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

Cooling-Off Periods

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Cooling-off periods are used in highly emotional confrontations in which one or more of the parties has become intensely angry as the result of some real or imagined provocation. Use of this technique grew out of the realization that people who are angry and who may have suffered physical or emotional injuries are likely to make decisions about conflict which they will later regret. Professional intermediaries also recognize the problem. They know that, in angry and emotional situations, the chances of reaching a settlement or even making significant progress are almost non-existent. Conflict decisions made under these circumstances are also likely to make the situation worse rather than better.

In principle, the solution is very simple: agree to a mutual pause in the confrontation (or a recess in the negotiations) so that everyone has a chance to think about what has happened and carefully develop their response strategy. This does not mean that the parties are being asked to forget the events that made them so angry--they are merely being given time to think carefully about how best to approach the situation.

In the United States, the classic application of the technique is in labor management negotiations, in which a third party (or the two parties themselves) may call for a cooling-off period. During this cooling-off period, the parties are expected to return to business as usual. There can also be an understanding that the terms of the eventual settlement will be applied retroactively to the cooling-off period, so the parties will not lose gains if they wait to pursue the conflict.  This approach can be applied in other conflict situations as well, including public policy negotiations, or family conflicts. Crisis management techniques designed to slow down the pace of the conflict can also be helpful in fulfilling cooling off function.

Links to Related Sections:


Strong Emotions

Crisis Management

Managing Strong Emotions

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