Dealing With Conflict/Martin Rosenfeld,JD

Posted on November 27, 2015


The Program on Negotiation (PON) is situated at Harvard Law School and produces prolific writings on negotiation matters. A recent article was entitled “How to Deal With Threats”, but it is primarily aimed at dealing with any adversary. The following suggestion appears:

“As customer service representatives have been taught, the best way to handle a ‘victim’ is to listen to his grievances, acknowledge his feelings, and apologize for his troubles. Such moves can be palliative. New York University professor Tom Tyler has shown that when individuals in conflict express their emotions and tell their side of the story, they’re more satisfied with outcomes – even when these outcomes aren’t in their favor. Expressing understanding can defuse tensions and reduce the risk of additional threats, but be careful not to reward tirades with concessions.”

I once heard a mediator describe her shortest mediation. The contractor/aggrieved was owed money and he told his story at the mediation. Once he finished his tale, he got up to leave. The mediator asked why he was leaving before any true mediation could take place. The answer was: “I feel hurt by the homeowner’s behavior. I wanted him to know the reasons for those feelings. Now that I told my story, and he heard it, I have accomplished my goal. I forgive the debt now.”

A mediation accomplishes many things. High on the list is the opportunity it gives each party to be heard. When that is accomplished, solutions can well present themselves.

Mediate don’t litigate.