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How We Get Stuck In Intractable Conflict

Dr. Peter Coleman knows a lot about conflict.  A self-described natural peacemaker, Coleman got his first experiences resolving conflict as a mental health counselor at a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s — a time when riots were not uncommon.

But the conflicts he discusses in his new book, The Five Percent, are not those routinely found in a psychiatric hospital.  Dr. Coleman, a psychology professor at Columbia University, has made a career of studying intractable conflicts.

Intractable conflicts are those that are highly escalated, with repeated acts of violence.  They often involve high stakes (take for example the territorial dispute between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir region) and are win-lose scenarios — upon resolution, only one side will gain. Participants often see no way out, as any resolution would require them to give up too much.


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