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Conflict reduction strategies can be applied to difficult and contentious situations. Such situation include those in which the negotiation problem is no more relevant and the parties accuse, blame each other, or consider the other side as an obstacle to an agreement. They include situations when the parties cannot cope with their emotions, do not concentrate on solving the problem and formulating a compromise proposal, cannot cope with the amount of data and construct a feasible alternative, or do not know what they want and why, and so on.


Reduce tension through active listening, management of hostility, separation of the parties, or synchronized de-escalation.

Improving communication

Tension reduces communication and trust. Try role reversal or imaging toi improve each party's understanding of the other perspective.

Controlling the number of issues

Conflicts escalate when more issues and more people get involved. Define the problem for this negotiation and stick to issues that are directly related.

Defining common interests

Establish common ground on which the parties may find a basis for agreement. Superordinate goals - the best way to deal with group conflicts (like in work situations) is to have a common goals that is more important than the groups' individual goals. A similar tactic is to find a common enemy.

Making preferred options more desirable to the other side

Enhance the desirability of offers (alternatives) that the parties present to each other. Make it easy for the other side to accept; be gracious. Sweeten the deal by adding something of value to the other side that's not a big deal to you.


  • Escalation of commitment to a course of action
  • Mythical fixed pie bias
  • Anchors (target points, resistance points) unrealistic
  • Attitude (framing) - whether you go in as positive or negative
  • Available information becomes more important that hard-to-get information (poor analysis)
  • Winner's curse - when a good concession or outcome comes too easily (planning)
  • Overconfidence - promotes positional bargaining and shuts you off to others' interests
  • Law of small numbers - using a few examples to make generalizations ('You gave special benefits to everybody else" when you know of 1 or 2 cases)
  • Biased accounts - basically means blaming Ignoring others' cognitions - failing to ask the other party what they think and feel (self-protection, don't want to hear bad news, but it backfires in not discovering interests)
  • Reactive devaluation - dissing someone or arguing with their ideas just because you don't like them at the moment
  • Getting personal instead of focussing on the problem

Focus on people problems

To deal with people problems, you need to recognize that:

  • The other person has a legitimate interest motivating their behavior
  • You can't change their interest
  • You can change your behavior or reaction
  • Your change in behavior may enable the other person to change their behavior
  June 23, 2018
© Copyright 1996-2018 Gregory Kersten & The InterNeg Group
InterNeg Research Centre, Concordia University (Montreal)