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15 Conflict Resolution Books Everybody Should Read

Because conflict occurs in every area of life, everyone benefits from understanding conflict resolution and the types of skills involved. Active listening, empathy, communication, negotiation, and more help a person navigate tense situations, difficult problems, and clashing ideas. To learn more about conflict resolution, here are 15 books that help you sharpen your skills for work, personal relationships, and any other type of conflict:

#1. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

By: Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg

This classic work has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. While “violent” communication entails harmful actions like judging, blaming, and discriminating, nonviolent communication is the opposite. Readers learn about integrating the four principles of nonviolent communication: consciousness, language, communication, and means of influence. By embracing this nonviolence in our communication, we live with choice, meaning, and connection. Dr. Rosenberg (1934-2015) was a psychologist, author, mediator, and teacher. Beginning in the 1960s, he developed the process of nonviolent communication. He founded the Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international nonprofit.

#2. The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

By: The Arbinger Institute

This best-selling book focuses on what causes conflict and how participants can reach fulfilling resolutions. Readers are encouraged to examine the roots of crises, become more self-aware and reflective, and work towards peace. The book includes insights into the nature of conflict and human behavior during crises, as well as real-world examples. The Arbinger Institute is a global training and consulting firm focusing on leadership, crisis management, culture change, and conflict resolution.

#3. Negotiate Without Fear: Strategies and Tools to Maximize Your Outcomes

By: Victoria Medvec

This resource for negotiating without fear provides readers with strategies for improving their negotiation skills and boosting their confidence. You’ll learn how to define your objectives, analyze the issues, establish goals, and understand tools and terms like an Issue Matrix and BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). This book’s principles can apply to negotiations in every area of life. Dr. Medvec is a master negotiator, Kellogg professor, and the CEO of Medvec & Associates.

#4. Negotiating the Impossible: How To Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts (Without Money or Muscle)

By: Deepak Malhotra

Conflicts can be simple or complex, but some conflicts seem impossible to resolve. Maybe things have escalated to aggression and you have very few resources or even power. In Negotiating the Impossible, Deepak Malhotra focuses on these types of conflicts. He elaborates on three approaches for breaking deadlocks and highlights lessons from negotiations like the drafting of the US Constitution to disputes in professional sports. While most people won’t face conflicts of quite this magnitude, we can apply the principles and tactics from these situations to everyday scenarios. Malhotra is an American economist who focuses on trust development, negotiation strategy, competitive escalation, and international and ethnic dispute resolution. At the time of writing, he is the Eli Goldston Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

#5. High Conflict: Why We Trapped and How To Get Out

By: Amanda Ripley

“High conflict” is different from regular conflict. It actively resists resolution by creating a hostile us vs. them environment. What creates these situations and how can participants start the process of collaborating instead of fighting? Through science and investigative reporting, the book examines real-world examples of high conflict and how you can break the cycles of conflicts that seem impossible to resolve. Amanda Ripley is a New York Times bestselling author and investigative journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Atlantic, The Washington Post, and more. She was certified in conflict mediation in 2018 and has trained journalists on how to cover conflict.

#6. The Conflict Paradox

By: Bernie Mayer

This book guides readers to the heart of conflict and teaches them new and creative ways to think about conflict. Through stories, experiences, and exercises, readers learn how to overcome challenges to successful conflict resolution. Many believe their choices in conflicts are mutually exclusive, so they feel forced to choose between things like emotion or logic, neutrality or advocacy, and competition or cooperation. The Conflict Paradox provides a new way of understanding and strategies for embracing the paradoxes for more effective resolutions. Dr. Mayer is Professor Emeritus of Conflict Studies, Program on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Creighton University. He’s provided conflict intervention for families, NGOs, corporations, government agencies, and others for 40+ Years.

#7. Conflict Resolution Playbook: Practical Communication Skills for Preventing, Managing, and Resolving Conflict

By: Jeremy Pollack

By reading this comprehensive guide, readers get a basic understanding of humans’ psychological needs and how they relate to conflict and resolution. The book also provides step-by-step instructions, do/don’t lists, and example conversations that turn these strategies into reality. Short and accessible, Conflict Resolution Playbook helps people respond well to the everyday conflicts that are part of life. Jeremy Pollack is a conflict resolution practitioner, researcher, writer, coach, and trainer. He is the president of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, a nationwide conflict resolution firm.

