Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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There is a lot in Daniel Kahneman‘s book Thinking, Fast and Slow of interest to mediators and other people involved in conflict. The book sums up a lifetime of work in psychology and economics, and serves almost as a catalog of cognitive biases we encounter in business, the legal system and elsewhere. One chapter describes the optimism bias, which may be essential to making capitalism function, but which also leads to many costly decisions for individuals. For example, the optimism bias leads entrepreneurs to expect success in opening their own small business such as a restaurant, despite the knowledge that the majority of such businesses fail within a few years. Kahneman also describes a similar bias he calls the planning […]

Today’s New York Times Magazine had an article about the hazards of confidence, by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, adapted from his forthcoming book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman describes some team-building exercises he engaged in many years ago in the Israeli Army, that were used to predict the leadership qualities of soldiers. It turned out that these exercises had no predictive power whatsoever, yet those who participated and evaluated the results continued to believe in their value, even after seeing their lack of predictive power. It must just seem intuitively obvious that those who exhibit the most skill at such tasks as figuring out how to get the team over a wall, would perform best at leadership tasks in […]

At a recent seminar, the lecturer was telling us that the Kubler-Ross model of the five stages that people go through when they are dying–denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance–has applicability to many other processes, including mediation. I had not really thought about mediation in those terms before, and I wasn’t sure how that insight might apply to conducting a mediation. Then recently, I actually watched a mediation participant go through most of these stages in a relatively short period of time.  Starting with denial: a failure to recognize his predicament. Next, expressing anger at the other side for causing it. This took the form of blaming the other side’s attorney, as well as anger at the other side for […]

Often the judicial system, despite its flaws, is viewed as at least attempting to operate in a just and logical way, according to rules that we understand and agree upon. The hallmark of an informal dispute resolution system, on the other hand, is that it has no rules. It is seen as emotional as opposed to logical, and is also viewed as somehow cheating justice. When we look more closely at the human beings who use and operate the traditional justice system, we might have to question these stereotypes. I spent most of the past three days in continuing legal education on mediation, including moderating a panel this morning at an SCMA program on employment mediation. At one of the […]

When we meet Orestes at the beginning of the second play in Aeschylus’s trilogy, Choephori (The Libation Bearers)(for the first post in this series, click here), he is at his father’s grave, gathering his courage “to do what must be done.”   Once he gets to the palace, in disguise, Orestes doesn’t hesitate to kill Aegisthus, who has usurped his father’s throne, and taken up with his mother.  But killing his own mother is a bit more difficult for him.  After finding that Aegisthus has been murdered, Clytemnestra confronts her son, laying the full guilt treatment on him.  First she reminds him that she gave him life. Orestes, my child!  Don’t point at me with your sword. See these breasts that fed […]