotiations through their deception because it creates pushback on the deception and forces the party to show their hand in some way. This is especially true if the party is choosing to equivocate around a subject that needs to be decided.  It can be particularly harmful when the parties are hoping to maintain their relationship or face.
  • Compromising: Compromising is a style of conflict resolution where the parties both give up some of what they would like to gain from the negotiation to get what is most important to them.  It usually partially covers what a party would like from a settlement, but will not be the best possible solution.  This is common when the parties would like to work together but would also like to be finished with the conflict, so they give up.  Compromising can be helpful if the sender is hoping to accomplish their big goal with deception, because it can allow the parties to agree to the deception, and it will not give the sender all that they sought to earn through their deception.  This is not the best idea when the parties need to continue in the relationship or save face going back after the negotiation, as even these little losses can harm the relationship.
  • Collaborating: Collaboration is the style of conflict resolution where the parties work together to create the best possible outcome for every person involved.  This is often used when the parties need to have a working relationship moving forward from the dispute because it tends to breed the least hostility between the parties.  By working together and seeking to find a solution that serves every person, collaboration often finds the best possible solution.  Collaboration is a good strategy in most instances because it encourages the parties to share knowledge and discourages deception.  It can also be a good idea when the parties are hoping to continue their relationship moving forward.

The style chosen by a party will rely on a variety of factors both in a personality and in the situation that the party will be facing.  Some factors to consider are how important interests are, what may happen if a party is more assertive, whether there is a collaborative or cooperative solution, and the impact on those that will be affected if something is not solved.  Choosing the best strategy for a negotiation.


The types of conflict resolution strategies that a party may choose depend on a variety of factors so that the party will have control over others that they will not. One of these factors may be the presence of actual or perceived deception from the other party in the negotiations.  This can present itself in a variety of ways, most commonly in falsification, equivocation, and concealment.  A party may have a variety of reasons to use deception, including achieving a goal, creating or maintaining a relationship, or saving face.   It is also important for someone that sees themselves as a receiver to acknowledge the possible deception and discover their suspicion; however, as Buller and Burgoon discovered, senders are more attuned to suspicious receivers than receivers are to leaking senders.  Knowing how and when to use the different styles of conflict resolution will help a party to understand and test whether a party is using deception.  Finding the best outcome can only be achieved when the parties are open with each other and do not try and deceive each other.  Keeping strategies at the forefront will help parties achieve their desired results.

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