Conflict can pop up in both personal and professional situations.
We could also think of it as negotiating, as the basic requirement for negotiation is conflicting opinions.
Knowing how to handle conflict is therefore a valuable skill.
If you want to know more about resolving conflict and handling difficult conversations, hopefully these books on conflict resolution will help.
The Best Books on Conflict Resolution
1. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
The basis of this book is research at the Harvard Negotiation Project. It breaks conversations down into 3 dialogues (events, emotions, and identity). In doing so, it teaches readers a process for understanding and managing difficult topics.
It offers advice and examples based on a wide range of situations. These range from professional conversations to personal issues, offering strategies to prepare and then manage the conversation.
Importantly, it’s written in a clear and easily digestible format. Considering it covers a lot of information in such a short space, clarity is certainly a big help.
But, this is also its biggest flaw. Much of its information is broad, and it offers an overview on many topics. While it’s fine as an introduction, you might want to consider a different book for a deep dive into a particular area.
- Based on extensive research.
- Provides relatable and useful examples.
- Clear and easy to read.
- Coverage is quite broad.
2. The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbringer Institute
The Anatomy of Peace takes a different approach to conflict resolution. It invites us to look at how we contribute to conflicts rather than looking to others for change. It’s a simple adjustment that can make a big difference.
Also, it focuses on the stories of two men engaged in conflict. Rather than examples and suggestions, it tells a story and expects you to come to your own conclusions.
That said, it’s still a useful self-help book. Its information is clear and concise, and the format makes it easy to see the broader picture. It’ll be ideal for anyone who prefers making up their own mind rather than being spoon-fed help.
However, much of its conflict resolution is common sense. So, if you consider yourself a logical person who wants an extra step up in handling conflict, this might not be the book for you.
- Different take on the self-help narrative.
- Invites you to think about its teachings.
- Clear and easy to understand.
- Relies quite heavily on common sense.
3. Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury
Getting to Yes is another book from the Harvard Negotiation Project. This one divides needs with a negotiation into fixed and flexible. By doing so, it allows you to reach a resolution without sacrificing your position.
It focuses on the principled negotiation technique, which includes 5 propositions. The purpose is to present the other person with a “win” so they’re more likely to accept your position.
The book uses common business examples to illustrate its points and isn’t too academic. Some professionals see this as a downside, but it makes it more readable for the general public. If you’re looking to get ahead in business conversations, it’ll be an ideal book.
But, this is also its downside. Getting to Yes focuses solely on business conversations. While you could use its techniques in personal conflicts, its processes are a bit too clinical for a more emotionally charged situation.
- Uses clear psychology to make its points.
- The 5 propositions are useful for business negotiations.
- Relies on common examples.
- Specific to business negotiations.
4. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg
As the title suggests, this book’s logic is based on a combination of nonviolent strategies. For clarity, it considers judgement, criticism and being defensive as violent communication strategies.
It argues that much of our communication power comes from our way of thinking. So, by improving our consciousness and means of influence, we can become better and more empathic communicators.
The book lays out a surprisingly simple methodology but still explains everything in suitable detail. It’s easy to follow and will hopefully include some useful tips for people with conflict resolution experience.
Its only real downside is the inclusion of religion. While some might not find this to be a problem, it’s largely unnecessary when discussing humanist concepts such as compassion and logic. However, it doesn’t detract from an otherwise clear and useful book.
- Labels empathy as a key component of communication.
- Simple yet detailed.
- Sets out what you should and shouldn’t do – improves clarity.
- Brings in religion, almost unnecessarily.
5. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson et al.
This book offers a framework for personal and professional conflicts. Importantly, it labels them as “high-stakes conversations”, implying there’s little difference from a negotiation perspective.
It offers some insightful tips for being assertive, not abrasive, and explains how to prepare yourself and your points for difficult conversations.
The book outlines 7 steps for engaging in and resolving conflict. Each includes a clear methodology for handling your emotions and those of others. It appropriately balances empathy and assertiveness to help you reach the right middle ground.
As you’d hope from a book about communication, it’s clear and easy to follow. The only real downside is that it’s been revised several times, but its examples have remained the same. They’re slightly outdated, which detracts from the otherwise useful information.
- Treats all difficult conversations with the same importance.
- Outlines 7 clear steps.
- Helps you prepare for conversations and deal with them.
- Examples are a bit outdated.
Summary: Conflict Management
Conflict resolution skills can make all the difference in difficult conversations. If you’ve found yourself struggling to handle them, hopefully some of the books listed above will make things easier.