Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution and Mediation in potentially volatile situations

Verbal Judo Tips

Verbal judo contrasts with karate in that it is a way to re-direct hostile energy.
For example:
“I hear what you are saying, but maybe you could look at it this way…” (deflection/accept, and then redirection/analyze) concepts by Dr. George J. Thompson

In essence you are saying - “I understand that, although…”

The general idea is to first accept, and then analyze.

L.E.A.P.S. summarizes the basic principles for conflict resolution.

Paraphrase (repeat back their story)
Summarize (in your own words)
Example: “You are feeling _____ because of ____. True?”
Concepts by Dr. George Thompson and activerainnetwork



Tangents: Try to make sure the person's issue comes across as important. However, if you need to re-direct, jump in and out of the conversation with tangents. A tangent would be changing the subject to a topic that is less volatile.
Be very polite - say “I’m sorry” if applicable
Going to the balcony: If you need to step out of the conversation- create imaginary tasks such as an emergency phone call. This is called going to the balcony in relation to the 3rd side neutral pt of view.
(Mukul Chaudhri, Brad Heckman, and Verbal Judo Training by Benjamin Davila)

Tactics for bridging/defusing extreme conflict

Explain the policy, and present multiple options – including one that might appeal to the person (people like choices).
Confirm by asking if there is anything you can do to resolve the situation.


Paraphrasing / Summarizing

It’s all about paraphrasing and summarizing.
Reflecting that moment back to the person in distress - so they can see empathy present in the conversation.

Risk of Physical Confrontation

If there is risk of physical confrontation - stand at an angle to the student rather than directly facing them (confrontational)
Safety circle – comfort zone distance provides both personal comfort, and longer reaction time. (People pass intimidation on).
Remember that changes cannot be retroactive. You can, however, change the future with your behavior - and choices - from here on out.

Verbal Judo Videos
Verbal Judo Training by Benjamin Davila
Verbal judo: the art of using words to close more than deals from the activerainnetwork
Verbal Judo: Diffusing Conflict Through Conversation by Dr. George J. Thompson
Dr. George J. Thompson has a B.A. from Colgate University (1963), a Masters and Doctorate in English from the University of Connecticut (1972), and post-doctoral work at Princeton University in Rhetoric & Persuasion (1979)


Tips for verbally handling conflict:

• Active listening: Make sure you are paying attention and actively trying to understand what the person is saying. It's important to make eye contact, identify the emotions and ask open-ended questions. People can tell when you are not listening, and it negatively affects their emotions.
• Paraphrasing: It is helpful to repeat what the person just said to you back to them, but paraphrase it. That way if you have misunderstood it will be discovered earlier rather than later.
• Summarizing: Paraphrasing plus stating feeling.
• Clarifying: Ask open-ended questions to understand better. When you ask closed questions (like yes/no) there is less opportunity for information sharing.
• Listening for feelings: Listen and identify feelings through observation.

Remember that changes cannot be retroactive. You can, however, change the future with your behaviour - and choices - from here on out.



This website has articles, videos, and blogs about how to handle conflict in tense situations.


Conflict Resolution Network

"When someone is attacking you verbally, moving into active listening mode is usually the most useful response you can reduce the emotionality of a situation. Every time you correctly label an emotion the other person is feeling, the intensity of it dissipates." Don't defend yourself at this point (think of the phrase - for them to change I must change). Make sure that the other person feels heard and expresses their emotions. Acknowledge their side by saying something like "I can see why you are so upset". Once you have drawn them out - the heat leaves the conversation and you can move towards a solution.

  • This page also covers "I statements".
  • When facing resistence from others: Clarify details, ask for options, redirect with positive questions, refer back to legitimate needs.


Conflict Resolution - Resolving Conflict Rationally and Effectively from Mind Tools

Step 1: Make sure the problem is understood (Restate. Paraphrase. Summarize.)

Step 2: Gather Information - ask for the other person's viewpoint. Listen with empathy and make sure to use "I" statements.

Step 3: Agree the Problem - make sure everyone has the same understanding of what the disagreement or problem is actually about.

Step 4: Brainstorm Possible Solutions

Step 5: Negotiate a Solution



A list of ways to deal with conflict in the moment. Links to other websites

Important highlights:
Healthy responses to conflict include calm, non-defensive and respectful reactions v/s explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions.



Focuses on roles people may play during conflict.


Quick reference: Types of conflict and how to handle them

Chart of types of conflict and how to handle it from MIT

The third side is the ability to take a viewpoint of the larger community rather than siding with either the first party or the second party.


