Games in Conflicts

Contrary to what most of us tend to believe at first sight, conflicts are not all-out wars; they are games with war-like and cooperation-like elements. Conflicts are not like two streams of water coliding, each drop of water belonging to one or the other. They are rather like underwater springs or shirlpools where different bits of water circle around to various sides of the conflict. Hence, every conflict contains the seeds of its healthy resolution.

The above view of the conflict is the so-called ‘game theory’ of conflict. According to the game theory, conflicts can be resolved by changing the game at the right time in the development of the conflict. Contrariwise, if the game is not changed at some stage, even conflicts which are allowed to run their full course, up to the utmost defeat of one side, may not be resolved: they will be revamped at a later stage, or will continue as low-intensity conflicts. Thus the principle that no conflict can be resolved on the terms on which it is initiated: conflicts are resolved by reformulating the issue over which they are led and ‘changing the game’ which is used to handle that issue. Conflict resolution skills are thus skills at picking the right time to change the game and at knowing which game to switch for which game. In conflict resolution, there is no defeat. Again, contrariwise, whenever one side is defeated, by definition, the conflict is perpetuated.


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