Book by: Deutsch, Morton, and Coleman, Peter T. (Editors).
Review by: Sylvia Kay Fisher
Program Director for Evaluation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
This book, a veritable handbook 600 pages in length, is poised to be the preeminent reference on the topic of conflict resolution for both academic and professional audiences. Edited by an eminent and highly-regarded leader in the field, this extensive treatment contains 27 chapters subsumed under eight major sections: (1) Interpersonal and Intergroup Processes; (2) Intrapsychic processes; (3) Personal differences; (4) Creativity & Change; (5) Difficult Conflicts; (6) Culture & Conflict; (7) Models of Practice; and (8) Looking to the Future. Over 35 authors contribute to the volume, ensuring coverage of several perspectives, typologies, and models of conflict resolution, and addressing every major dimension and aspect of the topic. In addition, a comprehensive reading list and detailed authors' biographies are included.
The writing is highly accessible and surprisingly non-academic for such an in-depth and comprehensive volume. Several excellent tables and figures help to delineate important conceptual and research-based findings and complement the accompanying text handily. Advisors should pay particular attention to chapters focusing on persuasion in negotiations, judgmental biases, cooperation and competition, and anger and retaliation, issues advisors encounter frequently with their advisees. Part Seven of the book, “Models of Practice,” is particularly relevant with its emphasis on the practical applications of important research findings on subjects likely to be of considerable interest to advisors, including: teaching conflict resolution skills in workshops (an activity they may be responsible for at work), mediation (specifically, mediator styles and conditions for effective mediation), and managing conflict through large-group methods.
Although the writing is comparatively accessible, advisors should remember that this is an academic and research-oriented textbook in tone and approach. Therefore, they should anticipate that some effort will be required to extrapolate useful recommendations from the research findings, which they can apply to their work situation. Interestingly, advisors may benefit most from this book in an unexpected way – they may gain increased awareness and understanding of organizational functioning and the dynamics of conflict within organizational settings. This type of information can help advisors understand the contexts they operate within, and they may be able to apply these theoretical paradigms to ameliorate and even resolve “office conflicts.”
This book would be a welcome addition to the shelf of an advising office, where advisors can quickly peruse the volume for specific information about how to approach and resolve a conflict, at the individual and organizational level. What’s more, the volume is a great read that informs and educates readers about conflicts, the ways power can be distributed, and how power and important dynamics can be channeled to improve many aspects if the human condition.
Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice.
(2000). Book by Deutsch, Morton, and Coleman, Peter T. (Editors). Review by Sylvia Kay Fisher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 672 pp. (hardbound). ISBN #0-7879-4822-5.