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

Failure to Understand An Opponent's Perspective

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This is a very common problem. People in conflict often assume that everyone sees the situation the same way they, themselves, do. They fail to recognize that other people are in different situations, and have different interests, needs, values, and experiences. For these reasons, it is actually uncommon for people on both sides to define the problem in the same way.

These different perceptions make good communication extremely important. However, good communication is usually absent in conflict situations. People often cut off communications with the other side, which limits the parties' ability to learn enough about the opponents' view of the situation to make an effective response. Instead they tend to act based on assumptions and stereotypes. When these are wrong, such actions are likely to be ineffective (at best) and highly destructive or counter-productive (at worst).


Links to Examples of this Problem:

Gareth Evans - Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait in 1990: A Failure to Use Preventive Diplomacy
In this analysis, Evans argues that the U.S. and the Arab community misunderstood the Iraqi perspective on the Persian Gulf situation in 1991.
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider - Explore Partisan Perceptions
This is a short, but effective illustration of how people can be unaware of the possibility that others might see the same situation differently.
Alexander George- United States-Japan Relations Leading to Pearl Harbor
This is another story which illustrates that the failure to understand an opponent's perspective can have severe consequences.
Andrea Williams - Resolving Conflict in a Multi-cultural Environment
This is an article which illustrates the way in which cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings.
Donald Bossart - Rhodesia to Zimbabwe: Lessons for Mediators
This article highlights the misconceptions about the opponent and the conflict itself in white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe.)

Links to Possible Treatments of this Problem:

Communication Improvement Strategies


Active Listening

Dialogic Listening


Links to Related Problems:

Incompatible frames

Failing to identify all of the relevant issues/assuming that everyone else defines the problem the same way you do

Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu