50+ Free Tools and Resources for Conflict Resolution

50+ Free Tools and Resources for Conflict Resolution

Information and Tools to Help You Mediate Disputes Like a Professional

Disputes in the workplace are inevitable. It’s easy to fall into dispute over miscommunication, jumbled memories and conflicting memos. That’s when conflict resolution is needed — mediation is faster, cheaper and more satisfying for those who go through it.

In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cites a survey saying that 96% of all respondents and 91% of all charging parties who used mediation would use it again.

According to the EEOC, the benefits of mediation are:

  • It’s fair and neutral
  • It saves time and money
  • It’s confidential
  • It avoids litigation
  • It fosters cooperation
  • It improves communication
  • It allows you to discover the real issues in your workplace
  • It lets you design your own solution

But where to begin? If you’re a manager or supervisor, an educator, or anyone else who may need to resolve conflicts in the workplace, the following conflict resolution resources can help you learn more about resolving conflicts between parties. Even if you’re just interested in learning about the art and science of conflict resolution for your own purposes, this list of conflict resolution tools is invaluable.

Thinking about becoming a professional mediator? Find out more about becoming a mediator without a law degree.

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Cost of Conflict Calculators

You know there’s conflict in your workplace, and you know it has a cost. But do you know how to find out what that cost is? These three calculators will help you find out how much time and money are being wasted on conflict at your business. The dollar amounts you’re losing to disputes will be eye-opening, but you’ll also find out that the problem affects more than just the bottom line.

Center for Creative Leadership – White Paper: Cost of Conflict  

How much time do you think your managers are wasting on conflicts? Find out more about the cost of conflicts in this white paper from the Center for Creative Leadership, and then use the Cost of Conflict Calculator provided to get your answers. You’ll need to provide information to download the paper and to use the calculator.

Key takeaway: Conflict affects the productivity of organizations in four key areas: wasted time, lower motivation, increased turnover and disruptive restructuring.

Mediation Training Institute – Conflict Cost Calculator

What are the financial costs of conflict in your organization? This Cost Conflict Calculator from the Mediation Training Institute gives you an eye-opening look at the monetary costs of conflict. Fill out the form after providing your information and find out the financial cost to your managers’ productivity.

Key takeaway: Using this Conflict Cost Calculator, you can establish a quantitative assessment, re-measure results after training or coaching, and then compare the results to see how effective you’re using conflict resolution tools.

Resologics – Cost of Conflict Calculator

This Cost of Conflict Calculator from Resologics requires no personal information to use, just about two minutes of your time. Answer nine questions to gain insight into the cost of conflict at your workplace — there is even the option to receive a full report based on your answers. The results are broken down based on wasted time, wasted opportunity, lost time, lost opportunity, turnover, legal and non-legal support.

Key takeaway: This site lets you sign up for a Conflict Tools mailing list, which will provide you with means to help you follow up with your conflict resolution project.

Conflict Management Self-Assessments

How do you manage conflicts in the workplace? How should you? These tools and assessments help you figure out how you handle conflict and what adjustments you should make for a happy workplace.

Walden University – What’s Your Conflict Management Style?

Find out your own conflict management style with two resources for conflict resolution offered at this site. One link offers an assessment for purchase, and a second link offers a quicker 15 question assessment. Either way will give insight into your style of conflict management.

Key takeaway: Walden University lists five major styles of conflict management: collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating and compromising.

The Blake Group – Conflict Management Styles Assessment

Are you an owl? A fox? A teddy bear? Take this assessment quiz and find out where you fall on the scale of conflict management styles, and what that means for you.

Key takeaway: No one style of conflict management is necessarily better than another. Each management style has its pros and cons, and each can be useful depending on the situation.

Psychologia – What’s Your Conflict Resolution Strategy?

This series of true-false questions measures your conflict resolution strategy. Like other assessments, it places you among five conflict management styles, and gives you some insight into why you’re that way. This article includes links to other conflict management tests.

Key takeaway: Realizing you have a predominant conflict resolution style can help you make the right choices when confronting somebody about their behavior.

Cinergy Coaching – Conflict Intelligence Self-Assessment

This article talks about and grades you on your conflict intelligence. Conflict intelligence refers to having the self-awareness, knowledge and skills to be attuned to yourself and the other person with whom you are in conflict. This assessment emphasizes insight and compassion when dealing with conflict.

Key takeaway: Many factors get in the way of developing conflict intelligence. Strengthening your conflict intelligence can solve disputes and bring peace at work and at home.

