Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alternative Dispute Resolution

This blog is about how to resolve disagreements peacefully so that both people are reasonably happy with the result, without harming or suing each other. The fancy phrase for this is “alternative dispute resolution.” It doesn’t involve the planet’s two most prevalent ways to settle disputes: violence and litigation. Instead, nobody gets hurt; nobody loses. It does require the disputants themselves to use their own ingenuity and resources to arrive at a solution, and not transfer their power to an authority figure (such as a cop or a judge) to govern their lives for them. The person who helps facilitate this process, enabling warriors to satisfactorily achieve peace without imposing his or her own will on the proceedings, is a neutral third party called a “mediator.”

Unfortunately, we live in a time and place where the first resort of bickering neighbors is to recruit surrogate pugilists and gladiators – threatening to “call the cops” or “tell it to the judge” – rather than work out differences in a sane, non-violent, productive manner. We impulsively retain lawyers, who are trained to zealously advocate for their client, right or wrong, with one goal in mind: to win. The legal arena encourages harassment, bullying, intimidation, threats, and countless maneuvers that are deliberately designed to fan the flames and prolong the conflict (thus escalating the number of billable hours).

Paradoxically, few would reflexively hire a mediator to sort out differences and seek a forward-looking, mutually viable solution – despite the fact that mediation consumes a fraction of the time and cost (not to mention mental anguish and uncertainty) of traditional litigation.

Fighting is a necessary and useful component of real life; differences of opinion are a good thing. So the primary goal of this blog is to teach a new generation how to engage in battle constructively, not destructively. In short, how to fight nicely.

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