Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

Read The Latest Post

Surprisingly, the second in the new series of Planet of the Apes movies (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) presents a pretty good illustration of the forces that drive groups into violent conflict, or provide opportunities for diplomacy. As the story begins, we find a rapidly-evolving colony of apes living in the woods, while a group of humans, perhaps all that is left of humanity (most people having been wiped out by a virus and the mass chaos caused by the virus) are struggling to survive in what’s left of San Francisco. An exploring party makes contact with the apes, and both sides have to decide whether to go to war against the other, or find a way to […]

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 […]

Last night I had a chance to see an early screening of the new movie, Captain Phillips, based on the true and well-known story of the ship captain freed by Navy Seals after being taken hostage by Somali pirates. While the manner in which the captain was freed has to be somewhat disappointing to mediators, the movie still provides a good illustration of the problem faced by hostage-takers who fail to get their prisoner to a safe location. If they give up the hostage, they risk being killed. If they kill the hostage, they will almost certainly be killed or captured. And if they try to bargain for the hostage’s release, they still face the difficulty of making a clean […]

Mediators often become evangelists for negotiated resolution of conflict, believing mediation or other forms of diplomacy to be superior to all other forms of conflict resolution in all circumstances, and with the potential of solving all problems. We should probably be more humble. We should understand that some conflicts cannot be resolved at all, and some can only be resolved by other means. President Obama, who most of the time stands for making every effort to achieve consensus, and who even won the Nobel Peace Prize(!), reminded us of that with his announcement last night that he had ordered, and the military had carried out, the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In this case, we were dealing with a character […]

I recently saw the trailer for the Karate Kid remake, which made me wonder if it would match that thrilling moment in the original film where the kid suddenly realizes that all the time he thought he was just being exploited into doing a lot of backbreaking work, he was actually learning karate. Here is a dream of how I’d like to conduct a mediation: We all sit in a room discussing who knows what, getting to know each other better. All of the discussion seems tangential, even completely irrelevant to the matter the parties are so concerned about. Maybe we tell stories or do some exercises or play some games that people find a little weird or uncomfortable. Or, […]