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Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration

"Spit happens," says Levine in this practical book on conflict resolution, and he proposes a structured, seven-step collaborative model for dealing with it. A self-styled "resolutionist," Levine has 25 years of experience dealing with conflict as a lawyer, mediator, consultant, and trainer. He suggests that disputes can be resolved by practicing ten basic principles. His process has real application for third-party mediators as well as for individuals in the middle of a dispute. He makes the process accessible, neatly summarizing each chapter and sprinkling his book liberally with cogent quotes and useful examples.

Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration

Stewart Levine

 Stewart improves productivity while saving the enormous cost of conflict using “Agreements for Results” and “Resolutionary” conversational models. As a lawyer he realized fighting is  ineffective in resolving problems. He has worked across the organizational spectrum – Fortune 500, small, government and non-profit. Just one of several of his books, Getting to Resolution: Turning Conflict into Collaboration was an Executive Book Club Selection, and named one of the 30 Best Business Books of 1998.  It’s also been called “a marvelous book” by Dr. Stephen Covey. Meanwhile, The Book of Agreement (Berrett-Koehler 2003) has been endorsed by many thought leaders, and was named one of the best books of 2003 by CEO Refresher. And along with David Coleman, he wrote Collaborate 2.0, released in February 2008. He teaches communication, relationship management and conflict management skills for The American Management Association and The International Partnering Institute.   

Contact Information:
(510) 777-1166


The 10 Principles of Resolutionary Thinking

Be sure to listen to Stewart Levine's  Interview on his 7-step model for effective resolution. 

Intention is everything when your aim is resolution.  Here are the 10 things you need to keep top of mind when entering into and working through this kind of critical relationship:


The first principle—abundance—is included in and foundational for all others. If you don’t believe there is “enough” for you and them resolution will be very difficult. If you believe there is enough, then following the other nine principles and the steps of the model will produce resolution.


People who are working together often waste resources because they do not have a clearly articulated vision of where they are going and how they will get there. They waste more resources resolving the inevitable conflicts that surface. Conserving human and material resources is accomplished by having an efficient, effective agreed upon resolution processes.


People have a belief system that says conflict and disagreement are bad.  When you combine the restrictive approach of being self-referential and needing to fix with the fear of consequences of conflict, the chance of getting stuck multiplies.  Moving to a broader field of creativity enhances the potential for satisfactory resolution because it removes the constraints and broadens the field of potential solutions.


Traditional systems and ways of thinking about conflict resolution are often like spraying gasoline on a fire. Although there are situations in which the teeth of the legal system is essential few can afford to play. It is critical to take steps that dissipate conflict and move to resolution before making things worse in the name of standard practice.


Often people in conflict posture and play games. They focus is more about being right than being effective. Winning is he highest value and no one gets points for candor!

Role models come from television. The bravado we see seems cool as a sound bite, but it doesn’t get the results we want. We may do something in the moment to save face, be cool, or act macho in an uncomfortable situation. Often we end up in a more difficult place because of what we have done in the name of our bravado. We must learn, through practice, the power and simplicity of authentic vulnerability.

6. THINKING LONG-TERM            

We are conditioned to think of a short-term horizon, an immediate victory. We see this quarter’s bottom line not the next decade’s. Fear drives us in the short term so any situation can become adversarial. They become the enemy. Thinking a collaboration will be long term has you feel good about the relationship. You never know when the relationship will take on long-term significance, or when you will have to face the other person since now we all live in a global village!


Most people think the world operates on the premise of logic. Thing fits into a category, A flows into B, and consequences are predictable. We are stepping onto another  foundation. The existing paradigm of “scientific method” needs supplementing. In this global village, we are facing many challenges whose solutions are so complex that new theoretical models are needed for resolutions to our current challenges. When dealing with people, you must factor in emotions. In more and more arenas, the nonlinear is critical.  


Information is king. Whoever has it hoards, uses, and manipulates it. Nondisclosure is an accepted way of conducting business. Nondisclosure dilutes the ability to get to resolution. Conflict and disagreement are the clearest signs that more information needs to be exchanged. Information and discussion, facts and ideas shared, are the raw material from which resolution emerges. Cutting the flow ensures conflict, delay, and lack of consensus about the outcome. Full disclosure builds trust.


While focused on winning, you may not want to know or listen to the concerns of other people. Your objective is to convince everyone you are right. Coming together to resolve a conflict is an exercise in group learning - teaching and learning. Learning is a useful way to get rid of the ego-based ideas of winning, being right, fixing blame, or doing it the “right” way. Learning and being open to influence puts you in a mind-set of discovery, allowing you the luxury of “not knowing” the answers or the specific path that you will take. This process lets you discover, explore, and learn with everyone else what the best solution is. As the process unfolds, everyone is educating each other about his or her situation, learning what is needed to understand a bigger picture.


Conflict lives as an emotional presence inside individuals. You cannot really give it to someone else to resolve. We abdicate personal responsibility for our deepest individual concerns when we avoid conflict by delegating to “professionals.” We often do this before looking within ourselves for the answers. This has a negative impact on both the conflict and the individual. The more we know about who we are, the better we can resolve conflict and collaborate with others and deferring to professionals steals your experience of finding out who you are. Personal identity is revealed as you observe your responses in dealing directly with your own conflicts.

© 2009 Stewart levine

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