Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Here are the president’s comments on the deal worked out yesterday on taxes:  The media seems preoccupied with trying to figure out which party gains politically and which party loses; who wins and who caves.   Partisans on both the right and left seem anguished by how much each side had to “give up” to make a settlement.  Watching the president explain the rationale for making a deal, I am struck by how hard he has to work to persuade these partisans of the necessity and justifications for the deal.  It is remarkable how similar the president’s rationales sound to the explanations lawyers and mediators have to provide for parties to a litigation, to justify the benefits of a settlement over […]

I posted something earlier this week on the power of negative thinking, on my political blog, inspired by a New York Times article describing how customers’ negative comments on the internet actually helped a business find new customers by boosting its search engine ranking.  That led me to think about how our instinct to attack, rather than to engage in dialogue with people who we believe have wronged us, can often be counter-productive.   In the case of the business described in the article, its dissatisfied customers would no doubt be frustrated to learn that the more they complained, the more they were helping the business succeed.  Indeed, the owner actually found these complaints so helpful that he was inspired to […]

Only a fearless writer would title her book “A is for Asshole.”  I know Vickie Pynchon mainly as a fellow mediation blogger.  Because I follow her blog, I can attest that she does not shy away from controversial topics, or refrain from telling you what she thinks.  She also offers a lot of sound advice about the practice of mediation.  Her book is an entertaining, and highly personal tour of the characters and problems you meet in conflict resolution. The book’s first surprise is that the asshole is not who you think it is.  The asshole of the book’s title only appears to be the brash, inconsiderate lout you dread meeting in a negotiation.  Instead he might be a complete […]

A big battle is shaping up in Congress in the next few weeks over extending the Bush tax cuts.  If Congress does not act before the end of the year, all of these tax cuts will expire automatically, an outcome that is favored by hardly anyone.  Instead, Republicans would prefer that all of the tax cuts be made permanent, while Democrats favor making the tax cuts for those making under $250,00 a year permanent, while allowing rates to rise for those making above that amount.  There are also a number of intermediate possibilities: the most prominent one being floated would allow the middle class tax cuts to become permanent but extend tax cuts for the wealthy for a couple of […]

In his press conference on September 10, 2010, President Obama commented on the re-opening of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as follows: And one of the goals I think that I’ve set for myself and for my team is to make sure that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu start thinking about how can they help the other succeed, as opposed to how do they figure out a way for the other to fail.  Because if they’re going to be successful in bringing about what they now agree is the best course of action for their people, the only way they’re going to succeed is if they are seeing the world through the other person’s eyes.  And that requires […]

Attacking proposed arms control agreements is a time-honored political game.  Virtually every major arms control treaty between the US and the Soviet Union was subjected to fierce criticism from hard line Senators.  Either the deals were too generous to the other side, or they did not provide adequate verification, or they limited US freedom to develop important weapons systems.  This feature of Cold War politics has now been revived by Mitt Romney, past and presumptively future Republican Presidential candidate.  No doubt hoping to burnish his foreign policy credentials, Romney has come out strongly against the proposed START treaty with Russia, in an article in the Washington Post.  I’m not going to get into a detailed point-by-point discussion of Romney’s attacks […]