AccepingCommitting to an agreement or resolution and taking ownership

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.

Why is this a fundamental dispute resolution practice?

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.

What are the active ingredients of accepting?

Public rituals or actions that signal acceptance and ownership to the parties and the broader community.

Written or verbal commitments on the part of the parties to follow through with what they agreed.

In criminal cases, acceptance of responsibility for the loss, damage, or violation that took place.

A procedurally just resolution process, which increases the likelihood of outcome acceptance.

What are people actually doing to make this happen?

Parties
Parties are indicating that they accept the outcome they have reached in a way that carries weight and is considered credible in their culture. This may mean signing a document, admitting responsibility, shaking hands, sharing a symbolic drink, or participating in a closing ceremony or meal. They are following through on their commitments and carrying out what they have agreed.
Parties
Mediators and judges
Mediators and judges ​are facilitating acceptance of an outcome by ensuring that the resolution process is procedurally just. They are then bringing this process to a close through an acceptance ritual - ideally in a public place where it can be observed by members of the community.
Mediators and judges
Innovators
Innovators are facilitating outcome acceptance by creating new, participatory ways for parties to come to agreements - for example: online one-stop-shop dispute resolution platforms. Such platforms visualise agreements in user-friendly ways and make it clear to the involved parties what they are committing to as a result of the resolution process.
Innovators
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What indicators can be used to monitor this practice?

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Outcome satisfaction
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Completion of agreed upon actions
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Closure

What makes accepting difficult?

Behavioral barriers

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.

More Resources

  1. Rebecca Hollander-Blumoff and Tom Tyler, Procedural Justice in Negotiation: Procedural Fairness, Outcome Acceptance, and Integrative Potential, Law & Social Inquiry, Cambridge University Press (2018).
  2. Naomi Creutzfeldt and Ben Bradford, Dispute Resolution Outside of Courts: Procedural Justice and Decision Acceptance Among Users of Ombuds Services in the UK, Law & Society Review (2016).
  3. Tom Tyler, Social Justice: Outcome and Procedure, International Journal of Psychology (2000).
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