ADR Theory: Intractability in Relation to the Ripeness Theory

How Do You Mediate? Blog with Dennis Huizing

In a previous article, we discussed the ripeness theory of conflict. The theory of intractability is closely related. In this article we explain what intractability is and how it relates to other theories within the realm of ADR.


Intractability is a somewhat difficult term to expain. It refers to a conflict that has stalled. Parties have no grip or traction on the conflict and the conflict is most likely spiraling out of control. Intractable conflicts are characterized by being complex and having far-reaching consequences. Most likely, intractable conflicts are conflicts that have escalated a fair bit.

Read more about Glasl’s conflict escalation
Read more about other ADR theories of tunnel vision

Ripeness theory

The ripeness theory of conflict states that conflicts have a factor of ripeness in how suitable they are for ADR. Practitioners can encourage this ripeness by pointing out that parties are in a hurting stalemate and creating optimism about a possible outcome.

Read more about ripeness theory of conflict

Within the realm of ADR theory

Intractable conflicts are difficult conflicts to manage using ADR. However, due to their complexity and large consequences, they are conflicts that might gain a great deal from using alternative conflict resolution forms such as mediation or negotiation. We believe that using the guidelines of ripeness theory, ADR practitioners can attempt to gain traction on an intractable conflict. In this sense, the principles of ripeness theory can be used as a technique to break the intractability of a conflict.

Read more about the ADR theory of conflict inventory


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