🌱 (seedling) | Literature note |

Week 4 - Conflict resolution

  • counter-intuitive model with a very powerful skill known as changing the frame of reference
  • effective method to achieve successful negotiations without damaging the relationships


The final topic of the course is Conflict Resolution, a crucial component of successful negotiations. The course so far has built a foundation on negotiation structures, effective communication, and value creation through aligning interests. Now, the focus is on maintaining and enriching these achievements without letting conflicts derail potential agreements or permanently damage relationships.

Conflict is a natural part of human interaction, manifesting in various ways across different aspects of our lives—be it professional, familial, cultural, or political. The course emphasizes that conflict isn’t necessarily negative; when managed appropriately, it can lead to learning, novel ideas, and deeper understanding of others, thereby strengthening both personal and professional relationships.

Conflict Resolution aims to address the incompatible interests and behaviors inherent to conflicts, striving to find mutually acceptable solutions that foster lasting, satisfying relationships. In contrast, Conflict Management aims to control the conflict’s intensity, taking actions to prevent future escalation, and employing various mechanisms including negotiation, mediation, litigation, and arbitration.

The course underscores that a shift from focusing on the problem to blaming the individual marks a transition from conflict resolution to conflict management. For example, a couple with persistent conflicts might find common ground in a different context, marking conflict resolution. If instead, they resort to entrenched positions, external interventions, and stereotypes, they are shifting towards conflict management.

Negotiation is often the most effective way to resolve conflicts, but in some cases, more drastic measures might be necessary. It is highly recommended to exhaust all negotiation strategies and approaches before conflicts escalate out of control. The course warns that conflicts, if not handled correctly in negotiations, can lead to a “lose-lose” situation affecting both the outcome and the relationship—two vital elements in every negotiation.

The goal of delving into Conflict Resolution in this course is to equip participants with skills to understand the origins of conflicts, prevent their escalation, and foster agreements based on shared interests, which in turn can cultivate valuable, long-term relationships.


  • incompatibility of goals, objectives, or values between two or more parties in the context of a relationship
  • Conflicts have a natural tendency to escalate, becoming more intense and causing greater hostility, and this creates new motives of conflict. The origin of escalation is fear and a defensive attitude.

Sources of conflict

  • Interpersonal Conflict
    • Two people have needs, goals, and points of view that are incompatible.
  • Role Conflict
    • When there is not a clear definition of roles and responsibilities in an interdependent system.
  • Group Conflict
    • This happens between departments, divisions, and the levels of decision making in an organization.
  • International Conflict
    • The global fight for territory, resources, and markets.
  • Economic Conflict
    • This involves motives of competition for limited resources to maximize winnings, and involves behavior and emotions.
  • Value Conflict
    • This involves incompatibility in life style, ideology, principles, and beliefs.
  • Power Conflict
    • This happens when the parties try to influence the relationshipcausing tensión in the context of winner-loser.

Stages of the conflict spiral

Focus on the problem

  • Conflicts are part of daily life; however, in a healthy relationship in which both parties share responsibility, cooperating, with a good level of communication and trust, issues get resolved constructively and proactively. 
  • Each party is more content with his or her counterpart and they apparently have enough will–and communication and assertiveness skills–to deal with situations without harming the relationship.  .
  • Disputes generally start when a solvable problem is not handled appropriately.

Personal antagonism

  • A simple disagreement about a practical problem can be transformed if the issue is personalized
  • Party B may feel irritated by what he perceives as a personal attack, and accuse Party A or attribute her behavior to her character, intentions, or motives.
  • Without correct handling, the defensive attitude of Party B will trigger a defensive attitude in Party A.   
  • This sets off an ascending spiral of accusations that can be aggressive and destructive. Typically, incidents in this stage of the conflict will lead one of the parties to explode or leave.

    Problem proliferation

  • When trust and communication are broken, misunderstandings result. Motives and intentions can be perceived erroneously, and this increases problems. 
  • The pattern is for the issues to get bigger, proliferation and generalizations, leaving a sense of confusion and chaos seem out of control. 
  • The problems become less specific and more general. 


