If public opinion is anything to go by, conflict resolution is for sissies. If that's the case, then maybe it's time to give the public what it really wants: advice on how to escalate conflict.
I therefore offer 5 steps guaranteed to transform any molehill into a mountain:
1. Ignore facts. Disregard or suppress all evidence that undermines your position. In fact, facts can be trouble -- they might raise doubt among your supporters, or, even worse, persuade them or even you that your opponent just might have a point. Take precautions by surrounding yourself with servile bootlickers who will tell you only what you want to hear.
2. Make stuff up. If you can't find facts to support your position, just invent some. Rumor and innuendo are your friends. Remember, appeals to emotion, with no basis in reason, work best.
3. Make assumptions -- lots of them. This is important. Assume first that you're right and they're wrong. Assume you need no further information (see Step #1 above). In addition, assume you know what they're thinking. Attribute malicious motives to your opponent especially if there is no evidence to support that assumption. It's fun to make them have to prove a negative.
4. Exaggerate the harm. Draw false analogies -- the more improbable and exaggerated the better. Even if the issue concerns something minor (and admittedly most interpersonal problems are), compare your opponents to Nazis and the impact of their actions on you to the Holocaust. Accuracy isn't important here -- conveying your sense of injustice and wounded pride is the effect you're going for.
5. Get personal. Attack your opponent's character or physical appearance, not his or her arguments. Seek out every opportunity to impugn their credibility, their intelligence, their grasp of facts, their patriotism, or all four for extra bonus points. If possible, insult their parents, spouses, children, or pets, along with their social status, religion, and dietary habits.
These proven methods get results with family, co-workers, neighbors, bloggers, political opponents, or anyone you can't stand. Try them today and you'll be "getting to no" in no time!
Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.
A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals. She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs.She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.