Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Suppose one of the parties to a negotiation makes what could be seen as a major concession, but attaches a bunch of conditions to it that everyone knows are unacceptable to the other side. This is what Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech did by for the first time accepting the possibility of a Palestinian state, but conditioning acceptance of such a state on limiting its sovereignty. We have the choice of looking at such an offer as a sham, or as offering a real possibility of a future agreement. Of course the opposition’s initial reaction has been negative, but any mediator’s job ought to be to accentuate the positive. Suddenly we have a concept that both sides now agree upon. Yes, […]

Some of mediation’s touted benefits include the potential for repairing a broken relationship, or the chance to re-open communications between estranged business partners or a divorcing couple, people who must continue to deal with each other. Mediation can also devise creative solutions that open up if the parties are able to resume or start a new relationship, for example, settling a dispute over poor service or defective products by supplying new products or services. In many lawsuits, however, the parties have no interest in doing any further business with each other. In the garden variety personal injury case between strangers, there is no reason for the parties to desire any future contact, and even in a case that arises out […]

To help my kids with a school mock trial project, we’ve been showing them some classic trial movies, such as Inherit the Wind, A Few Good Men, The Verdict, and of course, My Cousin Vinny. These movies not only illustrate some good trial techniques, they also remind us of how much we enjoy watching the drama of trials. Stories such as these depend on conflict and its resolution captured in a trial. Conflict being deemed essential to a good story, it is only natural that the movies generally avoid telling stories of people peacefully resolving their differences. But some of these movies go even further, by depicting settlement as illegitimate or even evil. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise […]

As he has done since the beginning of his campaign, Barack Obama likes to talk about a new kind of politics in which people sit at the same table and talk to one another instead of shaking their fists at one another. Here he is this week bragging about bringing together different players in both the energy debate and the health care debate. If these initiatives bear fruit, do they herald a new dominant mode of problem-solving? Does President Obama reject the whole idea of dialectics that has been so influential in political philosophy, in favor of more positively-reinforcing ways of achieving change? Can he really get the political system to work in this new way? The rise of mediation […]