Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Lots of mediators have talked about the power of an apology to assist in resolving disputes, and in allowing people to get along with one another. (examples here, here, here, and here)  An apology can serve the highest purposes of mediation, in permitting reconciliation and allowing people to get beyond the dispute.  From a more cynical point of view, an apology can also save a wrongdoer money, as long as the apology is not used as an admission of liability.  Therefore, no one involved in a dispute should be too quick to dismiss the possible effectiveness of an apology.  To be effective, however, an apology should be sincere, it should be coupled with some concrete action, and it must be […]

I read today that the Los Angeles Conservancy got the owners of the Century Plaza Hotel to agree to preserve the key historic features of the hotel in their plan to develop the property.  (My prior post on that dispute is here.)  Coincidentally, I saw a post today on Victoria Pynchon’s blog about a preservation dispute in Dallas, raising the question whether internet comments on newspaper blogs and similar forums can assist in resolving such disputes. Of course public comments can be helpful in putting ideas on the table, and in ascertaining the extent of public support for preservation of an historic landmark, or for the development that threatens that landmark.  But commenting on Victoria’s post  reminded me that what […]

In a post on my political blog, I discussed the president’s plan to hold a bipartisan session on health insurance reform, which at face value seems to represent an offer to mediate or negotiate a consensus bill, or at least to invite the Republicans back into the process. The Republican leadership has responded by demanding that the Democrats admit that their whole effort to reform the health care system was a mistake and that they agree to start over. The Democrats don’t seem inclined to do that, but they don’t seem to expect they will persuade many Republicans to support the bills passed by the House or Senate either.  Rather, their offer to hold a public negotiating session may aim […]

Many conflicts can be resolved without examining the underlying causes of the conflict too deeply, just as the common cold can be treated by dealing with the symptoms rather than the disease. For an ordinary lawsuit, removing the costs and uncertainty of continued litigation may present reason enough to settle the case, without any need to discuss the pathologies of the parties’ relationship or the flaws in the way one party or the other conducts their business, that caused the conflict. Focusing on problems rather than solutions may even impede resolution of a conflict in many cases, as these discussions tend to inflame parties’ passions. (See my prior post on solution-focused mediation.) But for the most intractable and difficult conflicts, […]

According to this report, Syrian President Assad is willing to move forward with peace talks with Israel, and Turkey is available to mediate, but there is “no Israeli partner willing to move forward.” According to the same report, however, as well as this Reuters story in the New York Times, Prime Minister Netanyahu has given assurances that Israel is prepared to resume negotiations unconditionally.  But Israel says it would prefer to negotiate directly with Syria, or use a French mediator, rather than through Turkey, according to the Jerusalem Post. What is going on here? Is this some kind of elaborate courting ritual, where each side is waiting for the other to ask for a dance? Or do the parties mean […]

The new movie The Men Who Stare at Goats is a comic take-off on the true story of an Army program to incorporate New Age concepts into the military. In the movie, Jeff Bridges plays an Army Colonel who trains an experimental unit of “Jedi warriors” who bring psychic powers and peacemaking concepts into modern war-fighting. George Clooney plays the most talented soldier trained by this unit, who actually does seem to have psychic powers. Of course, most of the ideas propagated by this so-called New Earth Army, which was based on a real program called the First Earth Battallion, were crazy, did not work, and were scoffed at by the regular Army. Just as you are ready to laugh […]