Most of our experience with conflict at work or in our homes is anything but positive.
Many people will shy away from conflict, leading to feelings of not being heard and resulting in them being walked all over by others. In contrast, others may lean too hard into conflict; crossing that line from assertive to aggressive, and being unwilling to hear ideas that differ from theirs. Yet, handled properly, conflict can also be a lever to strengthen a relationship or a team bond.
In the modern world conflict is unavoidable. People from different backgrounds and with different personalities, opinions and values work together. While there is plenty of good that can come from having contrasting personalities working together, conflict is often all but unavoidable. We also all see minor disputes with loved ones and strangers every day, and being better equipped to negotiate these conflicts can only help to improve our lives.
Conflict resolution books have been around for decades. While some of the classics are still great and provide a strong foundation, the world has changed tremendously in the last decade– particularly in terms of workplace dynamics. These changes are in many ways for the better, but they add a layer of complexity when dealing with conflicts.
This is why we will be focusing on modern conflict resolution books for work. They use those foundations from the classic texts and build on them so that they are relevant in today’s world.
‘The Anatomy of Peace, Fourth Edition: Resolving the Heart of Conflict’ by The Arbinger Institute
While this book was first published in 2006, it was last updated in 2022 to include revisions to better tackle issues related to diversity, inclusion, and equality.
It also looks at the deep divide in America in recent years, and how to better navigate conflict resolution in this challenging political environment.
This book explains how we as humans misunderstand the root cause of conflict, leading us to make problems worse. It goes on to show readers how to transform conflict and bring people together, so that they can achieve the best possible outcomes.
The book explains these ideas by following a fictional story between two men from different backgrounds who suffer great loss at the hands of one of their family members.
While the conflict between them is intense and seems impassable, they find a way to come together and mend their broken families. The story is heartwarming and makes learning more relatable and engaging.
While the book speaks to managers and leaders, it also covers conflict resolution at home and within yourself. This is a book that will not only make you an effective manager, but a better person as well!
One reader from Goodreads, said:
“...it took me out of my current perspective of people and opinions and lifted me outside of them a bit — so I can look at my opinions on the people around me and change them if I need to.”
‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships’ by Marshall B Rosenberg
This popular book was initially released in 2015, and has since sold more than 5 million copies globally in over 35 languages.
It is based on over 50 years of work by psychologist Dr. Rosenburg. He developed the concept of nonviolent communication and founded the international non-profit Center for Nonviolent Communication.
The book thoroughly explains the concept of nonviolent communication through its exploration of four main principles: Consciousness, language, communication, and means of influence.
It explains that through using nonviolent communication, we can achieve three main things:
- Living better with choice, meaning, and connection
- Having more satisfying relationships by connecting empathically with others, and
- Benefiting everyone through the sharing of resources.
The book teaches through a mix of stories, anecdotes, role-plays, and practical exercises. A quick and easy read, this book would suit most people.
One Goodreads reviewer said:
“I highly recommend this life-changing book. It revolutionized my thinking. It’s such an excellent guide to communicating, that I wish I had been taught this stuff in Kindergarten, and again in middle school and high school. The book emphasizes personal responsibility. It empowers one to fully experience one’s emotions without being controlled by them.”
‘Negotiating the Impossible: How to Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts (Without Money or Muscle)’ by Deepak Malhotra
Released in 2018 by negotiation adviser and Harvard professor Deepak Malhotra, ‘Negotiating the Impossible’ shows its readers how you can defuse high conflict situations before they peak.
Not only that, but you don’t need to be in a position of power to do it!
The main takeaway is that no matter how complex the situation, how high the stakes, or how intense the dynamic, a negotiation is always about human interaction.
The book covers three approaches to conflict resolution: framing, process, and empathy.
Much of the book focuses on complex business situations, though there are sections on negotiating a job offer, interoffice conflicts, or the handling of a corporate deal.
