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Ripeness of Conflict

How Do You Mediate Blog by Dennis Huizing

This article will delve into one of the many ADR theories. In this case, it is the ripeness theory of conflict. This theory states that two conditions are necessary for parties to enter into ADR: both sides must be in a hurting stalemate and both sides must be optimistic about successful mediation.

Ripeness theory

The ripeness theory was published by William Zartman in 2000. This theory was based on case studies of conflicts between ethno-political groups. It emphasizes a correct timing to resolve a conflict. Think of a low-hanging fruit that can only be picked when it is ripe. With this in mind, Zartman states that two factors must be present in conflict for the situation to be ripe: both sides must be in a hurting stalemate and both sides must be optimistic about a successful outcome (mediation, for instance). Only when these two factors are present is a conflict ripe for ADR.

Hurting stalemate

In this situation, parties find themselves in a position where they are hurting badly. Yet, they cannot move away from this position. Perhaps this is due to losing face or stakeholders present in the conflict. They are essentially in a stalemate, one that is hurting them badly. The hurting is also important. Parties must be aware that the conflict is costing them and that prolonging it will give them no gain.

Optimistic about an outcome

Parties must furthermore be optimistic about a possible outcome. They must genuinely believe that with the aid of a third party, their hurting stalemate can come to an end. This is an element that parties must perceive. Impressions of this third party (often a mediator) are therefore very important. If parties believe their mediator can lead to successful conflict resolution, then the conflict will be ripe for ADR.

Relevancy for ADR

Even if the ripeness theory is based on ethno-political conflicts, the two factors that lead to ripeness are easily translated to many other conflicts. Take a divorce for example, mediators can point out the hurting stalemate and generate optimism about an outcome in order to make the conflict ripe for resolution. ADR can take place in many different conflicts. The theory of ripeness can help in conflict resolution, regardless of the type of conflict.

Read more about types of conflict resolution
Read more aboutt settling your divorce through ADR
Read more about Ripeness from W. Zartman


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