Videos (streaming)

Conflict mediation youtube videos
TEDxMacatawa - Ann McKnight - turn toward conflict

Presentation by a therapist about interpersonal conflict and body language (in terms of moving toward rather than away from conflict). Focuses in part on a group conflict.
Discussion circle idea. Victims impact statement: "what is it you want known, and by whom, about how you feel right now about what happened?" Example answer: When you did X I felt Y. "what did you feel about what was said?" Question to offending party "What do you want known about what happened?" Meet again later to recap.
TED Conflict Negotiation by Mukul Chaudhri

A humorous, anecdotal presentation (on stage)
This presentation focuses more on global conflict in multiple countries.
Focuses on stepping away (going to the balcony) to cool off (if needed) during a conflict. Negotiation often works better while walking side by side. He also discusses the path of Abraham and it's connections to the concept of hospitality, compassion, and point of view. Transmuting from hostility to hospitality.
The secret to peace is the 3rd side.
Conflict Resolution in 6 Simple Easy Steps by Jennie Byrne

This film is informal, recorded by a professor in their office, and reviews the STABEN acronym.
Source of the conflict - who is involved, how many people are the source of the conflict
Time and place (the right time/place for discussion)
Amicable approach (start with genuine and positive)
Behavior - be very specific about what happened/action that was the problem
Emotion - When X happened "I" felt Y
Need - what do you need to happen to resolve the problem
Restorative Practices to Resolve Conflict/Build Relationships: Katy Hutchison at TEDxWestVancouverED

TED presentation about education and conflict resolution. (volume issues)
Respecting other people's property and feelings. Focuses on child care and family issues.
Mediation and mindfully getting in the middle: Brad Heckman at TEDxTeachersCollege

Pictionary TED talk on mediation (includes many animal puns). Seeing from multiple perspectives is the core of mediation. Dismiss preconceptions about parties in a dispute. Find out what the real situation is. Be mindful of language barrier misunderstandings. Let silence lead to reflection in conflict resolution.
The Power of Mindfulness: Home Nguyen at TEDxTeachersCollege

A story of survival focusing on intense Vietnam war memories, and his family's escape attempt. Segues to his life as a teen in America.
Money, is after all, just paper. Kindness and cruelty exist in all of us.
War is an outward manifestation of what is going on inside. Unconditional love, and happiness depends on living in the moment.
TEDxHampshireCollege - Jim Ferrell - Resolving the Heart of Conflict
Posits that people like conflict. Focuses on workplace conflict.
Why conflict doesn't have to be destructive | Carmit Yadin | TEDxIESEGParis


Conflict Negotiation videos
The walk from "no" to "yes"
William Ury (author)
Discusses walking away (to the balcony) for a cooling off period and the 3rd side. The role of the 3rd side is to help the parties go to the balcony.
Discusses the example of Abraham, and treating innocent strangers as friends instead of enemies (to prevent / resolve terrorism).
Examples given are international peace negotiations.
The secret to peace is the 3rd side, and each person is the 3rd side. United - all of us functioning as the 3rd side can halt the lion of war.

The third side is the ability to take a viewpoint of the larger community rather than siding with either the first party or the second party.
Teaching with the World Peace Game
John Hunter
A story telling approach to discussing world peace at the grade school level (talk intended for adult audience). Discusses the documentary film "World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements". He puts all the problems of the world on a 4'x 4'x 4' plexiglass board (including outer space areas) and lets the students solve them in an interactive game. They choose their roles (including a weather goddess).
The Art of Negotiation
Maria Ploumaki
This presentation focuses more on interpersonal negotiations.
Everyone has a different perspective.
Three elements of negotiations:
in order to understand who holds the high cards - you need to understand what game you are playing, and how the value system changes.
Ethos, logos and pathos.
Logic: stick to the facts so people will understand our position.
Remember that perception (and culture/social context) affects the situation. An apple can symbolize sin, a healthy snack, or a sweet candy depending on who is looking at it.
Nelson Mandela said if you speak to a man in a language he understands - you speak to his head. If you speak to him in his language - you speak to his heart.
1st tip: Expect the unexpected. Every negotiation will be different. Do not rest on your laurels, or you will stop developing and create a blind spot.
2nd tip: Be tough to the cause, be kind to the people. People will forget what you said and did, but not how you made them feel. Cooperation gives us access to more dimensions.
3rd tip: Always act, never react. When you find yourself in a defensive position - always stay calm. Don't lose balance, and reposition yourself, continuing towards your target. How people react is their choice, and how you react is your choice.

Search terms:

Conflict management (tends to pull more results on global conflict or business conflict/management), conflict negotiation, conflict resolution.



Crum, T.F. (1998). The magic of conflict: Turning a life of work in to a work of art (2nd ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684854481.

Fisher, R., Ury, W.L; & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in (3rd ed.). New York: Penguin. ISBN 9780143118756.

Lederach, J. (2003). Little Book of Conflict Transformation. Pennsylvania: Good Books. ISBN 1561483907.

Moore, C. W. (2003). The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley. ISBN 0787964468.

Ury, W. (1993). Getting past no: Negotiating your way from confrontation to cooperation. New York: Bantam. ISBN 0553371312.


Ice Breakers and Lesson Plans

Ice breakers and lesson plans on diversity and conflict resolution

Scannell, M. (2010). The Big Book of Conflict Resolution Games. Retrieved from


Online Courses

USIP online course - Introduction to Conflict Analysis

Negotiation and Conflict Management from MIT

Harvard Extension School

International Summer Academy in Peacebuilding, Mediation and Intercultural Dialogue (not fully online)

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PACS 164 UC Berkeley Lecture 1 Introduction to Nonviolence - Fall 2006. An introduction to the science of nonviolence, mainly as seen through the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi.

Lecture 22 from: PACS 164 UC Berkeley - Introduction to the science of nonviolence, mainly as seen through the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi

Conflict scenario begins around minute 6. Minute 14:00 discussion on meditation and Gandhi as a way to remain calm. Minute 19 the missing persona of strong and kind in society.


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