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The Gap between Conflict and Resolution

Bridge2I am in the conflict resolution business and every day I open the newspaper or turn on the television, and see many examples both large and small demonstrating how unskilled we are in diffusing conflict in a constructive manner. As a mediator, a conflict resolution specialist, if you will, I write about conflict here and in my monthly newsletter.

Whether it is played out on the national stage or in your local community, what is plain to see is that people often talk about resolving issues peacefully, but they are poorly equipped to diffuse a conflict and move to the next phase. One thing is absolutely certain; conflicts are not resolved on the picket lines or in the streets.

We are a litigious society, and there are many reasons how that came about, but one of the more enduring myths is the idea that lawsuits solve problems; that they are a way of solving conflict. And this could not be further from the truth. This is a costly time consuming way of resolving the underlying symptoms of a dispute, but it does not mitigate or eliminate the conflict. It is simply a way of managing or controlling it at the edges.

I also write about ethics as ethical behavior is integral to successfully negotiating disputes both on the part of the mediator and those doing the actual negotiating. I believe strongly that ethical behavior requires discipline and practice. This requires that institutions, companies, and even individuals have a method or process for understanding and carrying out their activities in an ethical manner. One of the reasons that many conflict resolution efforts fail is that one or more of the individuals is not fully invested in the process, and holds back or disguises their true motives.