As a conflict resolution practitioner, I use many different tools to analyze a conflict. This improves my ability to help the individuals involved navigate resolution and transformation. One of my all-time favorite conflict analysis tools is conflict mapping. Conflicts often feel messy and confusing. Often there are  too many words to follow. For instance, this person knows this, that person knows that, and this other person talks to them both, but no one talks to the third person who has information everyone wants and it all gets jumbled up – just like that run-on sentence.

Conflict mapping is helpful for both process and outcome. Taking the time to map out a conflict helps me identify all the pieces and discover what holes might exist in my understanding of the situation. The map provides insight to the root cause, who is receiving support, who isn’t, and which key players need to be involved in a resolution. 

My favorite resource for help with conflict maps is Chapter 2 of the book, “Working with Conflict,” by Fisher, Abdi, Ludin, Smith, Williams, & Williams. Maps can look like anything from a timeline, to an illustration of the parties and their relationships to one another, to an outline of the positions and interests.

So, next time you are in a conflict or asked to help with a conflict, I encourage you to try out a conflict map! It may not only help you, but it may help others experiencing the conflict as well. 

For a closer look at how you can use conflict maps, check out this short webinar.

By: Teresa Ralicki, Ombuds
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Ombuds Office

Conflict Tree example Fisher