One in every twenty difficult conflicts ends up not in a calm reconciliation or tolerable standoff but as an acute and lasting antagonism. Such conflicts—the five percent—can be found among the diplomatic and political clashes we read about every day in the newspaper but also, and in a no less damaging and dangerous form, in our private and personal lives, within families, in workplaces, and among neighbors. These self-perpetuating conflicts resist mediation, defy conventional wisdom, and drag on and on, worsening over time. Once we get pulled in, it is nearly impossible to escape. The five percent rule us.
So what can we do when we find ourselves ensnared? According to Dr. Peter T. Coleman, to contend with this destructive species of conflict we must understand the invisible dynamics at work. Coleman has extensively researched the essence of conflict in his “Intractable Conflict Lab,” the first research facility devoted to the study of polarizing conversations and seemingly unresolveable disagreements. Informed by lessons drawn from practical experience, advances in complexity theory, and the psychological and social currents that drive conflicts both international and domestic, Coleman offers innovative new strategies for dealing with disputes of all types, ranging from abortion debates to the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians.
A timely, paradigm-shifting look at conflict, The Five Percent is an invaluable guide to preventing even the most fractious negotiations from foundering.
Praise for The Five Percent
“As the world gets smaller and more complex, we have to improve our ability to live together peaceably—whether it is in our homes, our streets, or between nations. This thoughtfully constructed examination of human conflict and how we can resolve it is a welcome antidote to the contentious times in which we live. Peter T. Coleman delivers hope in this guidebook to untangling our most intractable problems.” —Geoffrey Canada
“This book is not business as usual. It challenges how most of us think about conflict and peace, and backs it up with leading-edge research. It will prove useful to anyone dealing with complex conflicts in many settings whether they are small or large, personal or political.” —Her Majesty Queen Noor
“With the benefit of years of research and experience, Peter T. Coleman has expanded the science of conflict to take on problems that previously seemed beyond resolution. Combining the practicality of Getting to Yes with the surprising insights of The Tipping Point, The Five Percent is a necessary guide for doing the impossible—resolving conflict in all its manifestations.” —Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights
“This book is an important, original contribution to understanding destructive, intractable conflicts and how to change them. It is well-written and can be read with much profit by the general reader as well as by conflict specialists.”—Morton Deutsch, E.L. Thorndike Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Director Emeritus of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR)