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

Reality Testing

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Often negotiations break down because one (or more) of the parties think that they have an alternative that is better than the one they will obtain through negotiation. (As Fisher, Ury, and Patton say it, they think they have a better BATNA--"best alternative to a negotiated agreement.") Often, however, this BATNA is more an illusion than reality. Before finalizing an agreement, or breaking off negotiations, it is wise to test the validity of one’s BATNA. In his book Getting Past No, Ury suggests pushing one’s opponent to examine his BATNA by asking questions such as "what will happen if we don’t agree?" Or "what would you advise me to do, if we don’t reach an agreement?" Or "what will you do if we don’t agree?" Often these answers reveal flaws in one’s assumptions about one’s alternatives, making the negotiated settlement look better in comparison than it had before.

Helping parties assess their BATNAs is one task a mediator often performs.  Often meeting alone (in a caucus) with one side at a time, the mediator will explore each party's image of their alternative approaches for dealing with their problem.  The mediator will help the party estimate the likely costs and benefits of each approach and will give an alternative opinion--or suggest the party seek further advise (such as a lawyer) if their assessment of costs or benefits of a strategy seem unrealistic.


Links to Examples of Reality Testing:

Louis Kriesberg -- The Negotiation of Agreements
This article discusses the negotiation process, including the role of the third party mediator.  One role of the third party, Kriesberg says, is to help disputants assess their alternatives, comparing the costs of a negotiated settlement to the costs of continuing the conflict.
Aspen Institute: Report of Conference Key Findings, Ideas, and Recommendations
This report from an Aspen Institute conference on the Role of Intervention suggests that more consideration should be given to the costs of inaction than tends to be given currently.
William Zartman and Saadia Touval -- International Mediation in the Post- Cold War Era
This article on international mediation explains that one of the mediator's sources of leverage is his or her understanding of the options available to the disputants.   Through persuasion, mediators revise the parties' perceptions of the risks and costs of the conflict and the feasibility and desirability of settlement.
Louis Kriesberg--Epilogue: The War in the Gulf
Some observers felt that the anti-Iraq coalition had unrealistic expectations regarding the potential effectiveness of force.  Unstated, but also apparent, Saddam Hussein also likely had unrealistic expectations about his chances for success against coalition forces.  Had either (or both) sides done reality testing, a less destructive outcome might have resulted.

Links to Related Approaches

Third Party Intervention



Links to Related Problems

Limits to Agreement: Better Alternatives


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