SOCY 4025
Course Outline


The course begins with an examination of the very practical theory of interest-based bargaining. This proven technique for dealing with the very common, tractable disputes, applies to the easier end of the conflict continuum. For this unit you are asked to read Getting to Yes, the only book in the conflict resolution field ever to have made the New York Times Bestseller List. This very readable book offers a wealth of practical advice and is something that literally everyone should read, whether they take a course like this or not. It teaches you five simple rules that enable you to effectively negotiate the price of a used car, with your boss for a raise, or with your children over bedtimes. If a win-win solution is possible, this book shows you how to get it.


Interest-based bargaining is not, however, a panacea. As one moves up the scale of difficulty and intractability, the ability of interest-based bargaining to resolve disputes starts to break down with widespread criticism of the technique's ability to deal with the hard cases. The course's examination of strategies for dealing with these more difficult conflicts focuses upon another William Ury book, Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People.


Getting to Yes and Getting Past No lay out only a general theory of negotiation with relatively little information on how these techniques are actually applied in real world settings. For this information we have assigned another book, Conflict Practices in Management, Settlement, and Resolution, which offers a review of the many different types of conflict resolution processes currently in use. The book also has extensive coverage of strategies for using third parties such as mediators and arbitrators. This excellent volume offers a comprehensive review of the scope and status of the field. For this unit, you are asked to read the first two parts of the book which focus upon the easier end of the tractability continuum. Also assigned is an article outlining another important application of the basic techniques-dispute systems design.


This unit addresses the frontier of the field-those truly intractable conflicts which stubbornly resist the best available conflict resolution strategies. Also addressed are difficult and important questions of justice. Our goal is not resolving conflict for the sake of resolution. It is justice and the reduction of transaction costs and other destructive side-effects associated with the pursuit of justice. Readings include the rest of Conflict Practices in Management, Settlement, and Resolution as well as a series of articles. One of these articles suggests that ADR techniques provide only "second-class justice." Another raises important issues of empowerment, while the third advances the strategy of constructive confrontation as a mechanism for dealing with intractable conflict.


Dealing with conflict is not a theoretical exercise. Rather, it is a very personal process in which people deal with people in the most difficult situations. As such, the best way to understand what is going on is to listen to stories about how the leaders of the field have actually dealt with real world conflicts. For this part of the course we are fortunate to have a new book, When Talk Works. This volume of case studies produced by the Harvard Negotiation Project reports systematic observations of the work of top conflict resolution professionals explaining what they do and why. The stories cover the full range of practice along with the differing philosophies that guide their work. Especially, important are the differences which Kolb and her coauthors observe between the way in which conflict resolution is taught and the way that it is actually practiced.


In order to begin the process of applying the book's various insights to real world conflicts, this unit offers several simple exercises which develop practical conflict-management skills. You are asked to do three of these exercises and then prepare a short write-up indicating what you did, how it worked, and what you learned. Available exercises include: meeting facilitation, active listening, compromise generation, using "I" and not "you" statements, and making constructive public statements.


The final component of the course is a major class project that asks you to apply the general ideas that you have learned to a real world conflict. Here you have three choices. You can apply the ideas learned in the class to an actual conflict in which you are involved and then report the results. (How well did things work or not work? Why?) The second possibility is for you to systematically observe an ongoing conflict in your community, reporting how the conflict is being handled and the results of that approach. You should also make recommendations suggesting more constructive ways of handling the issue. Finally, you can do an in-depth case study based upon library research addressing the same basic questions.

1996-97 University of Colorado. All rights reserved.