Entrapment

Entrapment, means something much different in the world of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The legal term is basically setting someone up to commit a crime. The best example I can think of is the undercover female cop dresses up as a prostitute and makes the initial contact to potential ‘Johns’ and offering them services.

Entrapment in the ADR world is when a party, as an individual or group, feels they must continue down a certain path because they already have invested so much in this particular choice. Examples of the investment could be in the form of time, resources, or money.

Entrapment could be present in the early stages of a negotiation and also many times is a contributing factor to the escalation of a dispute or conflict. In the book Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis defines entrapment as,”a decision making process whereby individuals escalate their commitment to a previously chosen, though failing, course of action in order to justify or ‘make good on’ prior investments.”

Another way I like to explain the ADR version of entrapment is the party being guilty of having tunnel vision. All the party sees is one ‘route’ for them to take, which is the currently destructive one they are on. The best example is the person involved in litigation, and wanting to continue despite the costs rising, time lost preparing instead of being dedicating to other projects, and the decimating of what was once possibly a professional, multi-beneficial relationship with the other party.

Remember the kids show GI Joe, and the end of each episode they would give safety tips for children and end with “Knowing is half the battle.” I will not go into the whole issue of how our culture always seems to reference war, fighting and battles; that’s for a future blog post. The reference to the quote is great, now we know what entrapment is, now what? How do we help parties avoid it, and if they are unfortunately already imersed in it, move away from it?

Some quick tips are to assist the party to view the conflict not through the win-lose viewpoint or even the everyone loses stance. As I mentioned [here], zero-sum thinking is similar to the entrapment mindset in many ways. One, is emotions are heavily present and another is seeing things only on the level of positions. It is much easier to have that tunnel vision I mentioned when you think you have no other options.

This leads me to options. Expanding the choice of win-lose, lose-win, or lose-lose helps the party see there is a way out of what they see as the only choice. Brainstorming to create options involving both parties also helps breakdown the idea of battling against an adversary.

Before you even get to options, make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and tell their side of the story. Like I mentioned above, breaking down the idea of one option, talking together and listening together opens one’s mind to other choices and the potential consequences.

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis By Brockner & Rubin available [here] and I am sure many other places

Beyond Entractabilty reviewed the above book [here]

                        author

Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School… MORE >

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