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Collected on this page are some techniques to avoid or to resolve conflict. Since conflict is a natural part of life, most will likely apply in any context. However, certain forms of conflict are unique to OnlineCommunity, so some will likely only apply in that context. Also related, the ConflictCycle, ConflictIntensity?, HealthyConflict. For wiki-specific discussion, see WikiConflictResolution.

When people are experiencing conflict it is useful to analyze the potential SourcesOfConflict and draw potential interventions. Conflicts may be about:

Each of these types of conflict can be resolved with interventions such as: agreeing on a process to collect and analyse data; setting core rules to block negative repetitive behaviors; developing exchanges to satisfy the interests of the different parties; allowing parties to agree to disagree; reallocating ownership or control of resources.

1.1. Avoid or prevent conflict

1.2. Identify conflict

1.3. Reduce conflict

1.4. Solve the conflict

1.5. Live with conflict

1.6. TacticalEngagement? and Fork the community

''I'm putting these two techniques to effect on Wiki:SocialAcceptabilityOfWikiVandalism. There is a Wiki:WikiVandal that was damaging scores of pages, putting himself in conflict with the rest of the Wiki:WikiCommunity. He is now currently too busy debating the merits of his action to be doing more damage.''

I attempted to employ these myself (little did I know the person had already grown bored of the whole affair and left for the day), but only while I was silently tracing the offender's location and attempting to neutralize them for real. You have to be careful with this. If the attacker's point is to gain attention, giving them attention is only encouragement to do it again. When I look at Wiki:SocialAcceptabilityOfWikiVandalism, I can't help by roll my eyes and think, "You have been trolled." The incident is not worth debate. Real diversions are totally tangential to the issue as they are meant to divert attention. I tried talking about the weather in Melbourne, Australia, where the attacker lives. -- SunirShah

1.7. AntiPatterns

These are ways that can resolve a conflict (ie. make it go away), but the medicine is worse than the disease. Please don't use these techniques.

1.8. Helpful Links


An interesting and related site campaigning for the end of workplace bullies.

And of course, in the case of versioning systems

See also:

Wiki:SixThinkingHats, IntroductionIntoCriticalThinking, ConflictVsCooperation

There are many conflict resolution institutes all around the world. Some links: Conflict Resolution Information Source [1], Conflict Resolution Center International [2], Journal of Conflict Resolution [3], etc.

These links were found by Google and are offered as a starting place, not as recommendations. If you have recommendations, just replace the links. -- AlexSchroeder

1.9. A philosophy: The rope analogy

Conflict is a knot in the rope emotionally binding two people together. Ending the conflict is getting rid of the knot. There are three ways to do this. The knot is a stress point in the rope, a place where it is weak. Thus, one can pull the knot tighter, and tighter, and tighter until the fibers of the rope strain and crack and break, until finally the rope breaks apart at the stress point that is the knot. Exacerbate the conflict until finally you overcome your opponent or she overcomes you, and this is what will happen.

One can use mechanical intervention to sever the rope on your side of the knot. This is a quick and efficient way to remove the knot from you, but it really leaves the knot still there on the other side. One must also employ a tool to help, such as a knife or scissors, and you may not have one available. While you are cutting, you will encourage your opponent to pull harder on the knot to wrest control of the situation away from you. If your knife isn't sharp enough to cut the rope, you will be left with a tighter knot.

Both these solutions destroy the rope; the third way is the only way to still have a rope at the end, the only NonViolent means to free the knot. Stunningly obvious, one can simply untie the knot. Untying the knot is difficult. To untie the knot, one must first become the knot. Some knots are simple and take very little spiritual effort to untie. Others are very complicated and may be very difficult. Others may seem impossible, but remember that if the knot was tied, it can be untied.

It's easier to untie a knot if you stop pulling on it. It's even easier if both stop pulling, and both start untying.

Remember, if you pull on the rope, the natural reaction is to pull back in order to keep balance. If you manage to keep balance and let someone pull the rope long enough, they may gain enough of the rope to hang themselves; we might try to avoid letting people do that.

Finally, one or both may decide to stop pulling the rope and just drop it. The knot will remain, but it will no longer be a force in either's lives.

Other Comments and Observations

One thing that really hit home working on Wikipedia is that people can have the same overall goal: make Wikipedia a good and useful encyclopedia, but disagree wildly on the specifics. I suppose that is partly due to the goal being very "long-distance".

Or just natural group dynamics. Same goal, just need to figure out how to work together to get there.

Should not we separate the techniques that seeks a real constructive conflict resolution, from the ones merely temporarily fixing the matter and likely to see the conflict appear again after a while ? I think of TacticalDistraction? or TacticalEngagement? for example.

These are indeed useful, but more for ConflictExtinction? than ConflictResolution :-)


CategoryConflict CategoryManagement CategoryRoadmap CategoryArticle


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