Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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In the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, there is a character named Mantis who has the power to sense the emotional state of anyone she touches. She can’t read their thoughts, but she can read their feelings. The other characters are amazed, and sometimes embarrassed, that Mantis can sense what they are secretly feeling. The character shows that it is often more important to understand emotions than rational thoughts. The power to read the emotional state of others is important in conflict resolution, maybe more important than understanding what people think the conflict is about. Emotions rule over logic most of the time, and identifying those emotions can help establish connections that enable parties to resolve conflict. What the […]

Last week we heard the news of the strangely untimely death of mathematician John Nash, whose life story was made famous in the book and film “A Beautiful Mind.” The Nash equilibrium is a concept sometimes touched upon in teaching negotiation theory, and it’s not difficult to understand why we should try to understand it, even if we might have trouble doing the math. What Nash and others taught us that is especially relevant to conflict resolution is that parties involved in conflict will often rationally both choose a sub-optimal outcome for themselves. Therefore they will benefit from learning how to be more cooperative with their adversary. That means Nash’s mathematical theory helps prove the usefulness of mediators or some […]

love to know Einstein supposedly said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I learned this week that even though research has shown for about 20 years that grief counseling does not work–in fact it increases the stress levels of those being counseled–we  haven’t given up on the practice. In a lecture at the ABA Dispute Resolution Conference, Professor John Medina explained how grief counseling as traditionally practiced, which involves asking the traumatized victims to recount their experiences shortly after the traumatizing event, can cause these victims to enter into a vicious cycle of rumination on the event and their part in it that does not help them recover. In […]

In the climactic scene in the new movie Philomena (the title character played by Judi Dench), the two protagonists confront some of the Irish nuns who forced Philomena and other teenage girls to give up children born out of wedlock. The journalist Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan, has only harsh words for these nuns, angrily condemning them for their lies and brutality. Philomena, on the other hand, who suffered most directly from the sisters’ having wrenched her child from her, turns to one of the nuns responsible for her treatment, and says “I forgive you.” Both, it seems to me, are valid and understandable reactions. The journalist will channel his anger into writing a devastating exposé of the church’s harsh […]

One of the more interesting assignments I had this year required me to mediate a dispute between two mediators. In preparing for this mediation, I wondered whether my usual conflict resolution techniques would work. These two experts were already wise to all of the usual mediators’ tricks. What could I possibly suggest that they had not thought of already? During the course of a couple of conference calls it took to resolve the problem, these two mediators showed that they were way ahead of me with respect to understanding the stages of the mediation process and the techniques we were using to reach a resolution. At one point for example, one of the participants asked me if it was premature […]