Specific conflict resolution techniques are numerous. Most can be categorized into two groups: those involving only the parties within a conflict and those involving an outside decision-maker or facilitator. The term "dispute resolution" is often used interchangeably with conflict resolution, though many academics distinguish between these terms in various ways.
There are several ways in which people react to conflict. People can choose to ignore the conflict or to give in completely to the other party's wishes, even when contrary to their own. Others might ignore an opposing point of view or try to impose their own interests on a rival. When simply silencing opposition is the goal, some might argue that even violence and other morally questionable methods can lead to a kind of resolution — though rarely an enduring or just one. Conflict resolution techniques focus on dealing with conflict through equitable means, such as compromise, negotiation and mediation.
The key to resolving conflict by such means is cooperation. The key to cooperation is listening and understanding. To show a person that one is truly listening to and considering what is being said, it is important to respond to the points the person makes. When a person uses the time when the other is speaking only to plan what to say next, it is apparent and no matter how well that next point is expressed, it will likely fall on equally inattentive ears.
Sometimes negative emotions or a habit of competing with the other party makes it hard to listen effectively and to reach an agreement. Other times the parties involved in a conflict simply lack the negotiation skills to end it. In both cases, a third party trained in conflict resolution techniques can be very useful.
Some conflict resolution techniques, such as negotiation, can be carried out either by the conflicting parties themselves or managed by professional negotiators, such as union negotiators, brokers or diplomats. Additionally, judges working within a court system can resolve conflicts through litigation. Common conflict resolution techniques including third parties that are applied outside of the judiciary system include arbitration, mediation and conciliation.
An arbitrator is in many respects similar to a judge, though he does not operate in a court. In arbitration, parties can agree in advance to be legally bound by any "award" made by the arbitrator in favor of one party or not. In mediation, the mediator not only assesses a situation, but seeks a mutually satisfying agreement by promoting dialogue and helping each party to understand and meet the other sides' needs. In conciliation, the conflicting parties rarely come face to face, and the main objective of the conciliator is to convince each side to make concessions to the other. Counseling can also be useful in helping people to cope with conflict, especially where negative emotions impede progress.