Conflict Prevention: Utilizing the Historical Reasonable Person of Common Law

Being reasonable[1], a criterion of common law, is used by many nations to conduct fair judgements[2]  and to safeguard communities from non-balanced behaviors. This idea suggests that unreasonable behaviors are the ones that cause harm and injury. Integrating the reasonable man question to daily life, to behaviors in organizations and to education systems, allows one to awaken the notion of ‘standard of care’[3] as defined by law, which could be interpreted as that deeply embedded humanity in oneself. While creating rules and laws does put societies in order, and does give guidelines to what’s lawful and to what’s not, emphasizing this faculty is a building block to peace.

Commitment to the reasonable man theory, a building block to many constitutions, is a commitment to one’s higher self, rather than to instinct. Training individuals to act in a way that’s reasonable, makes ‘checks and balances’ internal[4] as one consults with one’s inner ‘knowledge’ before acting. To many nations, the reasonable person theory serves as a judiciary guide as a jury generally determines whether a defendant has acted reasonably[5].

On many occasions, judges use this theory post-conflict to assess whether a person’s behavior was justifiable or not. Though widely used, one may question its reliability as this concept seems to some both subjective and abstract. Despite those disadvantages, it makes sense to use this concept to differentiate what’s considered to be “normal”, from what’s considered to be radical. However, introducing this concept merely post-conflict may help in implementing justice, but will less likely prevent conflict from taking place, as an average citizen will probably have not heard that concept unless he or she has been involved in a case as a plaintiff or a defendant[6].

Given the above, it may make sense to try to integrate this concept to our societies to minimize conflict. At first glance, developing this quality, of being reasonable, seems difficult, for locating this attribute within oneself is like trying to find a thread within a knot. Unless it is nourished and mended over and over again, it will less likely grow and sustain. Yet, what makes that possible is that this thread, though hidden, does exist. It’s that solid knowledge of its existence that pioneers of ethics ought to constantly seek and build upon, without suspicion.

Society’s capacity to diffuse conflict, lies within man’s ability to make reasonable decisions. There are three advantages for using the reasonable person test with oneself before acting:

1. Pacing oneself: While the reasonable man question is highly subjective, it may pace one and make people take calculated risks rather than jump into matters that could have consequences to themselves and to others. Asking oneself that central question if what one is doing is reasonable enhances both: focus and awareness. What shall most likely happen when one asks and contemplates that question is a state of slowing down and of becoming more contemplative and reflective rather than impulsive.

2. Moderation: It is more likely for that faculty, to give middle non-extreme answers. After asking that question to oneself, answers will mostly neither harm oneself nor others. In that way, one will less likely find oneself, pulling oneself or others to places that are neither necessary nor safe. Middle and less emotionally charged solutions that create and duplicate hate will less likely emerge. Nevertheless, this moderation, makes matters negotiable. What usually makes matters negotiable is two things: firstly, the related person will become approachable, having consulted with that moderate part of oneself, and Secondly, the related person will get further from extreme points of view.

3. Social stability: Last but not least, consulting with this faculty makes one stray away from decisions that are merely interest-based. While no reasonable person will self-sabotage oneself on purpose, one will be less likely to take rash decisions to save oneself, while being totally non-mindful of others, unless the main intention is to harm others. That’s why, it is safe to say that most decisions that do not require self-defense, as self-defense sometimes may cause inflicting harm on others, will be peaceful and much less likely be offensive.

Having determined that being reasonable is a necessary quality for building a healthy society, this quality could be enhanced among people through three ways:

1.       Integration to Education Systems: While there has been controversy whether classes of ethics are important, and would make any difference in human behavior, it can at least, with time, create a new norm[7]. Integrating ethics into education systems helps youth and adults get acclimated to that concept and to that way of thinking[8]. For this sense, the sense of reasonability, to become solid, and easily extractable, it ought to be constantly mended through repetition and practice[9]. The more this faculty gets trained and used, the more it becomes second nature.

 2. Inclusion in Assessment Tests: Ethics assessment tests for entrance to any institution, whether educational or not, are as important as any non-ethics assessments. Through one’s career, it has been proved by some research[10] that good performance impacts one’s ethical behavior. For ethics to not be the mere result of good performance, entrance assessment tests are necessary. This way, one will have ethics ingrained deeply independent of one’s situation. While some research[11] have been done on the effectiveness of assessment tests for the recruitment process, few have been made for the purpose of directing the general behaviors of employees and students to embrace ethical behaviors through their career or through study at the university. Creating assessment tests that involve material on ethics when recruiting new individuals in public and private institutions emphasizes to candidates the significance of this criterion, and reminds them of its importance. Repetition of this material within assessment tests, whether in public or private institutions, and to educational institutions or work-related institutions, shall create that state where individuals constantly prepare to pass those tests, and independently train themselves on how to achieve desired results.

3. Creation of Ethics Departments: Furthermore, an ethics department in public and private organizations should be seen as a necessity and not a luxury. Such departments may conduct constant trainings and assessments, to ensure that being reasonable and dealing with conflict effectively are becoming well-rooted traits among its members. While business institutions at times are reluctant to emphasize or invest in ethics linking ethics with financial losses, doing so may create opposite results. Ethics could minimize short term results but more likely ensure the type of constancy which most likely allow organizations to thrive and flourish[12].

In conclusion, training individuals to act in a way that’s reasonable, creates checks and balances within oneself. Some may argue that it’s a very abstract approach to create such decisions in such a manner and that’s why those decisions may not be accurate. With practice and integration, this faculty becomes more and more reliable. The reasonable person theory ought to not only be used post-conflict by judges after catastrophes arise, but also could be used for conflict prevention and to create humans that are moderate, objective and humane.


[1] Negligence and the ‘Reasonable Person’. FindLaw. Retrieved from

[2] List of National Legal System. Wikipedia. Retrieved from

[3] Negligence and the ‘Reasonable Person’. FindLaw. Retrieved from

[4] Checks and Balances. Legal Dictionary.

[5] Negligence and the ‘Reasonable Person’. FindLaw. Retrieved from

[6] The plaintiff is the party filing the lawsuit. The defendant is the party upon which the lawsuit is filed.

[7]Dudani, Salil. (2014, May 13). Stanford Panel Debates: Does Teaching Ethics Do Any Good? Stanford News. Retrieved from

[8]Gulkan, Nur. (2015, February 1). Discussing the Importance of Teaching Ethics in Education. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved from

[9]Bruner, Robert. (2001, August 17). Repetition is the First Principle of All Learning. ResearchGate. Retrieved from

[10] Selvarajan, Rajan & Cloninger, Peggy A. (2009, June 5). The Influence of Job Performance Outcomes on Ethical Assessments.   Personnel Review, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 398-412. Retrieved from

[11]Memon, Mehreen. (2018, March 30). Effectiveness of Psychometric Testing in Recruitment Process.  Orgutsel Davranis. Retrieved from

[12] Adkins, Chris & Mohlenkamp, Maureen. (2018, April 9). Getting Ethics Trainings Right for Leaders and Employees. The Wall Street Journal.


Alia Ismail

Alia Ismail is a commercial mediator and the managing partner of IMS Ismail Mediation Services LLC. She is a nonlawyer mediator dedicated to cross-border commercial disputes. She possesses a consistent and successful track record for closing deals within the environmental health, financial services, and education industries. Alia holds a Master’s… MORE >

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