Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Gary Friedman and Jack Himmelstein have written a tour de force on empowering parties in conflict to work through their conflict together. Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding is their new book. Buy it here or here. Today.

Friedman and Himmelstein have collaborated on “ways of working through conflict that seek to honor the best in the human spirit and provide professionals with a way to be authentic and true to themselves.” They have taught together through the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and through the non-profit they started, The Center for Mediation in Law.

Now, the rest of us get to reap the benefit of their collaboration by reading and studying their new book. Through elegant writing and the use of case examples, they explain the mediation model they have practiced and honed for thirty years.

They call the conflict resolution model they espouse the “understanding-based method.” At its core, it empowers the parties to take responsibility for deciding whether and how the conflict will be resolved and it recommends they work together to make those decisions. It also encourages the parties to examine what lies beneath the conflict, which can lead to a more complete, or holistic, resolution.

The authors believe that the parties not only best understand the conflict, they best understand what lies beneath the conflict. Their method necessarily involves joint sessions, as caucusing only gives the mediator, not the parties, the most complete understanding of the conflict.

I think this book would be especially enlightening to lawyers who have only experienced the judicial settlement conference/shuttle diplomacy/caucusing method of settling their cases. I would hope that they would open themselves up to the possibility that their clients can play a part in the settlement process. As a lawyer of a certain age, I know it’s not the way we’ve been trained, on-the-job, to act. But the results can be transformative to your clients. And if your clients are amazed and appreciative of this result, you have given them a value-added service, they’ll be repeat clients, you’ve enhanced the stature of the legal profession, and you’ll feel pretty good about yourself, too.

I’d call that a win-win-win-win (your client, the other side, the legal profession, you).

Update. See Stephanie West Allen’s review at her Idealawg blog.


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