#8. The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

By: Robert I. Sutton

Based on Sutton’s Harvard Business Review article, The No Asshole Rule elaborates on how to deal with assholes at work. This type of worker not only intentionally makes others feel bad, but their presence makes the work environment toxic and less productive. Sutton has a simple solution: the assholes need to go. The book includes strategies on identifying and removing negative influences, case studies from major organizations, and a self-diagnostic test and program to keep your own asshole tendencies from coming out. Sutton is a Stanford professor, organizational researcher, and best-selling author. He often gives presentations and leads workshops based on his books.

#9. Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High

By: Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory

Now a classic, this book provides skills for engaging in difficult conversations wherever they may be found. Readers learn how to be persuasive, how to return conversations to productive dialogue after disruption, and how to communicate well across digital mediums. These skills are essential during situations where both the stakes and emotions are high. This can include situations at work and home. The authors are international corporate consultants and leaders at Crucial Learning, a learning company that hosts courses on communication, leadership, and performance.

#10. Getting to Zero: How To Work Through Conflict In Your High-Stakes Relationship

By: Jayson Gaddis

Conflicts within our closest relationships can be very stressful and challenging. Getting To Zero focuses on these types of conflicts. Packed with firsthand experiences and stories from the author, the book explores the causes behind conflicts, the most common reactions to conflict, and strategies for strengthening close relationships through conflict. Readers will learn to identify and respond to triggers, listen, and respond to others in appropriate, healthy ways. Jayson Gaddis is an author, podcaster, speaker, and founder of The Relationship School. He is also the creator of the Getting To Zero Method.

#11. Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

By: Edgar and Peter Schein

In the words of the authors, “humble inquiry” is the “gentle art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building relationships based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In a culture of “tell,” humble inquiry represents an attitude based on listening, better responses to others, and clearer communication. The book contains many case examples, exercises, and simulations of the concepts. Ed Schein is Professor Emeritus of the MIT Sloan School of Management. His coauthor, Peter Schein, is his son. They consult with local and international organizations on organizational culture and career development.

#12. Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World

By: Chad Ford

Most people are not good at conflict resolution. For many, our instinct is to run or fight when faced with conflict. Mediator Chad Ford argues that to transform conflict, we need to lay down our weapons – both literal and emotional – and treat others as human beings and not objects. This needs to be done even when we aren’t sure if the other people will do the same for us. In Dangerous Love, Ford gives examples from his time working in the Middle East and from his personal life. At the time of writing, Chad Ford is an associate professor of intercultural peacebuilding and director of the O. McKay Center for Intracultural Understanding at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. He also works as a consultant with the Arbinger Institute on global conflict resolution initiatives.

#13. The War For Kindness

By: Jamil Zaki

For conflict resolution to be effective, people must have empathy. In his book, Jamil Zaki challenges the common belief that empathy is an inherent trait. He believes it’s a choice and a skill. Like a muscle, empathy is strengthened or weakened based on how much we choose to use it. In The War For Kindness, Zaki explores the latest research on empathy and collects stories from doctors training medical students on empathy, political activists, social workers, and others. Zaki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. For decades, he’s been exploring questions about human connections, empathy science, and communication.

#14. The Wake Up

By: Michelle MiJung Kim

Calls for equity and social justice are more prevalent than ever, but many people and organizations don’t know how to turn these hopes and goals into reality. This book shares principles that are often missing in mainstream conversations about diversity and inclusion. Readers are drawn into the challenges and conflicts of equity and justice work with insight into topics like inclusive language, representation, and “cancel culture.” The Wake Up provides sustainable frameworks for this difficult work and examines four key parts: grounding, orienting, showing up, and moving together. Michelle MiJung Kim is the co-founder and CEO of Awaken, a provider of interactive equity and inclusion education programs facilitated by majority queer and trans people of color educators. Her work has appeared in places like the Harvard Business Review, NPR, and the New York Times.

#15. To Boldly Go: Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century

By: Various authors

This unique book examines leadership, strategy, and conflict through classic science fiction. In 1975, author Pamela Sargent called science fiction “the literature of ideas.” Once a niche genre, science fiction has become mainstream and revealed itself as a powerful lens for exploring new ways of creating, thinking, and feeling. To Boldly Go gathers 30 writers from around the world. They are leadership and strategy experts, professional educators, storytellers, and senior policy advisors and analysts. Each chapter pulls various lessons from science fiction and how the stories can give us insight into leadership, conflict, and more.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.