South Carolina Women in Higher Education – Conflict Handling Style Scale

This self-assessment on your “Conflict Handling Style” based on how you rate statements such as “I fought for my own position” and “I gave the other party what it wanted.” Ratings range from “Almost Always” to “Rarely/Never.” Results will tell you your preferred conflict management style.

Key takeaway: You may have a preferred conflict management style, but there are others, and you likely use more than just one.

West Texas A&M University – Conflict Management Styles Assessment

This conflict management quiz offers another self-evaluation of styles. Rate each statement and grade your outcome to find your own style. This assessment offers both pros and cons of each management style.

Key takeaway: Your own conflict management style might be impacted by various factors such as your temperament, your personality, your environment and where you are in your professional career.

United States Institute of Peace – Conflict Styles Assessment  

How do you respond to conflict? Take this online survey and find out if you’re an accommodator, avoider, competer, compromiser or problem solver. The results are shareable and printable.

Key takeaway: By being aware of your own conflict style and being able to identify the style of the person on the other side, you’ll be better equipped to pursue a mutually agreeable outcome.

Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts

Conflict can’t be resolved without good communication. If the conflict can’t accurately identified, and if the mediator doesn’t understand the problem, resolution can be elusive. These links can help burnish the communication skills needed to resolve conflicts.

Utah State University – Effective Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts  

This paper from Utah State University sees conflict as opportunities for personal and relationship growth. The key is communication. The paper offers a few tips to being resolving common conflicts.

Key takeaway: There are four negative communication styles that can make the problem worse, sometimes called the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

Move to Amend – Communication Tools and Conflict Resolution

This group sees big corporations as the enemy, but corporations and small businesses alike can take advantage of its unorthodox conflict resolution tools and ideas. For example, Move to Amend recommends using such methods as a “Talking Stick” so only one person at a time can talk as others listen, a timekeeping tool to keep the discussion on track, and trust games.

Key takeaway: This group suggests working out interpersonal conflicts by “VOMPing” – venting, owning, empathizing and planning. It’s demonstrated in an example dialogue.

VISTA – Strategies for Managing Conflict & Communication Tools  

VISTA – Volunteers in Service to America – offers a bullet-point list of tips for managing conflict, such as “Be a calming agent” and “Focus on the future.” The common-sense points are helpful. Also offered is a short list of conflict resolution tools focusing on communication.

Key takeaway: An often-forgotten tip is to always validate the feelings of those who are in conflict, by saying such things as “I’m sorry this hurt you.”

Beyond Intractability – Communication Tools for Understanding Cultural Differences

One often-neglected factor that may be driving conflict in an organization is cultural differences. This article holds that in conflict, what is needed first is self-knowledge and self-awareness — and second, cultural fluency. That means understanding what culture is, how it works, and the ways culture and communication are intertwined with conflict. Tools and tips are provided to begin resolving conflict.

Key takeaway: Two key types of communication are high context (indirect messages) and low context (words or implications from those words). Most people function on both ends of the continuum, and figuring out where the other person is helps begin to resolve conflict.

Mind Tools – Cross-Culture Communication

This resource extends “cross-cultural communication,” which more businesses face as they outsource more work. Because cross-cultural communication is the new norm, understanding cultural diversity is key when facing conflict. This article suggests several steps: develop awareness of cultures, demand mutual acceptance, keep communication simple, and seek help when it’s needed.

Key takeaway: Team members should contribute and not hinder the mission, not damage the cohesion of the team and harm the interests of other team members.

Community Tool Box – Enhancing Cultural Competence

This outline offers goals for enhancing cultural competence in an organization, and a series of steps to get there. Among them are defining your vision and goals and conducting a cultural audit. A large group of additional links help offer more conflict resolution resources.

Key takeaway: One helpful exercise is to list cultural groups within the organization and the hurtful stereotypes associated with them that could be hindering communication and the ability to work together.

United States Environmental Protection Agency – Cross-Cultural Communication Tool

This article will help you navigate the different expectations from different cultural groups, based on cultural norms around physical behavior and personal space, punctuality, emotional response and other culturally-distinct perspectives.

Key takeaway: This article has practical tips for cross-cultural communication, such as communicating respect rather than judgment. This article also highlights how participants must be careful with humor as it may be misunderstood.

Harvard Business Review 3 Situations Where Cross-Cultural Communication Breaks Down

This piece from Harvard Business Review explores how cross-cultural conflict can arise in many ways, and identifies three areas that create the biggest challenges: eliciting ideas, surfacing disagreement and giving feedback. Each area has a suggested “fix” shared by the authors.

Key insight: To prevent such conflict, teams should develop a climate of trust where colleagues are always safe to speak their minds.

Conflict Resolution Strategies and Techniques

There are a variety of strategies and techniques for resolving conflicts. This group of sites offers different ideas for conflict resolution, from quizzes and exercises to diagrams and downloads. You’re sure to find helpful conflict resolution tools here.

Louisiana State Civil Service – Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies

This is a publicly available manual from a state of Louisiana training program on conflict resolution strategies. It includes quizzes and exercises to help the participants learn how to resolve conflicts. It promises to help you learn about the causes and effects of conflict; how to evaluate different conflict management styles; and how to focus on applying win-win techniques.

Key takeaway: This resource contends that conflict can be positive, is inevitable and can be skill-based — that is, burnishing your own skills can lead to resolution of conflicts.

Stanford University (Residential Education) – Conflict Mediation Guidelines

This resource gives some practical guidelines for mediating conflicts. It includes definitions, information on where conflict comes from, a breakdown of the best conflict management styles and more. It also includes a chart of some of the best skills of a third-party negotiator, such as referring, reversing roles and summarizing.

Key takeaway: A list of “Deadly Assumptions” when in conflict is an eye-opener. Among them are “We assume we have been understood by others” and “We assume that other people attach the same meanings to words that we do.” The list is extremely helpful for understanding each other.

Harvard Law School – 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies

Most people default to ineffective and damaging strategies when faced with conflict. From Harvard Law School, this list of five strategies that should prove much more effective. Among other points, the reader is urged to recognize that we all have biased perceptions of fairness. Applying these strategies will help move toward resolution.

Key takeaway: We may think of some of our stances as “sacred” — that is, firm and non-negotiable. However, they can prove to be only “pseudo-sacred,” or off-limits only under certain conditions. It’s important to recognize the difference when negotiating.

Harvard Law School – 3 Negotiation Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Harvard follows up with a list of proven negotiation strategies that can help mend partnerships, avoid lawsuits and even create value. They include: avoid being provoked into an emotional response, don’t abandon value-creating strategies and use time to your advantage, and much more.

Key takeaway: One interesting strategy for defusing a situation is a simple one: Take a break. That will give everyone time to gain control of emotions – and can help protect you as the mediator from getting caught in the anger of the conflicted parties.

Citizens Committee for New York City – 10 Strategies for Conflict Resolution

These easy strategies for conflict resolution include starting with areas of common agreement instead of disagreement, and never jumping to conclusions or making assumptions about what another person is feeling or thinking.

Key takeaway: Conflict is not a competition where one must win and the other must lose. Work toward a solution where both parties can have some of their needs met.

HRPersonality – Conflict Management Techniques

This article offers a rundown of various conflict resolution techniques; examples of when they may be appropriate; and possible advantages and disadvantages. Techniques include “forcing” or competing, “win-win” or collaborating, compromising, withdrawing and “smoothing” or accommodating.

Key takeaway: Most lists detail the advantages of each technique, but this also includes some insightful “caveats,” which are essentially warnings about the shortcomings of each. For example, a “compromise” technique may result in a situation where both parties are not satisfied with the outcome – lose-lose.

The Journal of Conflict Resolution – An Analysis of Conflict Resolution Techniques

This article from the Journal of Conflict Resolution analyzes various popular problem-solving workshops to move from “pretheories” of conflict resolution to theories and resolution itself. It offers an academic approach and features useful diagrams. It is fully available with a free account with JSTOR, a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources.

Key takeaway: This academic paper casts some doubt on the effectiveness of some of the conflict resolution techniques, if only because they are not entirely testable. It’s good to remember that not all techniques will work all of the time.

CISV International – Conflict and Resolution Activities

This site has a large collection of downloadable activities in conflict resolution for young people. They range from written exercises to viewing videos that help develop goals. This seems aimed primarily at teachers and school administrators.

Key takeaway: This group of resources for conflict resolution takes conflict out of the workplace, and even out of the classroom. It encourages young people to stand up for others’ views and tackles such issues as equal rights and human rights.

Mediation and Conflict Resolution Forms, Templates and Checklists

This section includes tools you can use when you enter conflict resolution and mediation. The forms, templates and checklists here will help you organize your efforts, level the playing field for participants and help evaluate your mediation efforts after the fact.

