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 […]

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 […]

Regardless of our individual political leanings, advocates of mediation should be concerned by the bruising midterm campaign season that has just ended, and by the prospect of gridlock and increased partisanship in the next session of Congress.  In mediator’s terms, we are facing the likelihood of impasse.  Conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans have been drummed out of both parties, leaving the more doctrinaire members dominant.  Newly energized Republicans have already announced that they have no appetite for compromise.  And Democrats have already started attributing the diminished enthusiasm of their base to the administration’s willingness to make concessions to the opposition.  It will take all of the president’s mediator-like skills to make progress in this situation.  Alternatively, he may abandon those […]