Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Here is a portion of a 60 Minutes interview with incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner, who explains why he thinks “compromise” is a dirty word: J. BOEHNER: We have to govern. That’s what we were elected to do. STAHL (on camera): But governing means compromising. J. BOEHNER: It means working together. It means find… STAHL: It also means compromising. J. BOEHNER: It means finding common ground. STAHL: OK, is that compromising? J. BOEHNER: I made clear I am not going to compromise on — on my principles, nor am I going to compromise… STAHL: What are you saying? J. BOEHNER: … the will of the American people. STAHL: And you’re saying I want common ground, but I’m not […]

Here are the president’s comments on the deal worked out yesterday on taxes:  The media seems preoccupied with trying to figure out which party gains politically and which party loses; who wins and who caves.   Partisans on both the right and left seem anguished by how much each side had to “give up” to make a settlement.  Watching the president explain the rationale for making a deal, I am struck by how hard he has to work to persuade these partisans of the necessity and justifications for the deal.  It is remarkable how similar the president’s rationales sound to the explanations lawyers and mediators have to provide for parties to a litigation, to justify the benefits of a settlement over […]

A big battle is shaping up in Congress in the next few weeks over extending the Bush tax cuts.  If Congress does not act before the end of the year, all of these tax cuts will expire automatically, an outcome that is favored by hardly anyone.  Instead, Republicans would prefer that all of the tax cuts be made permanent, while Democrats favor making the tax cuts for those making under $250,00 a year permanent, while allowing rates to rise for those making above that amount.  There are also a number of intermediate possibilities: the most prominent one being floated would allow the middle class tax cuts to become permanent but extend tax cuts for the wealthy for a couple of […]

In his press conference on September 10, 2010, President Obama commented on the re-opening of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as follows: And one of the goals I think that I’ve set for myself and for my team is to make sure that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu start thinking about how can they help the other succeed, as opposed to how do they figure out a way for the other to fail.  Because if they’re going to be successful in bringing about what they now agree is the best course of action for their people, the only way they’re going to succeed is if they are seeing the world through the other person’s eyes.  And that requires […]

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 […]