Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Last night’s season final episode of Entourage contained some good examples of the intangible factors that sometimes create, and then break, logjams in negotiations. First Ari Gold had to persuade his wife, in front of their counselor, to allow him to put up her assets as collateral for a loan needed to purchase Gold’s former agency. She was distrustful because she suspected that he was pursuing this opportunity mainly to exact revenge against some of his former colleagues. In order to gain her trust, Gold had to admit, in graphic terms, that in fact he did have the basest and most personal of motives for buying out his former boss, and that he was looking forward to firing a number […]

To help my kids with a school mock trial project, we’ve been showing them some classic trial movies, such as Inherit the Wind, A Few Good Men, The Verdict, and of course, My Cousin Vinny. These movies not only illustrate some good trial techniques, they also remind us of how much we enjoy watching the drama of trials. Stories such as these depend on conflict and its resolution captured in a trial. Conflict being deemed essential to a good story, it is only natural that the movies generally avoid telling stories of people peacefully resolving their differences. But some of these movies go even further, by depicting settlement as illegitimate or even evil. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise […]

Mediators will sometimes tell the parties that the measure of whether a proposed settlement is fair is that it should make both sides equally unhappy. In other words, a party accepting less (or paying more) than they think they should is supposed to be consoled by the fact that the other side feels exactly the same way. I think this is a very negative way of looking at settlement. I tell the parties in a mediation exactly the opposite. I tell them that if they think they will be better off rejecting the settlement and taking their case to trial, by all means they should do that. No one should accept a settlement that makes them worse off than the […]