  • When the distance between parties becomes greater, there is a break in communication and understanding between them. 
  • Misunderstanding, emotional outbreaks, and a feeling of being threatened intensify the conflict, and often lead to stereotypes that are built on ignorance, distorted points of view, and on generalizations.


  • Left to its own inertia, the conflict spiral will grow out of control. Perceptions become increasingly distorted.  
  • The “other” can be seen as “impossible” or “totally unreasonable” or just “hopelessly bad.” And thus the other party expresses hostility, avoiding cohesion within the group.

    Power struggles

  • In this stage, all contact and direct communication has stopped and there is a complex diversity of issues. The images of each party become rigid. There is an attempt to leave the other out, destroying arguments and preventing that the other one assumes his role. 
  • Conflict in this stage becomes politicized—behavior and emotions of the primary actors make it difficult for others that are not directly involved to remain neutral or on the side. They are forced to take a part.  
  • With no restrictions, the conflict can grow and become a vicious cycle of open or hidden violence.   
  • All objectivity is lost. The parties respond to the policies of the last “atrocity” and not to fundamental business, so the conflict becomes persistent and weakening.

Conflict resolution

As their name implies, conflict resolutions seek to resolve the incompatibilities among interests and behaviors inherent to the conflict. Then these incompatibilities can be resolved and the underlying interests can be attended, identifying mutually acceptable solutions that will lead to lasting relationships and satisfactory results.

Conflict management

Conflict management consists of controlling the intensity of the conflict to take the necessary actions to avoid future escalation, making use of negotiation, mediation, litigation, arbitration, and other mechanisms.


The complex skill known as “Framing” in negotiations allows for changing the frame of reference in a negotiation, a process known as “Reframing”. This is a powerful tool for preventing a conflict from escalating into a confrontation, and it opens up opportunities for creativity and understanding. Here’s a summarized breakdown:

  1. Purpose of Framing and Reframing:
    • Framing in negotiations refers to how offers are described and perceived.
    • Reframing is the process of changing this perception or perspective.
    • The goal is to keep conflicts focused on the problem and to prevent them from becoming personal confrontations.
  2. Strategic Use in Negotiations:
    • The frame of reference is used strategically to help parties redirect attention to alternative options and solutions, thus comparing them and taking advantage of their relative benefits.
    • Example: In a transaction, focus on potential gains instead of losses.
  3. Dynamics of Framing/Reframing:
    • A conflict may arise when the frames of reference of two negotiators do not coincide or are misaligned.
    • Frames of reference are dynamic and can change within a negotiation.
  4. Application Example:
    • In a conflict between an electrician and a homeowner regarding repair costs after a storm, the homeowner reframes the discussion from cost to time, which eventually leads to a payment plan that is agreeable to both parties. This changes the perspective and the terms of negotiation.
  5. How to Encourage Reframing:
    • Using metaphors, analogies, or testimonies to illustrate a point of view can invite the other party to reconsider their original perspective.
    • A change in the frame of reference can be intentionally managed or can arise spontaneously through dialogue.
  6. Avoiding Conflict Escalation through Reframing:
    • Interest-based negotiation is an ideal platform for developing the ability to modify the frame of reference, to avoid conflict escalation, and to generate alternatives for more effective agreements.
  7. Potential Barriers to Effective Reframing:
    • Use of aggressive language, extreme postures, generalization of concepts, excessive specification that excludes other viewpoints, and insistence on issues that can’t be changed and don’t have a solution.
  8. Active Listening:
    • At its core, reframing is a form of active listening. It allows parties to recognize different viewpoints, not to suppress them, but to help both parties see things from another angle, which can unearth the deeper interests that may lead to resolution.
  9. Continuous Improvement:
    • The closing encouragement is for individuals to reflect on their negotiation skills critically and continually. Starting with simple situations and progressively moving to more complex practices, including conflict resolution.
  10. Closing Note:
    • The skills taught in the course are interrelated and reinforce each other. Continuous learning, practicing, and evaluation are encouraged for ongoing improvement in negotiation skills.

