The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide

Reviewd by:
The Aternative Newsletter Editor,
Robert Kirkman Collins
Published by: Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 2000
(Hardcover, 263 pp.) ISBN 0-7879-5019-X

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Hallelujah! Bernie Mayer has provided us all with a rational, insightful, and articulate perspective on dispute resolution.

Mayer’s volume explores the nature of conflict from several theoretical perspectives, and then proceeds to deal specifically with issues of

impasse, advocacy, communication, and mediation. Throughout, The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution provides a solid synthesis of the

theoretical and the pragmatic; as Mayer observes: “I believe that our most creative moments as practical theorists come when we attempt to

integrate the explanations of conflict and conflict resolution to which we are attracted with observations about what we actually do in real-life


Mayer manages to synthesize other dichotomies as well. He acknowledges the emotional level at which certain conflicts function without

advocating abdication of a neutral’s responsibility to help forge a resolution of the dispute; he warns that “the art of conflict resolution is the

discovery of the level at which a conflict really operates, and the challenge is to find a way to work at that level. We can err by going too deep

or staying too shallow”. The book has a strong and distinct voice, yet remains refreshing in its avoidance of the doctrinaire, and offers the

delightfully modest disclaimer: “I do not put these ideas forward as the right conceptual framework, but rather as ways that I have found to be

useful and poignant.”

Straightforward, well-crafted, and sprinkled with examples from practice that instruct (rather than simply illustrate flattering professional

moments in the author’s life), Mayer’s book will prove useful to both the theoretically inclined and to the novice practitioner, as well as to the

reflective professional open to pondering about the essence of conflict and creative approaches to its resolution.


Robert Kirkman Collins

Robert Kirkman Collins, J.D., has been cited by Cardozo Law School as being “among the pioneers of divorce mediation”. A co-founder of The New York Mediation Group, Bob is an attorney with an independent practice in divorce mediation and matrimonial law in Manhattan, with over twenty years of experience as… MORE >

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