In order for the outcome of a conflict resolution process to be effective, it needs to be accepted by the parties involved. This may take the form of one party admitting responsibility for what happened and committing to putting it right, or both parties participating in a closing ritual such as a handshake or shared drink. Not taking further action – for example by appealing a decision in court – can also signal acceptance.
Acceptance of an agreement or decision is necessary for parties to a crime or conflict to find closure. Emotions often run high in the course of a negotiation, mediation, or formal hearing, and an action or ritual that signals acceptance and ownership of the outcome helps the parties as well as the broader community to move on.
Regardless of the form it takes, parties to a crime or conflict are less likely to accept an agreement or decision if they feel that the process that delivered that outcome was unfair. Resolution processes that are participatory, treat participants with dignity and respect, and involve a neutral and trustworthy authority are most likely to be experienced as fair. Resolution processes that lack these characteristics make it more difficult for parties to accept the final outcome.
Even in cases where the process is perceived as fair and an acceptable resolution is reached, parties may struggle to “let go” of a dispute that has become a long-term feature of their life and find closure.