Working as a psychologist in the field of conflict resolution, I’ve seen some amazing transformations and some disasters as well.  Based on these experiences, here is a short summary of my philosophical approach to dealing with what divides us.

1. Transformation in people and relationships is the good goal of conflict resolution.

Like crisis, conflict can expose dysfunctional ways of living.  A collaborative process like mediation can bring these to light, laying the groundwork for changes that might never have been possible before the conflict brought things to a head.  This is the hope we professionals bring to the table.

2. There are four standard solutions parties usually seek in conflict situations and they can be customized to suit the situation.

Of the four solutions (acknowledgement/apology/repentance; restitution/punishment; corrective action; forgiveness), the first two pertain to cleaning up the past and the second two aim for a better world in the futureOnly one--restitution/punishment--is available in courtAll four are within reach in interests based negotiation and mediation.

3. To prevent huge losses, hard wire a preferred path for conflict resolution into every organization where you live and transact business.

Collaboration (negotiation or mediation) first, with higher authority (arbitration, litigation) in a back-up role is the essence of the preferred path.  If you don’t have it built into contracts and procedures, expect to end up in court, needlessly.

4. To reduce stress and save time and money, change the way you use attorneys and other professionals.

Hiring a settlement or negotiating attorney shifts the focus from expensive litigation (a win/lose proposition) to a possible shot at all four standard solutions in a package deal; this may approximate “justice” for your case.   An ombudsman (outsourced or in house where you work) can help you navigate options, approach the other side through a neutral third party, resolve the matter informally and/or convene everyone for a collaborative resolution.

5. Keep score and continuously improve based on evidence.

With 50-70% of pay outs for personal injury and professional malpractice claims going to transaction costs (fees for plaintiff and defense attorneys, experts and ADR professionals), there is money to be saved in this field.  As a psychologist dedicated to evidence based interventions, my aim is to help people evaluate dispute resolution methods on the following key variables: (a) transaction costs; (b) number of days it takes to close the case; (c) standard solutions mix (as noted above); and (d) satisfaction of the parties with the overall process.

For more on these points, see the books listing, as well as Services and Areas sections of the sidebar.  

Or, send me an email to share your thoughts.  I’d love to hear your experience (pro or con) with these principles.