Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I had a chance to hear William Ury, best-known as co-author of Getting to Yes, speak this weekend at the SCMA fall conference. One of the things he talked about was seeing yourself as your own worst enemy in a negotiation. Or as he put it, listening to yourself as a pre-requisite to being ready to listen to others. Ury gave as an example a meeting he had with Hugo Chavez, when he was president of Venezuela. Ury was brought in to advise the president on dealing with growing conflict within that country, that was threatening to erupt into civil war. But when he presumed to tell the president what he thought was going on in that country, Ury found […]

Someone renting the house across the street from us has been blasting loud music very late at night, and I’ve been wondering how to deal with it. The other night when he woke us up at 2 am, I wanted to go knock on his door, but I was afraid that might cause an ugly confrontation. Should I call the cops? Should I leave a note in his mailbox? I participated as a facilitator last night in another of the Days of Dialogue sessions being held around the city this year, on the very timely topic of the future of policing. One of the subjects my table discussed was fear: for example the fear claimed by police officers who have […]

An ongoing contentious conflict in Los Angeles, that affects every resident, is the conflict between automobile drivers and other users of the city’s public spaces. This city, which has been designed in deference to the automobile since the 1920’s, is facing new challenges from pedestrian, bicycle and public transit advocates seeking to reclaim a larger share of the city streets. Surprisingly, and without much public attention, this car-centric city has already adopted a new policy giving substantial ground to these advocates. By a 12-2 vote, the City Council recently adopted what is called the Mobility Plan 2035, which calls, among other things, for putting many city streets on a “road diet” to allow more room for bicycle lanes and sidewalks. A few […]

What a remarkable turnaround we witnessed today in Ferguson, Missouri, where five days of protests in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown this past weekend, had been met with police armed to the teeth with military weapons and tactics. But when Governor Nixon finally decided to replace the local police force with state highway patrol officers, the situation changed almost immediately. Today the new representatives of law enforcement started marching with the protesters, and a much different atmosphere returned to the streets. Yesterday law enforcement viewed the protesters as the enemy, and felt they had to meet them with force to preserve order. All that did was inflame the situation, and exacerbate the conflict. Today, law enforcement […]

Last night I had a chance to assist at an improvisation class, playing the role of mediator to actors working out various conflict situations. The class arose out of some discussions with the teacher, Rob Watzke, about the similarities between the techniques used in improvisation and mediation. In both situations, careful listening is imperative. You must be sensitive to the content as well as the emotional underpinnings of statements made by other participants in order to advance the process. In both situations, it is also important to stay positive. Whatever new bit of material is offered to you by a fellow improviser, you must use it. You cannot reject it, or the scene dies. Similarly, in mediation, it is better […]