Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I spent the day Sunday watching and judging high school debate, a great opportunity to observe what works and what does not work in argument. In one of the debates, on the proposition that convicted drunk drivers should be required to display special license plates, the opposing team argued that breathalyzer-interlock devices are more effective than drunk driver license plates. In response the proposition team made the mistake of trying to shoot down the interlock idea: interlock devices are too expensive, they do not alert the police and other drivers to possibly dangerous drivers, etc. They fell into the trap of thinking that because they had to prove that their idea is good, it follows that they had to prove […]

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 […]

I tried doing some unscientific research to find out what people are seeking from mediation.  What I did was to use sitemeter, a tool for measuring web traffic, to identify some of the Google and other searches that led people to my site. I understand that my methodology will mainly turn up search queries that happen to coincide with subjects I am already addressing in this blog.  But such a list of search queries may also reflect how well (or poorly) people understand the mediation process, and what they are hoping to get out of it.  Here is a sampling of some terms people are searching for (all reported verbatim) that led them to my site: -Am I more likely […]

In a caucus with the plaintiff’s attorney and his counsel, we were trying to persuade the plaintiff to lower his settlement demand.  Plaintiff’s attorney started telling his client that he had to compromise.  As soon as he said that, I saw the client visibly flinch.  This client had no interest in compromise.  Instead he was interested in greater recognition on the defendant’s part of the debt that was owed.  I told him he didn’t have to settle the case at all that day, and should probably take some more time to think about his options.  I was still hoping we would settle the case that day, but I could also see that this person was not about to be browbeaten […]

This week’s parliamentary election results in Great Britain illustrate the complexities of three party negotiations.  The last time elections resulted in a so-called “hung Parliament” was 1974, when the Conservatives failed to put together a deal with the Liberal Party to form a government.  To a foreign observer, it is hard to understand why the Conservatives, who won this year’s election, cannot simply offer the Liberals some important ministries in exchange for their support, but British politicians, unlike say Israeli politicians, who are used to a real proportional representation system, seem to have little taste for making the sorts of deals necessary to cobble together a parliamentary majority. The British appear more comfortable with a winner-take-all system, both at the […]