Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Each time we are forced to deal with another attempted or successful political assassination or other violent act, we react in a slightly different way, depending on the political concerns of the moment.  Some past incidents have sparked calls for stricter gun controls.  Sometimes we have heard cries for more law and order.  You used to hear people blame overly permissive child-rearing practices for violent or disruptive behavior.  Sometimes violence has been explained as the result of injustice or prejudice in society.  This time, in the wake of the attempted Giffords assassination, we have heard a lot of talk identifying the high level of violent rhetoric among politicians and the media as a source of the problem. Attempts to draw […]

In The Eumenides, Athena abolished the revenge cycle because that ancient justice system contained fundamental flaws that made it unsuitable for an enlightened democratic state.  Revenge does not achieve finality; it perpetuates violence; and it is mechanical and deterministic, thus denying free will.  In its place, Athena set up a new system that was supposed to be based on wisdom, truth, and rationality.  It continues to serve us well in many cases, but after more than 2000 years of our experiment with this more enlightened justice system, it might be time to ask whether it has finally has outlived its usefulness.  At the very least, we can probably all agree that our system of justice could stand some improvements. We […]

I posted something earlier this week on the power of negative thinking, on my political blog, inspired by a New York Times article describing how customers’ negative comments on the internet actually helped a business find new customers by boosting its search engine ranking.  That led me to think about how our instinct to attack, rather than to engage in dialogue with people who we believe have wronged us, can often be counter-productive.   In the case of the business described in the article, its dissatisfied customers would no doubt be frustrated to learn that the more they complained, the more they were helping the business succeed.  Indeed, the owner actually found these complaints so helpful that he was inspired to […]

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 […]

Reading the comments to a post on negotiation on Ken Adams’s drafting blog (one of which made the point that lawyers are trained to argue, not to negotiate), got me thinking about the differences between argument and negotiation.  It is quite true that lawyers often confuse the two.  I have to admit that I sometimes have trouble letting go of an argument myself, and sometimes forget that arguments that are not carefully attuned to their audience have a tendency to annoy rather than persuade.  I was pegged as an attorney from my childhood because I love to argue, and I still enjoy getting into a heated political debate, or hammering home a point in a brief or in front of […]