The Conflict Resolution Toolbox
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The Conflict Resolution Toolbox

Models and Maps for Analyzing, Diagnosing, and Resolving Conflict

Gary T. Furlong

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eBook - ePub

The Conflict Resolution Toolbox

Models and Maps for Analyzing, Diagnosing, and Resolving Conflict

Gary T. Furlong

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About This Book

In real-life conflict resolution situations, one size does not fit all. Just as a mechanic does not fix every car with the same tool, the conflict resolution practitioner cannot hope to resolve every dispute using the same technique.

Practitioners need to be comfortable with a wide variety of tools to diagnose different problems, in vastly different circumstances, with different people, and resolve these conflicts effectively. The Conflict Resolution Toolbox gives you all the tools you need: eight different models for dealing with the many conflict situations you encounter in your practice.

This book bridges the gap between theory and practice and goes beyond just one single model to present a complete toolbox - a range of models that can be used to analyze, diagnose, and resolve conflict in any situation. It shows mediators, negotiators, managers, and anyone needing to resolve conflict how to simply and effectively understand and assess the situations of conflict they face. And it goes a step further, offering specific, practical guidance on how to intervene to resolve the conflict successfully.

Each model provides a different and potentially useful angle on the problem, and includes worksheets and a step-by-step process to guide the reader in applying the tools.

  • Offers eight models to help you understand the root causes of any conflict.
  • Explains each model's focus, what kind of situations it can be useful in and, most importantly, what interventions are likely to help.
  • Provides you with clear direction on what specific actions to choose to resolve a particular type of conflict effectively.
  • Features a detailed case study throughout the book, to which each model is applied.
  • Additional examples and case studies unique to each chapter give the reader a further chance to see the models in action.
  • Includes practical tools and worksheets that you can use in working with these models in your practice.

The Conflict Resolution Toolbox equips any practitioner to resolve a wide range of conflicts. Mediators, negotiators, lawyers, managers and supervisors, insurance adjusters, social workers, human resource and labour relations specialists, and others will have all the tools they need for successful conflict resolution.

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Imagine for a moment that you are faced with a conflict. Imagine, for example, that your new neighbour loves to have guests over many nights of the week until the early hours of the morning, keeping you up with the noise. When you talk to your neighbour, he laughs and tells you, “Loosen up, have some fun. Come and join us if you want! You need to enjoy life more!” You go home after the conversation and get increasingly angry. You think about how insensitive he is, how little he cares for other people. You begin to think that he may actually be retaliating for the fact that your dog barks every now and then, which he complained about once. Given how you see the problem, you vow to call the police the next time he has a party during the week. This conflict is headed for a significant escalation.
We are all faced with conflict situations in many aspects of our lives, whether in our personal life, in the workplace, or with just about anyone we meet. Given how common conflict situations are and how frequently we deal with conflict, you would think that we’d all be pretty good at handling conflict.
The reality is a bit different, in that most people report little confidence in addressing or handling conflict. Why?
Managing conflict effectively is a simple two-step process that starts with:
  1. how we assess the conflict we’re facing, followed by
  2. what action (or inaction) we decide to take to address it.
Whenever we are faced with a dispute, the first thing we do is try to make sense of it—try to determine what the conflict is about. In other words, Step One is trying to diagnose the conflict. Once we’ve decided on (or guessed at) the cause, Step Two is taking some type of action based directly on what we think has caused it.
In the example above, the homeowner has assessed the conflict in Step One as being caused by the neighbour’s being insensitive, uncaring, maybe even vengeful. Based on this diagnosis, in Step Two the homeowner decides the reasonable and appropriate way to address this conflict is by calling the police to curtail the neighbour’s uncaring, insensitive and vengeful behaviour. The conflict was assessed, and an action that seems to make sense is taken based on that assessment. But how accurate was this assessment?
In every conflict, we employ these two steps, either consciously or unconsciously. In fact, how good we are at managing conflict will be based, fundamentally, on how skilled we are at these two steps:
  1. creatively and insightfully diagnosing what is causing a conflict, and
  2. effectively and skillfully taking action to resolve the conflict.
In many cases, the barrier to effectively managing a conflict is that we diagnose the conflict unconsciously, react emotionally, make choices and apply tools based on a poor diagnosis, and end up escalating the situation.


