Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking

According to Myers (2010), whenever two or more people, groups, or nations interact, their perceived needs and goals may conflict" (p. 499). Social dilemmas arise when one side fails to empathize with the others' perspective and falsely attributes reason to the other's behavior. Opposition can be fueled by competition, perceived injustice, and misperceptions and misinterpretations of the other's behavior. Through evolving self-serving motives and the idea that only one side can win, as groups gain strength, so does the potential for social dilemma (Myers, 2010). Smaller groups are more easily, efficiently and morally self-managed. Enabling communication, relieving mistrust, creating rewards for cooperation, and instilling a sense of moral obligation and altruism contribute to conflict resolution and peacemaking. According to Myers (2010), conflicts occur when there is disagreement on the equality of justice, contributions, and the division of beneficial outcomes. Many Hawaiians continue to reject and identify as illegal, the American occupation of the Hawaiian Islands and they continue to demand the return of their Hawaiian Kingdom ("Hawaiian Kingdom-political history," n.d.). By following conflict resolution and peacemaking tactics, the discord between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States government might be silenced (CBS News, 2008).

Equal Status Contact

Peacemaking consists of four strategies that enable enemies to become comrades. Contact, cooperation, communication, and conciliation facilitate the evolution from anger and hostility to harmony. Contact encourages deeper relations between those who are in disagreement, and equal status contact tends to be "intellectually growth-promoting" and "foster(s) greater acceptance of difference" (Myers, 2009, p. 504). In the case of the Hawaiian people who want to regain status as a Kingdom, acknowledging their plight, and offering with authentic certainty, equal status at the bargaining table would end their primary fight against the being considered less than American (CBS News, 2008). This type of contact would prevent the current thinking of many Hawaiians that they are expected to surrender as a subordinate race.


Although perhaps too simplistic in its fundamental form, cooperation is especially beneficial when opposing groups work together to avert a common threat, or to achieve a goal that will benefit both sides. Cooperative contact, even for opposing governmental groups has been shown to promote positive regard for oppositional forces (Myers, 2009). Perhaps if the governments of the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom worked together to reduce racism, or promote higher institutional learning for all citizens of the Hawaiian Islands, the group effort could bridge a gap between the fundamental differences and animosity between them. As claimed by Myers (2009), protecting and preserving common interests builds cohesiveness.


Because of the difficulty communication poses for conflicting parties, mediation with the help of a third party can promote fair communication (Myers, 2010). Mediators can offer a valuable perspective often difficult for oppositional forces when they are entrenched in self-serving agendas that incorporate the exclusive concept of one side winning and the other losing (Myers, 2009). Increasing awareness will advance understanding and replace mistrust with renewed faith and confidence. If the mediator can persuade the conflicting parties to reevaluate their perspective of the situation, the attainment of goals through conceding less important agendas helps both sides reach an end that might otherwise be unattainable (Myers, 2009). In the case of the Hawaiian and United States governments, if both parties re-prioritized goals through the re-evaluation of their relationship, perhaps they would end conflict and find themselves closer to their ultimate intent.

Conciliation and GRIT

When two parties are continually strained with limited to no communication, both parties may be persuaded by a remarkably ordinary, slightly appeasing gesture (Myers, 2009). As tension gives slightly, such pause is often enough to convince parties to deescalate to a point where contact, cooperation, and communication may be possible. Conciliatory strategies such as the Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction can work toward alleviating or reducing international tensions enough so that true mediation and communication can begin (Myers, 2009). Regarding the dissonance between the aforementioned governments, small concessions may lead to a remarkable, albeit subtle change in communicative abilities.

The Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction or known by its acronym "GRIT" describes a well-known process of conflict resolution by facilitating de-escalation by both parties in such a way that leaves opposing sides in a winning position even though there have been small concessions made by each side. As one side announces intent to concede, the compelling phenomenon of reciprocity induces the opposing party to respond with an equal concession (Myers, 2009). Both parties acknowledge a small concession and are neither forced nor coerced into official concessions. In the end, both sides maintain their self-respect while simultaneously acknowledging the reciprocity between them and their oppositional partners (Perlman, 2001). As well as a deescalating process, it also provides a common thread of reciprocity (Perlman, 2001). In the case of Hawaiians reinstating the Hawaiian nation, the United States government needs to identify a middle ground on which the Hawaiians could govern their nation within a nation. To date, there has been little to no negotiation on either side of this opposition ("Hawaiian kingdom - political history," n.d.). Perhaps using GRIT to identify small concessions for each side would provide both sides with a different perspective of their opposition.


As apparently inherent to the human species, conflict is common among individuals, cultures, and nations. Evidenced in the opposition between members of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the government of the United States, situational complications provoke irreconcilable differences ("Take on Hawaiian history lacked sensitivity," 2011). Although the remedy lies in simplistic resolution tactics, the basic underlying assumption by oppositional forces must be a desire to make peace. In real-world application, simple remedies do not always work and mediation may engage each side in surrendering small parcels of their claim. Peaceful relations offer both sides a winning situation and working toward such an end benefits not only the leaders of the opposition, but also allows the men, women, and children of both sides, a prolific, psychologically intact, harmonious existence.


CBS News. (2008, June 20). Hawaii natives want their kingdom back. CBS News. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from

Hawaiian kingdom - political history. (n.d.). Hawaiian Kingdom Government - E Komo Mai. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from

Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Perlman, D. (2001). Psychological dimensions of nuclear policies and proliferation. Nuclear Files. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from issues/ethics/basics/perlman_psychological-dimensions.htm

Take on Hawaiian history lacked sensitivity. (2011, March 23). Maui News. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from history-lacked-sensitivity.html?nav=18

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