Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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“Terrorists” is probably too strong a word for the subject of this post, but what else do you call people who threaten to do something incredibly destructive if they do not get their way? I’ll use as an example the Republican leaders like Senator Mitch McConnell who are taking advantage of the fact that the government is at the limit of its borrowing capacity as a lever to try to get their way in ongoing budget negotiations. These leaders know that allowing the United States to default on its obligations would not only raise interest rates, which would cost all of us many billions of dollars, but would send such shock waves around the world that we would potentially cause […]

Can negotiations hinder conflict resolution? Think about the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and how many proposals keep getting floated on an almost-daily basis to attempt to resolve the conflict. Somebody comes up with a new formula for peace, and somebody else immediately denounces the idea. One side holds out what they describe as an olive branch, and the other side responds that the proposal just proves they are not serious. Third parties urge the parties to resume negotiations, but the conditions never quite seem right for a breakthrough. All of this suggests that negotiations are not the only the path to peace, and might even create obstacles to reaching an agreement. Recognizing that the disputes that I […]

At a recent seminar, the lecturer was telling us that the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages that people go through when they are dying–denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance–has applicability to many other processes, including mediation. I had not really thought about mediation in those terms before, and I wasn’t sure how that insight might apply to conducting a mediation. Then recently, I actually watched a mediation participant go through most of these stages in a relatively short period of time.  Starting with denial: a failure to recognize his predicament. Next, expressing anger at the other side for causing it. This took the form of blaming the other side’s attorney, as well as anger at the other side for […]

When I meet people attending a mediation for the first time, I’m always interested in finding out what they expect will happen. Often they don’t know much about the process, and sometimes they come in expecting something quite different from what I have in mind. For those people, and even for those who have participated in mediations previously, I sometimes outline various approaches to conducting mediations, because I try to start off being open-minded about what will work. We usually use a combination of all these styles, depending on the needs of the case and the preferences of the parties. But I am going to list them in order of my preference, from my least to most favorite: 1. Mini-Trial […]

Last night I had the chance to hear Adam Hochschild talking about his new book To End All Wars, which is mainly about the conflicts between pro and anti-war leaders in Great Britain during World War I. The first World War is a particularly hard war to justify or glamorize, since it cost so many millions of lives, in such pointless slaughter. Part of the reason for that was the state of technology of the time. Offensive charges led by cavalry, the formula for success for hundreds of years, were rendered useless by machine guns and barbed wire. Until the invention of the tank, armies could no longer mount an effective offense. But the warring parties persisted in the attempt, […]