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 innocent whom you mistook for an inconsiderate lout. And if you misread the situation, which is always a distinct possibility, Vickie forces you to consider that you yourself might be the asshole. Or at least that you might appear that way to the other side. Or perhaps, she suggests, the asshole could be viewed as the dispute itself.
By the time I reached the end of the alphabet, and learned that conflict is the Zen master, I felt like I had not only lived through Vickie’s variant of the conflicts we all experience in life; but also learned such tidbits as how she helped her father build a brick wall, negotiated her own divorce, and preserved important friendships. In the process, I was continually reminded that we have to put aside our pre-conceived notions and explore what lies beneath the surface in order to resolve conflict.
By identifying the characters we all meet or play ourselves, and the common situations in which conflicts develop, Vickie helps us see the traps those roles and situations create. By explaining the techniques that mediators use to resolve conflict, she helps us free ourselves from those traps.