This is a handbook for conflict resolution practitioners aimed at helping them understand and analyze conflict more effectively in their work. Practitioners, typically, are people who regularly manage conflict as part of their work or their life. The list of practitioners, therefore, is long and includes roles such as mediators, negotiators, lawyers, managers and supervisors, social workers, human resource and labour relations specialists, insurance adjusters, and many more. For these people, this handbook introduces a number of conflict analysis models that are useful and applicable to the two steps above: diagnosing conflict, and offering direction and ideas on resolving that specific conflict.
If this book is useful to conflict resolution practitioners for the simple reason that they regularly manage conflict, what about the rest of us? In other words, who else manages conflict regularly and might benefit from using and applying some of these models? Conflict is a universal human experience, something that every single one of us works with and addresses in our lives far beyond the workplace. In that sense, we are all “practitioners” when it comes to working with conflict effectively, and the tools and models in this book will apply to everyone who wishes to improve his or her ability to manage conflict effectively. For the sake of simplicity, then, this handbook will use “mediators” and “practitioners” interchangeably to mean “people who deal with and manage conflict.”
This book is focused on models and tools that help with the two key steps in managing and responding to conflict:
Step One: Effectively diagnosing a conflict, and
Step Two: Taking action to manage the conflict based on the diagnosis.
I use the term “models” frequently. This is not a call to introduce more theory or more academic understanding into the conflict resolution process. While theory and academic knowledge are excellent, they are often of little help in a given situation. If theoretical knowledge serves as the general foundation for the field, then “models” are the specific tools or heuristics that guide the application of that theoretical knowledge in practice. This handbook is not focused toward more theory, but rather on tools that can be applied directly to the practice of managing each and every conflict.
To understand this relationship between theory and practice, it will be helpful to understand the nature and characteristics of what can be called “practice professions.”


A practice profession, quite simply, is a profession aimed at helping individual people solve specific functional problems. It is distinguished here from professions that focus more generally on research and the discovery of theoretical knowledge. There are numerous professions that have a significant practice component to them, professions as diverse as medicine and law, as well as technical professions such as civil engineering and auto repair. And the nature of every practice profession is that the first critical skill the practice professional must have is the ability to diagnose, to determine the root cause of a specific problem.
For example, when a patient sees a doctor, the first thing that the doctor must arrive at is a diagnosis of the problem; indeed, everything flows from the diagnosis, and little is done until a diagnosis is reached. During the diagnostic process, if there is any doubt about either the diagnosis or the recommended course of action (i.e., treatment) that flows from the diagnosis, a “second opinion” is often sought before any treatment is considered. Similarly in law or engineering, or even car repair, little action can be taken until the professional understands (or believes she understands) what the problem is, and based on that recommends or conducts an intervention. Few of us would accept a dentist saying, “Well, I’m not sure which tooth is hurting, so I’m going to try pulling a few of them out to see if it helps.” Few of us would return to an auto repair shop that randomly replaced part after part hoping that this would eventually solve the problem.
If diagnosis is the first key ability for a practice professional, it’s important to understand how the diagnostic process works and where it fits for the practitioner. In general, most diagnosis has its roots in the theoretical background knowledge of the field. For example, once a mechanic understands from automotive theory that the transmission of a car is responsible for sending power to the wheels, if a car won’t move while the engine is running the mechanic starts looking at the transmission as the source of the problem. Once a doctor understands the digestive tract and what functions it performs, when a patient presents with abdominal pain immediately after eating the doctor will start investigating the digestive system first. Some theoretical knowledge is therefore necessary for good diagnostic skills.
In more complex fields, however, theory alone is inadequate for good diagnosis. In addition to a grounding in general theory, practitioners need effective models and tools to achieve an accurate and useful diagnosis. For example, heart disease is one of the most common diseases in the world. There is extensive “deep” theory and knowledge about how high levels of certain kinds of cholesterol contribute to heart disease, including complex mechanisms for how cholesterol in the blood contributes to fat slowly building up on the arterial walls, narrowing them and making the heart work too hard, eventually leading to heart attack. The theories about these mechanisms, however, are not overly helpful in diagnosing any given individual patient. To diagnose effectively, doctors have devised tests that measure cholesterol levels in the patient along with a simple model that states if cholesterol is over a certain limit, specific actions and steps are put in place to help correct the problem. The doctor, using a simple tool (a blood test) follows a specific model for diagnosing and intervening (if the cholesterol level is above a certain limit, diet changes and cholesterol medicines are prescribed) that requires very little of the deep “theory” behind the model for the practitioner to be effective in helping the patient.1
In general, then, theoretical knowledge is required as a foundation, but in order to apply that knowledge effectively for each individual client or situation, specific practice models and tools are required to assist the professional. These models help the practitioner apply the two key steps mentioned before:
Step One: Effectively diagnosing a conflict, and
Step Two: Taking action to manage the conflict based on the diagnosis.
Without ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for The Conflict Resolution Toolbox
APA 6 Citation
Furlong, G. (2010). The Conflict Resolution Toolbox (1st ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2010)
Chicago Citation
Furlong, Gary. (2010) 2010. The Conflict Resolution Toolbox. 1st ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Furlong, G. (2010) The Conflict Resolution Toolbox. 1st edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Furlong, Gary. The Conflict Resolution Toolbox. 1st ed. Wiley, 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.