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.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Crafting Effective Persuasive Arguments

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Persuasion is the process of convincing an opponent to change his or her beliefs and/or behavior through moral or logical argument (rather than force). When someone is persuaded to do something, they do it because they have come to believe it is the right thing or the best thing to do. They thus do it willingly, even gladly, not grudgingly, as they do when they are forced to do something against their will.

Further, this behavior change is likely to be much more stable than change brought about by force. When people are forced to do something they don't want to do, they usually watch for their next opportunity to retaliate against their opponent, or reverse the unwanted decision. If people are persuaded to change their behavior through moral or logical argument, however, the person or group who has been so persuaded will agree with the opponent's views--hence there is no need to retaliate or reverse the decision at a later time.

In order for persuasion to be successful, it must be based on commonly held-beliefs and/or values. If a disputant bases his or her arguments on selfish or one-sided principles, these principles will almost certainly be rejected (and persuasion will fail). If they base their argument on widely-held principles of fairness that all sides can agree to, the persuasive effort is much more likely to succeed.

While different cultures and religions have widely differing views about morality, fairness, and justice, there are often important areas of common ground that can serve as a basis for powerful persuasive efforts. The United States, for example, has a long-standing belief in the concept of equality before the law. Martin Luther King was able to make great strides toward increasing the rights of African-Americans by arguing that denying African-American equal rights was a violation of that principle. This appeal was able to deliver white support of the African-American civil rights movement that a simple revolt against the evils of which society could not have accomplished.

Even when common ground cannot be found, a debate about the relative merits of competing value systems is far preferable and more constructive than the "might-makes-right" pursuit of purely selfish motives. It is, therefore, important that we identify common values which enjoy widespread support across political and religions boundaries, as well as strategies for moving intractable conflicts toward constructive moral debate. It is such a debate that will lead, over time and perhaps over generations, to evolutionary changes in a society's fundamental values.

Links to Examples of Effective Persuasion

Craig Kauffman -- Reflecting on Nicaragua
This article reports on the efforts of the Nueva Guinea Peace Commissions in Nicaragua which have used moral arguments and an appeal to the population's sense of humanity to prevent further human rights violations.
 
William Zartman and Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
This article describes the efforts of international mediators and the tools they use to bring about settlements of international and communal conflicts. Among their tools, the authors explain, is effective persuasion.
 
Alexander George -- The Cuban Missile Crisis
This article just mentions persuasion in passing, but it is interesting to note that the use of the Cuban blockade was done, in part, to give Kennedy the opportunity to use persuasion in addition to force in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
 
Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin -- Social Conflict: Escalation, Stalemate and Settlement "Irrevocable" Commitments in Social Conflict
Another form of persuasion is coercive persuasion based on the use of irrevocable commitments. Pruitt and Rubin illustrate this approach with a story about Gandhi's persuasive strategies, which while coercive, were also based on the common values of humanity and fairness.
 

Links to Outside Sources of Information

Designing Effective Action Alerts for the Internet
 
Links to Related Solutions
Identify Integrative Options
Opening Communication Channels
Confronting Hypocrisy
Finding Commonality
Coexistence and Tolerance
Humanization
"Yesable" Propositions

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Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium