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spike bullet April 2017 ~ Conflict Resolution: Getting to Agreement

Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)
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color bullet Conflict Resolution: Getting to Agreement

Sometimes, situations get completely out of control.  Someone gets mad about something, they feel they are "right" and someone else is "wrong," attorneys get involved, costs escalate and no one can see an end in sight.  Eventually, a judge or jury decides the case and determines a "Winner."

Or people can attempt mediation or arbitration to resolve the differences.  Even the day before going to court, people can stop the runaway train of legal contention and take a different approach.

Mediation and arbitration are becoming increasingly popular for the simple reason that they do work.

We had an opportunity to be part of a mediation experience recently that finally ended a legal situation that had been in contention for quite a few years.

In mediation, no one gets everything they want.  And, everyone has to give up something in order to come to resolution.  In the end, everyone wins if they can get out of the cycle of escalating costs with no end in sight and no control of the outcome.  The vicious cycle can stop.

Side note:  A friend recommended me for a management position in a company that had a difficult staff situation that needed good management.  After interviewing with the executives in charge of the division, I interviewed with the president of the company.

After a little chit-chat, he said, "So, you’ve heard all the gory details about what is involved in this position.  What do you think is most needed to do the job well?"

I answered, "A good sense of humor."

He laughed and told me that was the best answer yet and the job was mine if I wanted it.

When dealing with people for any reason, a good sense of humor is always important.  Instead of constantly fighting over whatever the "issue" is or who is "right" or who has the "best case," we can change the dynamics.  Often, we need to step back, take a deep breath and realize that whatever the contentious situation is, it doesn’t need to kill us or bankrupt us or keep continuing forever down a path that we cannot control at all.  We need to let go of our fixed, rigid, unbending positions and allow things to get resolved so that everyone can get on with their life.

A good mediator is able to work with the "facts" of a case, listen to all sides and get to the heart of the matter:

  1. Do the parties want to stop the legal vicious cycle?  If so, there is good reason to work for a resolution.
  2. Are the parties willing to give up their rigid positions about who is "right" and who is "wrong" and work toward something that can end the cycle?  If so, there is good reason to negotiate.
  3. With those decisions made, the process of working toward something all parties can live with begins.
  4. The mediator can then draw out the key facts of what issues can be resolved and work toward a resolution that everyone can live with.

A resolution that everyone can live with means that everyone has to give up something in order to get something they want.  They all want the vicious cycle to end.  How it ends eventually depends on the skill of the mediator and the parties involved.  They all know the unpredictability of judges and juries, and that one or both parties stand to lose much more than they already have invested in fighting over the issue so far.  That is a strong incentive to continue negotiations and the mediator's job is to keep the parties focused on the goal they all want: ending a bad situation before more damage is done.  

More and more types of business contracts contain language about arbitration before a situation gets to a lawsuit.

What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?

Arbitration is the process of resolving a dispute (as between labor and management) or a grievance outside of the court system by presenting it to an impartial third party or panel for a decision that may or may not be binding. 

Mediation is a nonbinding intervention between parties to promote resolution of a grievance, reconciliation, settlement, or compromise 

In arbitration, the decision-making authority for a situation is given to an impartial party.  In mediation, the decision-making authority rests with the parties themselves, with the assistance of a skilled mediator to help that process.  Mediation allows the parties themselves to retain control of the decision, rather than giving the decision to someone else.  

The mediator for the situation that we experienced recently had a very good sense of humor.  He used humor to skillfully to diffuse some of the contention as well as using very good negotiating skills to bring the parties to resolution.  

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In provides some very good examples of how issues can be resolved peacefully.

Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High, provides many good examples of how people can learn to work better with other people.

If you are facing a difficult situation, take some time to look into other options for getting the situation resolved without getting into a lawsuit.  Maybe a third party can help.  A skilled mediator can make the difference between a bad situation that is spinning out of control and finding a way to end it once and for all.

  Internet Resources

book graphic  Books  -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon. 

  • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury, Penguin Books, New York, 1981 (small book with solid advice).  Penguin USA (Paper); 2nd edition (December 1991) ISBN: 0140157352
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.   Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  (McGraw-Hill 2002).  ISBN-10: 0071401946 ISBN-13: 978-0071401944
  • Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations and Bad Behavior.  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  (McGraw-Hill 2004).  ISBN-10: 0071446524 and ISBN-13: 978-0071446525
  • Transforming Your Dragons: Turning Personality Fear Patterns into Personal Power. Jose Stevens. Bear & Co; (July 1994) ISBN: 1879181177
  • The High Price of Manhood: A man's action plan for getting along better in the 21st century.  Michael Jay Anthony.  Lulu, 2015.  ISBN 978-1-312-29139-3 (paperback).  ISBN 978-1-329-58227-9 (ebook/PDF).
  • Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck.  Michael Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor., 2008  ISBN-13: 978-0-557-00377-8.  Website:  Tap into your own creativity and use  your full potential.  Learn how to see opportunities that others miss.   

world wide web - articles  Articles (on

Related newsletter articles:
    September 2007 - Crucial Conversations
    October 2012 - Crucial Conversations: Learn to Look
    November 2015 - How to Get Things Done
    February 2010 - Seven Characteristics of an "A" Player
    November 2016 - Agree and Disagree in Peace
    February 2003 - Conflict Resolution

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

  • The task of the mediator is to help the parties to open difficult issues and nudge them forward in the peace process.  The mediator's role combines those of a ship's pilot, consulting medical doctor, midwife and teacher.   Martti Ahtisaari
  • Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.  Ambrose Bierce (American humorist, author)
  • The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist on this small planet.  Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way to resolve differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama (Tibetan)
  • People who hold on to grudges, insist on being right and try to change other's minds have a difficult time maintaining healthy, happy relationships.  Surrendered people easily forgive.  They are open to new ideas, and aren't attached to being "right."  As a result, people love working and collaborating with them.  Others seek them out as mediators and advisors.  They are more laid back and relaxed than their rigid counterparts, which makes them highly valued by others.  They are passionate and emotional.  Judith Orloff 

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Page updated: October 16, 2023      

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