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The Role of Play and Humor in Creative Conflict Management

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In this article, I draw on the theories of three scholars whose works have not typically been part of the negotiation and conflict resolution canon (Arthur Koestler, Edward T. Hall, and Gregory Bateson) to develop the beginnings of a new model for creative and constructive conflict transformation that features playfulness and humor as its key components. I explore the connections between Koestler's theory of bisociation in the act of creation, Hall's ideas about the cultural construction of emotional responses, and Bateson's theories about the role of play and humor in human communication. All three authors focused particularly on body language and on the cognitive impact of emotions. Drawing on their theories and the connections between them, I suggest the theoretical underpinnings of a model for approaching conflict in which displacements and surprises, playfulness, humor, and “punch lines” can serve to reframe issues and open up new avenues for consensus building and resolution.

Keywords: bisociation; body language; conflict resolution; conflict transformation; cultural construction of emotions; displacement; humor; play; wisdom

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-04-01

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