Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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A cartoon in the New Yorker a couple of months ago showed a family lost in the jungle. The father, scratching his chin, is saying, “OK, I admit it, we’re lost. But the important thing is to remain focused on whose fault it is.” I’m thinking of getting a framed copy to hang in my caucus room. Frequently the task in a mediation is to get the parties away from focusing on recriminations and blame for how they got themselves into their situation, and toward focusing on possible solutions to their conflict. It might be helpful for people to look at this picture, which enables us to see how obviously ridiculous it is for a family lost in the jungle […]

We’re starting to hear outrage from both the left and the right in response to the debt ceiling deal that leaders of both parties have made on Sunday.  We’re being assured by the usual gang of pundits that this outrage from the most partisan members on both sides demonstrates that the deal is probably fair. It reminds me of something that a lot of mediators like to say, which is that if both parties are unhappy with a proposed settlement, that probably means that it is fair. As a mediator, I never like to use that line. Why would I want people to leave unhappy?  I prefer to try to persuade parties to a conflict that they should feel good about the settlement they are making. I […]

Judge Martin J. Sheehan of the Kenton Circuit Court, Kentucky, penned this ode to the joys of resolving an apparently acrimonious and well-litigated case. I wonder if the clerk actually has to take seriously the part of the order that requires him to engage the services of a structural engineer to make sure his office is able to hold the case file. After all, it is a court order. (Clicking on images below should work to enlarge them. If not, go here.)    

One of the reports I was reading about the Norway shooting incident this past weekend mentioned the difficulties police have in trying to prevent such violent events. In the past, it might have been easier to infiltrate and keep tabs on hate groups because they used more traditional means of organizing themselves. Now that such people congregate primarily on the internet, it may be more difficult to penetrate their activities and predict when they will become violent. This suspect in particular was sending out somewhat ambiguous signals, which might not have provided sufficient clues to allow law enforcement to act. One problem with modern forms of communication is that they encourage people to interact mainly with like-minded individuals, and to […]