Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Empathy is an essential tool in mediation, both for the mediator and hopefully a quality the participants develop as well. Mediators recognize, unless we want to act purely as evaluators (and even then the capacity for empathy is still important), that we need to try to empathize with the needs and feelings of both sides in every case, to build trust and encourage understanding.  But sometimes the actions of parties to a dispute seem so foreign or even repugnant to our own values that we find it difficult to empathize. And when we can’t empathize, we tend to distance ourselves and condemn. Are there limits to the capacity to empathize? Are there actions so beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior that […]

Lots of mediators have talked about the power of an apology to assist in resolving disputes, and in allowing people to get along with one another. (examples here, here, here, and here)  An apology can serve the highest purposes of mediation, in permitting reconciliation and allowing people to get beyond the dispute.  From a more cynical point of view, an apology can also save a wrongdoer money, as long as the apology is not used as an admission of liability.  Therefore, no one involved in a dispute should be too quick to dismiss the possible effectiveness of an apology.  To be effective, however, an apology should be sincere, it should be coupled with some concrete action, and it must be […]

Once again we see the nation’s mediator-in-chief at work in the White House, bringing together the two adversaries in a nasty little conflict, not necessarily to resolve the conflict, and definitely not to determine who was right and who was wrong, but simply to begin a dialogue and raise legitimate issues. I did a post on this today on my political blog, where I initially expressed annoyance that the Gates-Crowley incident was distracting our attention from the important policy issues that the nation needs to resolve this year, but then I ultimately decided that a conversation about racial profiling, police procedures, and whether the Gates arrest can be seen as a metaphor for changes happening in our society, might be […]