OTPIC Officially Retired
As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.
The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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Identifying Power Options
After one assesses the basic components of a conflict -- who the parties are, what their interests are, and what the fundamental nature of the problem is -- the next step is to identify each side's sources of powerthe ways they can get what they want. Often, disputants only consider a limited number of sources of powersometimes only one. If they are members of the military, they are likely to think about military strategies. If they are lawyers, they are likely to think about legal strategies. If they are diplomats, they are likely to consider diplomatic strategies. Yet power options are usually much broader than those initially perceived. Thus a fundamental step in constructive confrontation is determining what sources of power you have, what sources of power your opponent(s) have and how you can best utilize your power to get what you want and need. Although "power" is generally thought of as force, as we discussed in the introductory material on power, it is much more than that. It also includes exchange and integrative elements, or what Kenneth Boulding called the "three faces of power." (Boulding identified the three faces of power as threats, exchange, and love. By "love" he meant integrative strategies--strategies that bring people together through mutual respect). Although these three forms of power are separable in theory, in practice, they often get combined. Indeed, the most effective confrontation strategies often use a combination of these forms, the precise level of each varying from one situation to the next. The optimal mix of threat, exchange, and integrative approaches is what we call the optimal power strategy mix.
Power Strategy Mix
In order to determine the most advantageous power mix, it is useful to divide ones opponents into four groups: persuadables (that is, people who can be persuaded), reluctant persuadables, traders, and extremists. Persuadables are people who can fairly easily be persuaded that you are right. With a little bit of reason or a moral or emotional appeal, they are likely to join your side or support you in the conflict. Reluctant persuadables are people who also might be persuaded that you are right, but it will take more effort. You will have to work harder to convince them of your views, describing those views, as much as possible, in a way that is consistent with their belief systems, which may well be different from yours. Traders are people to may not be persuaded that you are right, but they are willing to negotiate with you anyway. If you can give them something they want, they are likely to give you what you want, even if they do not necessarily believe in your reasons for wanting it. Extremists are people who are not going to change their beliefs or behavior, no matter what. Persuasion wont work, nor will exchange, as they refuse to negotiate regardless of what you offer.
Different strategies are usually best for each of these kinds of opponents. Persuadables should be approached with logical arguments and other forms of friendly persuasion, combined with negotiation, when possible and necessary. Force should be avoided, as it is likely to generate more opposition than acceptance of your points of view. Reluctant persuadables might need a small bit of force to get them thinking about the problem, but they too should be approached with a much larger amount of persuasion and negotiation than hostility and threat. Negotiation works well with traders, though the results can be further improved with negotiation strategies based on cooperation (in other words, integrative strategies) than they can be with adversarial negotiation techniques. A large dose of force should be reserved for the extremists, as they are not going to be influenced in any other way.
Exactly what this means in terms of strategy will differ from case to case. Sometimes several approaches will be used simultaneously; other times, it helps to start with a small amount of force (to get the opponent's attention or to prove you are serious), and then move to persuasion or negotiation or both. This is the essence of what Ury, Brett, and Goldberg refer to as "negotiation loopbacks," when power contests are pursued just long enough to test who is more powerful and who less, and then the parties switch to negotiation to resolve the conflict at much less cost than would be necessary were the power contest pursued to the final end.
Failing to Identify Available Options for Dealing with the Situation
Failure of the Disputants to Recognize Their Own Force-Based Options
Failure of the Parties to Recognize the Force-Based Options of Opponent
Refusal to Negotiate
All or Nothing Approach
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