Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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On March 1, 2013, if Congress does not come its senses, the dreaded sequester is going to take effect. For those who do not follow closely all of the machinations of Congressional budget negotiations, here is a brief recap of how we got here: On August 2, 2011, as a compromise measure to prevent the government from defaulting on its debt obligations, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011. That statute required Congress to agree to certain levels of deficit reduction measures over the next ten years. If they could not agree, a package of automatic spending cuts, half to defense and half to domestic spending, would take effect on January 1, 2013. The important thing to understand about […]

This video has been making the rounds for awhile, so I’m sure a lot of readers have already seen it. It’s from a British game show that ends with a variant of the prisoner’s dilemma problem that a lot of us study in mediation programs. Nick has evidently figured out that he can never be sure he will be able to persuade Ibriham that he will be fair. And even if he could, that might only encourage Ibriham to take advantage. So Nick adopts the novel strategy of trying to persuade Ibriham that Nick will make the selfish move, in order to force Ibriham to make the only play that can possibly benefit both of them. Then Nick can be […]

The fourth volume of Robert Caro‘s biography of Lyndon Johnson is finally out. Covering the period from about 1958-1964, the years of Johnson’s vice-presidency and transition to the presidency, this book features the legendary feud between Johnson and Bobby Kennedy.  These two men hated each other from the moment they met, when Bobby Kennedy was a staffer for Senator Joe McCarthy, for whom Johnson had no respect. Matters only went downhill from there. This was a bitter rivalry of Shakespearean dimensions, that had immense consequences for our country’s history. I’m not yet halfway through this thick book, but can already report how fascinating it is to read Caro’s reconstruction of the day in the middle of the 1960 Democratic convention […]

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 […]

Many conflicts can be resolved without examining the underlying causes of the conflict too deeply, just as the common cold can be treated by dealing with the symptoms rather than the disease. For an ordinary lawsuit, removing the costs and uncertainty of continued litigation may present reason enough to settle the case, without any need to discuss the pathologies of the parties’ relationship or the flaws in the way one party or the other conducts their business, that caused the conflict. Focusing on problems rather than solutions may even impede resolution of a conflict in many cases, as these discussions tend to inflame parties’ passions. (See my prior post on solution-focused mediation.) But for the most intractable and difficult conflicts, […]