University of Iowa – Conflict Description Template  

This template will help you categorize conflicts, the steps taken and the next steps available. This was put together and intended for the University of Iowa, but it can be modified for use by anyone who has conflicts they need to resolve peacefully.

Key takeaway: This document has a helpful link to a list of the limits and boundaries of confidentiality for complainants and respondents.

Collaborative Journeys – Mediation Agreement Checklist

This is a checklist to resolve monetary disputes. It’s a true mediation document, working through such issues as payment disputes and timeframes for resolving them. This document indicates it’s to be used as a guide for reaching an agreement through mediation.

Key takeaway: Follow the link at the bottom of the page and you’ll find more conflict resolution tools and publications for free, including an e-course about collaboration.

United States Department of Veterans Affairs – Sample Introductions for Mediators

This document is for mediators entering a dispute-resolution process. It includes two sample introductions you can use to explain to all what dispute resolution and mediation is and what the process will look like for both sides.

Key takeaway: This is a good document to use if you don’t have much experience mediating, as it gives you a good framework.

Health Services Advisory Group – Conflict Resolution Meeting Tip Sheet   

This tip sheet is perfect for when you’re organizing a meeting to resolve disputes. It lists helpful ground rules to use, plus tips on how to proceed through the logical steps of dispute resolution.

Key takeaway: It seems obvious enough, but this document offers a good reminder of the goal of any dispute resolution agenda: To transition from a past situation to an amenable future state.

Texas Southern University – Ground Rules for a Successful Mediation Meeting

This bullet point list is a collection of ground rules to use before heading into a dispute resolution meeting. Among the points: Each person should be prepared with some ideas for solutions to the problem and be prepared to make notes and wait your turn to talk.

Key takeaway: One idea that might provide some key insight is to have the disputing sides explain the other person’s point of view, if asked. This could open some minds and provide some new avenues of compromise.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Sample Alternative Dispute Resolution Forms

This page from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides links to forms that government agencies use to resolve disputes. You’ll find mediation agreements, intake sheets, settlement agreements and evaluation forms after disputes are resolved.

Key takeaway: It’s always a good idea to evaluate the effectiveness of mediation after the fact. The forms provided here will help with that, so your mediation efforts can find ways to improve.

Mediation and Conflict Resolution Blogs, Journals and Podcasts

As more businesses and classrooms address conflict resolution, the number of resources available keeps growing. Here are some of the best blogs, journals and podcasts about mediation and conflict resolution, and some of their best pieces.

JAMS (Blog)

JAMS is a dispute resolution company. Its blog provides some insight into dispute resolution and mediation.

Essential reading:

Indisputably (Blog)

This blog, “Linking Dispute Resolution Scholarship, Education, and Practice,” gathers several the reflections of several experts in the field. It’s mostly academic, but there are some practical ideas in here, too.

Essential reading:

Disputing (Blog)

This site gathers recent news about disputes, arbitration and mediation. It’s run out of Austin, Texas, so the articles lean more toward issues in that state.

Essential reading:

Journal of Conflict Resolution

This academic journal tackles international trends and techniques in dispute resolution. You’ll find articles and ideas among its pages. Some articles may require rental or purchase.

Essential reading:

American Bar Association – Dispute Resolution Magazine

This magazine from the American Bar Association keeps readers abreast of issues in dispute resolution and mediation. Current and archived issues are available to read, and some content requires membership.

Essential reading:

Resolutions: A Podcast About Dispute Resolution and Prevention (Podcast)

This podcast from the American Bar Association further explores dispute resolution and what can be done to prevent such disputes in the first place.

Best episodes:

The Space Between: Conflict Resolution with Dr. Tammy Lenski (Podcast)

This short podcast series, linked at the podcast site Stitcher, is about conflict resolution in high-priority relationships at work and home.

Best episodes:

Negotiate Anything (Podcast)

Negotiate Anything calls itself the top-ranked negotiation podcast in the world. You’ll hear interviews and tips on how to make difficult conversations easier.  

Best episodes:

How to Deal with Passive Aggressiveness: Passive aggressive behavior can derail negotiations. Here’s how to deal with it when managing conflict.

Conflict and Dispute Resolution Organizations

If you decide to make a career of mediation and dispute resolution, there are a number of organizations to support you. These can provide more training and support for difficult cases.

