The five percent



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.


A necessary guide for doing the impossible—resolving conflict in all its manifestations.
— Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland


Dr. Peter T. Coleman holds a Ph.D. in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. He is Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University where he holds a joint-appointment at Teachers College and The Earth Institute and teaches courses in Conflict Resolution, Social Psychology, and Social Science Research. Dr. Coleman is Director of the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR) at Teachers College, Columbia University and Executive Director of Columbia University’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4).


Geoffrey canada, founder and ceo of the harlem children’s zone

“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.”

Her Majesty, Queen noor of jordan

“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.” 

Mary robinson, former president of ireland & united nations high commissioner on human rights

“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 PointThe Five Percent  is a necessary guide for doing the impossible—resolving conflict in all its manifestations.” 

morton deutsch, E.l. thorndike professor emeritus of psychology & director emeritus of the international center for cooperation and conflict resolution (icccr), columbia university

“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.”

To help explain the ideas and concepts in THE FIVE PERCENT and to illustrate them through real world examples, Peter T. Coleman and his team have created a series of videos—including animated clips and TEDx Talks—to accompany the book.


copyright  Jeff Eaton , Creative Commons

copyright Jeff Eaton, Creative Commons

As we face increasing levels of polarization and conflict around the globe, there has been increasing interest in the lessons and insights captured in THE FIVE PERCENT, and in the Dynamic Conversation Lab that Dr. Peter T. Coleman runs at the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Teachers College, Columbia University. Read more of the most current media coverage of Dr. Coleman’s work by clicking below.

Read an excerpt from the Introduction of THE FIVE PERCENT.

copyright  Honou , Creative Commons

copyright Honou, Creative Commons

copyright  brewbooks , Creative Commons

copyright brewbooks, Creative Commons

Learn more about where to purchase THE FIVE PERCENT.