Solve vs. Resolve

solve vs resolve

The words solve and resolve have similar meanings, and many people struggle to determine the difference between them.  Within the alternative dispute resolution world, these terms can be used interchangeably when talking about how a dispute ends; however, it brings up an interesting concept when evaluating how the difference between the words can influence how we talk about disputes.  The similarity does not make the qualification necessary, but it can influence the way that we view dispute resolution.

Further clarifying the use of the words can help in training and education around alternative dispute resolution, as well as encouraging parties to work with alternative dispute resolution to end their dispute.  By finding a way to narrow the language that is used, we can increase understanding of the process and increase use.  This article will define both terms and then will discuss how more specifically defining the terms can bring clarity to alternative dispute resolution and its process.

Solve Defined

To begin the discussion on these terms, we will define solve.  Solve is a verb that means to find a solution, such as an answer or an explanation to a problem.  When thinking about solving something, one is not searching for just any answer, but the correct or best answer.

Typically, the word solve is used in situations where there is a problem that is logical, mathematical, or mysterious.  A problem can be solved if there is a solution to be found.  When solving a problem, it will be easy to identify the problem, develop ways to fix the problem, find the way that will fix the problem, and implement the solution.

It signals finality and that the problem is fully and resolutely resolved and that the parties or issues will not need to be revisited. It finds the correct and definite answer, one that is logical and complete.  Solving something means that the answer has been found and there are no other options.

Examples of things that can be solved include:

  • Math Homework: Math is something that can be solved definitely. There is a correct answer and a way to reach the end of the problem.  The number of apples that each person will have at the end of the day will always have an answer, no matter how ridiculous it is.
  • Crime: While there may not seem to be a definitive answer to some mysteries and crimes, there is an answer that is correct regarding who was the person who committed the crime. While this is not always the resolution reached in the investigation, a crime can be solved.
  • Riddle: When someone presents a riddle, there will always be a correct answer to the riddle that can be found. Solving a riddle takes skill and thought, but it can be solved.

The key to understanding the world solve is to understand that to solve something, one must find the correct and definite answer.

Resolved Defined

Alternatively, resolve is a verb that means to find a solution to a problem.  While solving a problem will fix the problem, resolving a problem will not fix it but will help the parties identify a common interest and move forward.

This means that the solution found when resolving an issue is one of a few solutions, but it will end the issue.  This decision may not make everyone happy, but it will conclude the issue.  When thinking about resolving an issue, the goal is to identify a solution that can bring the problem to a logical or reasonable end, even if it is not the best solution or the one that everyone wants.

A problem can be resolved if it is emotional or creative.  When resolving an issue, the person will often identify the problem, come up with solutions, test solutions to identify the best one and choose one that concludes the dispute effectively.  It may not completely resolve the dispute, and the parties may need to revisit the dispute for some time if it is not effectively resolved.

However, finding a resolution will mean that the parties can conclude their dispute for the time being and will be able to move forward with the solution in mind.  Some examples of things that can be resolved include:

  • Disagreement: A disagreement is when two or more people cannot agree on a solution to a question in front of them. By resolving a disagreement, the parties will choose the best option and move forward.
  • Dispute: The most common thing that can be resolved is a dispute. This is a group of issues and disagreements between two or more parties that are the source of a conflict between the parties.  A dispute can be resolved because there are many ways to conclude a dispute, and it will be the goal of the parties to identify the solution that works best for them.
  • Conflict: A conflict is a group of disputes or a longstanding dispute that has not been resolved. A conflict can be resolved if the parties agree to work together to find a mutually agreeable solution for the issue.

Resolving a problem means that the parties will come together to conclude a dispute by finding common ground to help them move forward together.

ADR and Resolving Disputes

With these definitions in mind, it is important to have a conversation about the use of solve and resolve in alternative dispute resolution practices.  Because alternative dispute resolution deals with disputes, it can be inferred that the parties in a dispute will likely be attempting to resolve their problem. Conciliation, mediation, facilitation, and arbitration all seek to help the parties or the panel identify a solution that will conclude the dispute in the best place possible, even if they do not please everyone.

There is no one right answer to a dispute because there are a variety of interests and issues at play, and every single person involved will have a different idea of what the best outcome is.  This is why dispute resolution cannot promise to solve a problem but should seek to resolve problems efficiently and effectively.

Thinking about this distinction, it is easy to identify why it is important to use the correct words when educating future parties and practitioners about the process. Many parties are seeking to solve their problems, not to resolve them.  They often see the issue as black and white and do not see that there are a variety of solutions that could conclude the dispute.

By emphasizing that the process is about identifying solutions and choosing one that will work best given the parties and the situation, parties will have a better idea of what to expect when choosing an alternative dispute resolution process.  Similarly, new practitioners often feel like their job is to find the right solution and help guide the parties toward that solution.

However, by encouraging practitioners that their job is to help the parties identify solutions and move toward a solution that they can agree on, it can help them be better practitioners and assist their clients in finding the best solutions.  When the industry focuses on using the correct verbs and defining them effectively, it will produce better practitioners, understanding parties, and the best resolutions possible.

Latest posts by Mark Fotohabadi (see all)
error: ADR Times content is protected!