Bill Clinton and Mediation Theory

Posted on December 13, 2010

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A recent piece by Howard Kurtz analyzed the dynamic that lies at the heart of the recent decision by President Obama to invite former President Clinton to a conference on the tax plan being considered. The contrast between the two men and their approaches to politics is analyzed in succinct fashion. However, there is one point that sheds light on how mediation is meant to work. The lesson is instructive for all.

President Obama claimed he made his tax compromise due to the fact that the Republicans were holding Americans hostage. President Clinton had a different take on the negotiation. He stated that the Republicans deserved thanks for the concessions thay had made. Which approach is a better method of assuring future Republican cooperation? Calling them hostage-takers or making them out to be proper statesmen? The old aphorism that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, comes to mind. You cannot demonize an opponent and then expect their assistance.

Mediation aims for Win-Win. Everyone has a need to be heard. Mediation will assure dialogue and civility. Litigation will assure nothing of the sort. It will certainly not aim for Win-Win. You need to decide at the onset of divorce proceedings how you wish to treat your opposing party. You can call a person the first name that comes to mind (“e.g. hostage-taker) or treat them with respect even as you differ with them. The difference between these approaches? One will work and one will not. Mediation works. It is worth a try.

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