my best conflict resolution books
So without further ado, I’d like to share with you my list of what I believe are the top 5 conflict resolution books out at the moment.
I’ve compiled this list first of all to spread the word about some of the unparalleled souls who’ve inspired me with their writing over the years as I developed my understanding of mediation and conflict resolution & engagement. More importantly, however, I’ve done this to help you gain the benefit of the breathtaking learning across the pages of every one of these books.
If you were to run an online search for the best conflict resolution books available today, my feeling is that more than likely you’d come across a huge swathe of ‘self-help’ texts, promoted by monolithic marketing machines designed solely to grab your attention.
Now, I don’t want to suggest that there aren’t any books in this bracket that will actually help you, or that their authors aren’t suitably qualified to guide you to a genuine understanding about conflict and how to approach it. Rather, what I’m saying is that the books that I list below can be pretty hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The lack of marketing prowess behind them has meant that in the main (and I’m happy to be corrected here), up to this point they’ve reached only those within the conflict resolution professions, those learning how to mediate, peacemakers and the like.
And to my mind, that’s just plain wrong!
So here we go. Have a look at my list, pick up however many you like, and trust me, if you haven’t read them before your life will change for the better!
1. The Conflict Pivot
The key to your freedom is knowing why certain conflicts get their hooks into you, and what you can do to liberate yourself. This is a book about finding that key in order to resolve nagging conflict and prevent inconsequential conflict from cluttering your life.
In The Conflict Pivot, veteran mediator, coach, and conflict resolution teacher Tammy Lenski shares the powerful, simplified approach she developed over the course of a decade to transform conflict into peace of mind. Now you, too, can pivot away from what keeps you stuck in conflict and toward what will free you from ongoing tension at work or home.
2. The Dance of Opposites: Explorations in Mediation, Dialogue and Conflict Resolution Systems Design
This outstanding book by Ken Cloke explores a new vision for conflict resolution, a conflict revolution that analyzes the use of language in conflict, the narrative structure of conflict stories, and how the brain responds to conflict. It surveys religion, spirituality, and meditation, and searches for ways of opening heartfelt communications between opponents.
The Dance of Opposites also looks at social, political, and environmental conflicts, and offers suggestions on how to organise and conduct dialogues over difficult, dangerous, and controversial issues. It identifies new ways of designing conflict resolution systems for marriages, families and couples, and chronic organisational conflicts. It investigates dialectical philosophy, movements for social change, and theories of justice, encouraging us to use conflict to learn, become better human beings, and create opportunities for improvement.
3. Beyond Neutrality: Confronting the Crisis in Conflict Resolution
In this thought-provoking, passionately written book, Bernie Mayer, an internationally acclaimed leader in the field of conflict resolution, dares practitioners to ask the hard questions about alternative dispute resolution. What’s wrong with conflict resolution? Why aren’t more individuals and organisations using conflict resolution when they have a problem? Why doesn’t the public know more about it? What are the limits of conflict resolution? When does conflict resolution work and when does it not? Offering a committed practitioner’s critique of the profession of mediation, arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution, Beyond Neutrality focuses on the current crisis in the field of conflict resolution and offers a pragmatic response.
4. The Conflict Paradox: Seven Dilemmas at the Core of Disputes
When in conflict should we cooperate and when should we compete? When should we be realists and when should we be guided by optimism? Do we insist on sticking to our principles or do we prepare for compromise? The toughest challenges in conflict arise from the polarised ways in which we view our choices about how to approach a dispute, choices that seem to involve two mutually exclusive paths, neither of which will get us to where we want to go. In The Conflict Paradox, the second of Bernie Mayer conflict resolution books I highly recommend, he argues that the real challenge is to find a new path that incorporates both approaches. These apparently opposing conflict practices need not be mutually exclusive; in fact, each is necessary to the other. The Conflict Paradox poses seven dilemmas that permeate our thinking about conflict, whether a family crisis, a corporate dispute, or a geopolitical negotiation.
5. Managing Conflict: A Practical Guide to Resolution in the Workplace
Conflict in the workplace is a perennial problem for organizations. Whether it’s a disagreement between colleagues, a dispute with management or large-scale industrial action, conflict negatively affects both people and profits as employee morale and productivity fall. Endorsed by the CIPD, Managing Conflict is an essential guide for HR professionals needing to tackle these problems by not only resolving current issues, but also preventing future instances of conflict. Going beyond interpersonal conflict, the book also looks at resolving board room disputes, disputes with shareholders, in the supply chain, commercial disputes and customer complaints. The first part of Managing Conflict covers the causes and costs of conflict, the impact of the psychological contract and the legal framework for managing workplace disputes both in the UK and internationally. The second part of the book provides a blueprint for redefining resolution and building a culture of constructive conflict management, from designing a conflict management strategy and developing a formal resolution process to embedding mediation, engaging stakeholders and training managers in resolution and mediation skills. It also includes conflict resolution toolkits for managers, HR teams, employees and unions to help tackle conflict and bullying at work. Packed with best practice case studies from major UK and global organisations, this is an indispensable guide for all HR professionals and mediators looking to resolve conflict in the workplace. Online supporting resources include a conflict health check tool, conflict cost calculator, and checklist for developing an internal mediation scheme.
And that’s just the beginning. These are my top 5 conflict resolution books at the moment, and to be fair, the list is likely to change or extend as I absorb even more outstanding work in the field.
I’d recommend starting with these, and if you find any others in your travels, please let me know. In the meantime, enjoy!