The Frame of reference to avoid conflict escalation

A frame of reference provides perspective for decision making when facing an issue or problem, based on the relative importance that exists between the data and the facts.

  • allows us to consider all the potential losses or winnings, as well as the options and alternatives for any situation
  • We can focus on the opportunities instead of the risks of the negotiation; we can focus on the net earnings instead of the cost of the sale

  • First, listen carefully to the original frame of reference; clarify the correct meaning by removing toxic language
  • then try to change the frame of reference by guiding the conversation toward interests in a balanced way (for both negotiators)
  • and finally redefine the frame of reference in a participative environment.

[[sN7jlFmKRGKe45RZirRiDQ_e3985267bbdc4f6bb98eef5889de0d0c_The-frame-of-reference-to-avoid-conflict-escalation.pdf|The Frame of reference to avoid conflict escalation]]

📖 Getting Past NO (2007), William Ury proposes a counter-intuitive model based on the dynamics of changing the frame of reference, “framing & reframing”

Stage 1. Don’t react

Your natural reaction is to be on the defensive or to react aggressively to hostile behavior from your counterpart. Don’t react and “go to the balcony,” this is a psychological posture in which the negotiator keeps his distance, virtually leaving the interaction to put himself in “third position” and become an observer of his own behavior.

  • Don’t attack the aggressor.
  • Don’t give in to your counterpart’s demands too quickly.
  • Don’t abandon the negotiation abruptly

Stage 2. Disarm them

Don’t get caught up in your counterpart’s negative emotions, step to their side and disarm them. Let the emotions come to the surface and use your emotional intelligence skills to control them (not suppress them). Some mechanisms are:

  • Active listening.
  • Recognize his or her point of view without necessarily conceding or recognizing its validity and veracity.
  • Identify spaces and points of agreement, however small, to use them as a foundation toward progressing in the negotiation.
  • Acknowledge sincerely your respect for your counterpart’s authority, sensitivity, and competence.
  • Express your own points of view clearly and assertively.

Stage 3. Reframe (Change the frame of reference)

Change the game, don’t reject but reorient the frame of reference (reframe) changing the perspective of the negotiation, the positions and interests.

  • Formulate open questions and adopt a problem-solving focus.
  • Modify the focus on “positions” to a focus on “interests.” Paraphrase the counterpart’s proposal and re-interpret it in less confrontational terms.
  • Redirect attacks to the problem, avoiding detours.
  • Negotiate about the rules of the negotiation process

Stage 4. Make it easy to say “yes”

Facing the skepticism and suspicion, involve the other party in the search for solutions.

  • Involve your counterpart in the design of an agreement that will include the interests of both parties.
  • Satisfy the needs of your counterpart as much as possible, without risking or compromising your own.
  • Show empathy for your counterpart’s personal and organizational challenges.
  • Help your counterpart preserve his or her image in the organization and help with justifications for the changes in the negotiation.
  • “Dress me slowly; I’m in a hurry” (Napoléon). Don’t try to accelerate the process of a complex negotiation until everyone is ready.

Stage 5. Make it hard to say “no.”

If your counterpart feels a loss of power, avoid at all cost that he or she resumes the competitive practices in the negotiation.

  • Make your counterpart reflect on the consequences of not reaching an agreement.
  • If it’s necessary, resort to his or her BATNA, without resorting to punitive tactics.
  • Focus your counterpart on the benefits and the advantages that the agreement will bring to him or her.
  • Develop a plan to follow up on the implementation of the agreement (effectiveness).

Characteristics of a good frame of reference

  • interactive, (a joint effort)
  • iterative (redefining as many times as necessary to clarify things)
  • also transparent (no secrets or hidden items, or bad intentions)
  • it should be strategic (not referring to trivial issues of the organization but concentrated on key subjects of great importance)
  • finally it is respectful (not ignoring the essence of the interested parties).

Counterintuitive Strategy


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