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About Peter T. Coleman
Dr. Peter T. Coleman holds a Ph.D. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. He is Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University where he holds a joint-appointment at Teachers College and The Earth Institute and teaches courses in Conflict Resolution, Social Psychology, and Social Science Research. Dr. Coleman is Director of the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR) at Teachers College, Columbia University and Executive Director of Columbia University’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4). He currently conducts research on optimality of motivational dynamics in conflict, power asymmetries and conflict, intractable conflict, multicultural conflict, justice and conflict, environmental conflict, mediation dynamics, and sustainable peace. In 2003, he became the first recipient of the Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association (APA), Division 48: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence, and in 2015 was awarded the Morton Deutsch Conflict Resolution Award by APA and a Marie Curie Fellowship from The EU. Dr. Coleman edits the award-winning Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice (2000, 2006, 2014) and his other books include The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts (2011); Conflict, Justice, and Interdependence: The Legacy of Morton Deutsch (2011), Psychological Components of Sustainable Peace (2012), and Attracted to Conflict: Dynamic Foundations of Destructive Social Relations (2013). His most recent book is Making Conflict Work: Navigating Disagreement Up and Down Your Organization (2014). He has also authored over 100 articles and chapters, is a member of the United Nation Mediation Support Unit’s Academic Advisory Council, is a founding board member of the Leymah Gbowee Peace Foundation USA, and is a New York State certified mediator and experienced consultant.
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The partisan divide in the United States has widened to a chasm. Legislators vote along party lines and rarely cross the aisle. Political polarization is personal, too—and it is making us miserable. Surveys show that Americans have become more fearful and hateful of supporters of the opposing political party and imagine that they hold much more extreme views than they actually do. We have cordoned ourselves off: we prefer to date and marry those with similar opinions and are less willing to spend time with people on the other side. How can we loosen the grip of this toxic polarization and start working on our most pressing problems?
The Way Out offers an escape from this morass. The social psychologist Peter T. Coleman explores how conflict resolution and complexity science provide guidance for dealing with seemingly intractable political differences. Deploying the concept of attractors in dynamical systems, he explains why we are stuck in this rut as well as the unexpected ways that deeply rooted oppositions can and do change. Coleman meticulously details principles and practices for navigating and healing the difficult divides in our homes, workplaces, and communities, blending compelling personal accounts from his years of working on entrenched conflicts with lessons from leading-edge research. The Way Out is a vital and timely guide to breaking free from the cycle of mutual contempt in order to better our lives, relationships, and country.
Every workplace is a minefield of conflict, and all office tension is shaped by power. Making Conflict Work teaches you to identify the nature of a conflict, determine your power position relative to anyone opposing you, and use the best strategy for achieving your goals. These strategies are equally effective for executives, managers and their direct reports, consultants, and attorneys—anyone who has ever had a disagreement with someone in their organization. Packed with helpful self-assessment exercises and action plans, this book gives you the tools you need to achieve greater satisfaction and success.
“A genuine winner.” —Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence
“This book is a necessity . . . Read it.” —Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Liberian peace activist
“Innovative and practical.” —Lawrence Susskind, Program on Negotiation cofounder
“Navigating conflict effectively is an essential component of leadership. Making Conflict Work illustrates when to compromise and when to continue driving forward.” —Hon. David N. Dinkins, 106th mayor of the City of New York
“An excellent workbook-like guide.” —Booklist, starred review
So what can we do when we find ourselves ensnared? According to Dr. Peter T. Coleman, the solution is in seeing our conflict anew. Applying lessons from complexity theory to examples from both American domestic politics and international diplomacy -- from abortion debates to the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians -- Coleman provides innovative new strategies for dealing with intractable disputes. A timely, paradigm-shifting look at conflict, The Five Percent is an invaluable guide to preventing even the most fractious negotiations from foundering.
"This handbook is a classic. It helps connect the research of academia to the practical realities of peacemaking and peacebuilding like no other. It is both comprehensive and deeply informed on topics vital to the field like power, gender, cooperation, emotion, and trust. It now sits prominently on my bookshelf."
—Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
"The Handbook of Conflict Resolution offers an astonishing array of insightful articles on theory and practice by leading scholars and practitioners. Students, professors, and professionals alike can learn a great deal from studying this Handbook."
—William Ury, Director, Global Negotiation Project, Harvard University; coauthor, Getting to Yes and author, The Third Side
"Morton Deutsch, Peter Coleman, and Eric Marcus put together a handbook that will be helpful to many. I hope the book will reach well beyond North America to contribute to the growing worldwide interest in the constructive resolution of conflict. This book offers instructive ways to make this commitment a reality."
—George J. Mitchell, Former majority leader of the United States Senate; former chairman of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland and the International Fact-Finding Committee on Violence in the Middle East; chairman of the board, Walt Disney Company; senior fellow at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
"Let's be honest. This book is just too big to carry around in your hand. But that's because it is loaded with the most critical essays linking the theory and practice of conflict resolution. The Handbook of Conflict Resolution is heavy on content and should be a well-referenced resource on the desk of every mediator—as it is on mine."
—Johnston Barkat, Assistant Secretary-General, Ombudsman and Mediation Services, United Nations
Conflict is inherent in virtually every aspect of human relations, from sport to parliamentary democracy, from fashion in the arts to paradigmatic challenges in the sciences, and from economic activity to intimate relationships. Yet, it can become among the most serious social problems humans face when it loses its constructive features and becomes protracted over time with no obvious means of resolution.
This book addresses the subject of intractable social conflict from a new vantage point. Here, these types of conflict represent self-organizing phenomena, emerging quite naturally from the ongoing dynamics in human interaction at any scale—from the interpersonal to the international. Using the universal language and computational framework of nonlinear dynamical systems theory in combination with recent insights from social psychology, intractable conflict is understood as a system locked in special attractor states that constrain the thoughts and actions of the parties to the conflict. The emergence and maintenance of attractors for conflict can be described by means of formal models that incorporate the results of computer simulations, experiments, field research, and archival analyses. Multi-disciplinary research reflecting these approaches provides encouraging support for the dynamical systems perspective.
Importantly, this text presents new views on conflict resolution. In contrast to traditional approaches that tend to focus on basic, short-lived cause-effect relations, the dynamical perspective emphasizes the temporal patterns and potential for emergence in destructive relations. Attractor deconstruction entails restoring complexity to a conflict scenario by isolating elements or changing the feedback loops among them. The creation of a latent attractor trades on the tendency toward multi-stability in dynamical systems and entails the consolidation of incongruent (positive) elements into a coherent structure. In the bifurcation scenario, factors are identified that can change the number and types of attractors in a conflict scenario. The implementation of these strategies may hold the key to unlocking intractable conflict, creating the potential for constructive social relations.
The contributors to this volume examine the components of various psychological theories that contribute to the promotion of a harmonious, sustainable peace. Underlying this orientation is the belief that promoting the ideas and actions which can lead to a sustainable, harmonious peace will not only contribute to the prevention of war, but will also lead to more positive, constructive relations among people and nations and to a more sustainable planet.
The Psychological Components of a Sustainable Peace is valuable and stimulating reading for researchers in peace psychology, political psychology, and conflict resolution as well as others who are interested in developing a sustainable, harmonious world.