Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The quote of the week might be from Republican Congressman Marlin Stutzman of Indiana who summed up his side’s dilemma last Tuesday as follows: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” How many mediators have heard parties make similar statements? I’m guessing most have. The inability of Democrats and Republicans in Congress to reach an agreement that will allow the government to continue to operate and pay its bills, something both sides presumably want, serves as a good illustration of how conflict itself can paralyze the parties trapped in it, and can prevent parties even from accomplishing things they might be able to agree on. We could […]

In an interview published in the LA Times a couple of weeks ago, the new Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer was asked about his approach to a well-publicized case in which the city has been enjoined from removing personal property that homeless people leave on public sidewalks. (The case is currently on appeal.) His response: There are elements of this litigation I see as an opportunity to solve a problem. Litigation is rather a blunt instrument and has yet to get to the underlying issues. The fact that there is litigation means there has been a failure of public policy. It’s important to address homelessness in a nuanced way. I’m committed to striking a balance that enhances conditions for homeless […]

A friend of mine, Hoyt Hilsman, runs a program called the Intentional Conversation, sponsored by Marymount College. I finally had a chance to participate in my first one of these events this week. The design of the  program is deceptively simple. You enter a large space with a lot of other people, mingle a bit and get some coffee. Then you are assigned to a table, as if you are attending a wedding or a banquet. That becomes your table for the day, which enables everyone at the table to get to know one another fairly well. Everyone at all of the tables is given the same topic and some questions to stimulate discussion of the topic. So there are […]

I had a chance a while back to attemd a training session with Gary Friedman, a mediator in Northern Calilfornia, who is known as one of the foremost practitioners of joint session mediation. In fact, Friedman insists on conducting mediations start to finish with all parties in the same room. He will not even read mediation briefs marked as confidential, and he refuses to hold any information discussed with him during a mediation in confidence with respect to the other parties. If the parties to a mediation run by Friedman want to hold a private caucus, Friedman allows that, but they have to do that without without the mediator present. Since I am also a believer in joint sessions, I […]

Twins, especially before they learn to speak our language, seem to share their own secret language, and communicate in ways that outsiders cannot understand. The two boys in the video clip below (well worth watching, even apart from its adorableness) also demonstrate that the words spoken in a conversation are much less important than we think they are. Perhaps intelligible language even distracts us from understanding the real substance of a conversation. When the words are unintelligible, that allows us to observe more closely the gestures and facial expressions that constitute most of the real communicating that people engage in. I might be fascinated by this video because I have twins of my own (teenagers now), and I still remember […]