The Conflict Resolution Toolbox, Second Edition

The Second Edition of the Toolbox was published in 2020 by Wiley and includes two new models based on important research in neuropsychology, while retaining the models and tools practitioners have relied on for the past 16 years.

To see three new videos, each one covering one of the models from the Second Edition, click the buttons.  Or get an overview of the models below!

Overview of the Models

Why These Nine Models?

There is, potentially, a large number of models, of conflict maps, that can help practitioners diagnose and intervene in conflict.  So why these nine?   These models were chosen for a variety of reasons.  First, these models were chosen because as models, they are especially well balanced between simplicity and complexity.  The Dynamics of Trust model represents a great deal of complexity that attribution theory brings to the table, yet does so in a functional and useful way.  The Triangle of Interests takes the idea of interests to great depth and subtlety, yet does so in a way that can be applied in real time conflict situations.

Secondly, they were chosen for their clarity in giving direction and guidance for intervention.  Each model offers the practitioner clear, focused ideas on what will help in the conflict, and why.

Finally, these models represent a full range of different ways to approach and look at conflict, different lenses in other words.  Each model brings a different and potentially useful angle on the problem, as follows:

Model #1 – The Stairway Model

The Interests/Rights/Power model does not assess the root causes of conflict, but rather focuses on the different processes people use to deal with conflict, categorizing all approaches to conflict as being one of three types – Interest-based, Rights-based or Power-based.  The I/R/P model diagnoses the characteristics of each of the three types. Finally, the model offers broad direction on working with each of the three different processes, along with a guide for choosing effective types of processes for resolving conflict.

Model #2 – The Triangle of Satisfaction

The Triangle model is an extension of the Circle of Conflict, though easily operates as an independent framework for the practitioner.  This model deepens the area of Interests, suggesting that there are three distinct types of interests:  Result/Substantive interests, Process/Procedural interests, and Psychological/Emotional interests.  The model offers specific strategies for working with the three different types of interests in conflict situations.

Model #3 – The Circle of Conflict

The Circle of Conflict is a model that diagnoses and categorizes the underlying causes or “drivers” of the given conflict.  It categorizes these causes and drivers into one of five categories:  Values, Relationships, Moods/Externals, Data and Structure.   Further, the model offers concrete suggestions for working with each of these drivers, and directs the practitioner toward Data, Structure, and the sixth category, Interests, as the focus for resolution.

Model #4 – The Dynamics of Trust

This model looks at the dynamics of trust and how we attribute blame.  Attribution Theory, one of the most important areas of psychological research, is boiled down to help practitioners understand how trust is broken, and how blame and lack of trust can make resolution difficult if not impossible.  The model also gives the practitioner specific strategies for re-building enough trust to facilitate the resolution process, through activities such as Confidence Building Measures (CBM’s), procedural trust, and attributional retraining.

Model #5 – The Law of Reciprocity

 The Law of Reciprocity describes a virtual “natural law”, one that predicts and unconsciously directs our behaviour in many situations.  Understanding clearly how the Law of Reciprocity influences decision-making helps diagnose specific behaviours, both constructive and destructive. The reciprocity model gives clear strategies on how to help parties break negative cycles and rebuild damaged relationships.

Model #6 – The Loss Aversion Bias

Loss aversion is a powerful cognitive bias that unconsciously shapes behaviour.  It can cause parties to take what appear to be irrational risks in some circumstances, and to settle for far less value far too easily in others.  The Loss Aversion Bias is a model that offers strategies for helping parties avoid the significant pitfalls that our desire to avoid losses at all costs can create.

Model #7 – The Boundary Model

The Boundary model, similar to the Circle, assesses the root cause of conflict from a structural and behavioural point of view, and suggests that conflict occurs because of how people relate to and interact with boundaries.  Our lives are filled with boundaries of many kinds, and may include rules, laws, contracts, cultural expectations, norms, and limits of any sort.  It suggests that conflict occurs when parties disagree on boundaries, expand or break boundaries, or refuse to accept the authority and jurisdiction inherent in a boundary.  It also offers specific approaches to work with conflict caused by boundary issues.

Model #8 – The Social Styles Model

This model is significantly different than all the rest of the models because it focuses on understanding personality conflict, and conflict related to personal communication styles.  Based on similar research as the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator but offering a much simpler framework for assessing personal styles, the Social Styles model suggests four basic personality and communication styles, or types, and offers clear skills and strategies for working with these personality characteristics in conflict situations.

Model #9 – Moving Beyond Conflict

One of the largest barriers to resolution is when one or more parties are unable to simply let the conflict go, to put the conflict behind them and move on with their lives.  A dispute can become such an important part of a parties’ life that they will not allow it to end.  It feels like something important is being lost.  This is very similar to the process of grieving, and the Moving Beyond model helps identify the stages or steps parties often must go through in order to let it go and move beyond it.


This range of models is not complete and is not intended to be.  This toolbox is intended as a foundation, a good beginning at providing practitioners with roadmaps, “conflict maps”, that can assist them as they grow and develop.

© Copyright 2020 Gary Furlong.  Published by John Wiley and Sons.