American Arbitration Association (AAA)

This organization provides a roster of mediators that can help resolve conflict. Its Master Mediator Panel is experienced in handling large-claim disputes.

Key takeaway: This group of professionals includes judges and leaders in legal and business communities.

National Association of Community Mediation (NACM)

This group supports community mediation to resolve public disputes. Their focus also includes policymaking, legislation, professional programs and other public arenas.

Key takeaways: The organization says it offers “an alternative to avoidance, destructive confrontation, prolonged litigation or violence.”

Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM)  

This group bills itself as “the premier organization for divorce and family mediators.”

It supports the work of professional family mediators in difficult situations.

Key takeaway: This group offers training opportunities nationwide and provides links to training you may have missed.

Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR)

This group is a professional association for mediators, arbitrators, educators and other conflict resolution practitioners. The group offers training and support for those who are involved in dispute resolution.

Key takeaway: The group has recently published a book, the first in a planned series, called “The Guide to Reflective Practice in Conflict Resolution.”

International Mediation Institute (IMI)

This organization supports international mediation. It certifies mediators who meet international standards and accredits others who have international training.

Key takeaway: The International Mediation Institute has a program, Young Mediators, which offers support for young people who are interested in mediation careers.

International Association for Conflict Management (IACM)  

This group is for scholars to develop and disseminate theory, research and experience on conflict resolution. Its focus is on family, organizational, societal and international conflict management.

Key takeaway: This site links to its own journal, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, for academics and researchers.

Mediation and Conflict Resolution Training/Certifications

This list features paid and free courses that are available for training and certification in mediation and conflict resolution that leads to certificates and specializations.

Mediation Training Institute – Conflict Resolution Training: Certified Trainer in Workplace Conflict Resolution (CT)

This site offers a three-day conflict resolution training program from Mediation Training Institute. Participants in the Workplace Conflict Resolution Certified Trainer program will be certified in the Conflict Dynamics Profile. This training is available at seminars all over the United States and Canada. It’s also available as in-house training.

Cornell University – Conflict Resolution Certificate

Cornell University offers a Conflict Resolution Certificate to help equip leaders to lead conflict management. This online course also will count for professional development hours and professional development units toward Project Management Institute recertification.

This course covers such topics as diagnosing workplace conflict, applying a problem-solving approach to conflict and leading challenging conversations.

University of California, Irvine Extension (UCI) – Conflict Management Specialization

This University of California Irvine course, available through the Coursera online learning site, is free. It promises to help you “master the fundamentals of conflict resolution, harness the power of positive conflict, and hone your intercultural communication skills.”

There are four courses in this specialization: Types of Conflict, Conflict Resolution Skills, Intercultural Communication and Conflict Resolution, and a Conflict Management Project capstone.

Colorado State University – Conflict Resolution and Mediation Graduate Certificate

Get a graduate certificate in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Colorado State University online. The program, offered by the university’s School of Social Work, will help you work on your skills to be used in teaching, counseling and management, as well as professional mediation.

This course also emphasizes the benefit to your family and your community as you gain skills in conflict resolution.

Mitchell Hamline – Certificate in Conflict Resolution

The Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota offers this certificate in Conflict Resolution online or on campus. The 14-credit graduate program can be taken as part of a law or other graduate curriculum or as a stand-alone graduate certificate. Mitchell Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Institute has been ranked among the top 5 dispute-resolution programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 19 consecutive years.

Washington University – Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Online Program

Washington University’s School of Law in St. Louis offers a Master of Legal Studies program online. Designed for non-lawyers, the degree provides the legal foundation for participants to advance their careers in a variety of professions. It also offers an optional certificate in Conflict Resolution.

Graduates of the online program receive the same degree as on-campus candidates, participate in graduation and join the global Washington University School of Law alumni network.

Pepperdine University – Master of Legal Studies (MLS) Online Program

Pepperdine University’s Law school offers an online Master of Legal Studies degree. It incorporates methods in dispute resolution to address skills needed to resolve conflict in business, leadership and diplomacy. While most of the course takes place online, students will visit the campus in Malibu, California, twice to experience two residencies. This program also provides the optional concentration in Dispute Resolution.

Interested in a Career in Dispute Resolution?

People who are skilled in conflict management and are able to stay cool and calm under pressure may find success as a dispute resolution professional. An online master in legal studies from our partner, Pepperdine University, is a great way to equip yourself with even more skills. With the right combination of education and experience, you can be more prepared for a career in dispute resolution.

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