However, the principles in the book can be helpful to anyone! In particular, managers will benefit significantly from this book.
One reviewer on Goodreads said:
“Best negotiating book I’ve read, providing principles and frameworks you can apply to not just formal negotiations, but all human interactions.”
‘Negotiate Without Fear: Strategies and Tools to Maximize Your Outcomes’ by Victoria Medvec
Released in 2021, this up-to-date conflict resolution book covers all the tools you’ll need to negotiate at any level, as well as quash fears that hold many back in negotiations.
Author Victoria Medvec is a successful CEO, Kellogg professor, and master negotiator, who has spent decades creating unique strategies and advising Fortune 500 clients.
This book covers lessons on defining the objective of the negotiation early on, using an Issue Matrix tool to analyze the issue, proprietary tool to identify weaknesses in the other’s sides alternatives, and creating and delivering Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers.
When these steps are followed, you can increase your odds of a negotiation going your way!
This book can help you at any level in the workplace– whether you’re a timid team member that doesn’t get your voice heard, or a CEO looking for new tools to battle the most complex negotiations. It’s an essential resource for any executive or dealmaker.
The lessons will also transfer to everyday situations where minor negotiations are constantly occurring, even if we don’t really think about them.
This Goodreads reviewer said:
“This is the best negotiating book that I have ever read, and I have read a few. For those of us who are in jobs that require negotiating often, if we have spent time honing our skills we think we are pretty good at it. Well, think again.”
‘The Conflict Paradox: Seven Dilemmas at the Core of Disputes’ by Bernard S. Mayer
This 2015 conflict resolution guide was written by Bernard S. Mayer, Professor of Dispute Resolution at The Werner Institute at Creighton University.
He was also a founding partner of internationally acclaimed conflict intervention and training firm CDR Associates.
The Conflict Paradox provides a roadmap to getting conflict to a more productive place. To do this, it covers seven main dilemmas faced when resolving conflict, outlining practical tools and techniques.
The book encourages a new way of thinking about the decisions we make in conflict, covering these following steps:
- Examining the contradictions that exist within the majority of conflicts
- Using opposing ideas such as competition and cooperation, avoidance and engagement, and optimism and realism together for intervention
- Effectively dealing with tensions between emotions and logic, neutrality and advocacy, and community and autonomy
- Identifying the tools and techniques you can use to create opportunities out of obstacles.
The book uses the personal experiences of the authors, stories and anecdotes, and reflective exercises to help the reader make sense of these concepts.
The tools offered here can be used to deal with conflicts anywhere but could be particularly useful for those in legal or corporate settings.
This Goodreads reviewer raved that:
“As always Mayer charts a new and deeper path into the heart of conflict work.”
Conflict resolution is a skill we can all benefit from working on, whether that benefit is in our careers, with friends, with strangers we come across on a daily basis (or even with our significant others and children!).
Reading a book from experts in the field is a terrific start, but practicing the skills learned from these resources is key as well.
The books listed will have activities you can do to start exercising these skills. This is an integral part of the learning experience, even if it may feel uncomfortable initially.
The books listed all have different approaches to conflict resolution.
‘The Anatomy of Peace and Nonviolent Communication’ is fantastic for managers and team leaders who want to make sure all members of the team are valued and heard. This will help to create a positive and productive environment.
‘The Conflict Paradox’ can help you to turn the obstacles of conflict into opportunities to build relationships.
‘Negotiating The Impossible’ is a fantastic read for an executive in a corporate environment who needs to deal with high stake negotiations.
Finally, ‘Negotiate Without Fear’ is an excellent tool for someone at any level who needs to work on being more assertive in the workplace, but will also be useful for those who find themselves in high-stakes negotiations.
While top level executives may find the theories in this book helpful, team leaders and managers may find that it prevents them from effectively managing their employees.
All of these conflict resolution books may deserve to have a coveted place on your bookshelf, but be sure to start with the one that will fit your circumstances the best!