Darrell Puls is an adjunct professor of conflict management at Trinity Theological Seminary and private practice mediator, trainer, and writer living in Kennewick, Washington. He holds a doctorate in conflict management, specializes in organizational and church conflict resolution, and has worked in the conflict management field since 1976.
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Scorched Earth Clients: Mediating with High Conflict People
You have met them if you have been mediating for any length of time: High Conflict People.
Truth Distortions In Interpersonal And Organizational Conflict
It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war. In reality, factual truth is the first casualty of almost every conflict. A general rule to follow is that narrative truth stories birthed in conflict are rarely, if ever, completely factual, whether told by individuals or organizations.
A Question Of Ethics
More and more frequently I hear complaints about mediators who tell their clients what is or is not acceptable, particularly for settlements in divorce cases. So much for self-determination and impartiality!
Leaving Borderland – Expanding The Frontiers Of Restorative Justice
An ever increasing body of evidence strongly suggests a “third way” alternative to litigation that often stops litigation before it is filed. It starts with answering this rather complex question, “What if we just told the truth – all of it, without defense, without excuse, without blame, took responsibility for the consequences, were transparent in all of it, and offered to make things right?” I argue along with others that this complex question goes well beyond the realm of conventional thought and into the more fluid and nuanced world of restorative justice.
A Riposte to Robert Benjamin’s Parry
I found Robert Benjamin’s article (Obama: Reflections of a Hard Core Negotiator) intriguing. I have met Mr. Benjamin, talked with him, read his work, and heard him speak. He is a very likeable guy, so I dove into the article with enthusiasm. That enthusiasm waned the farther in I got, however. In particular, I found myself increasingly disappointed by his weary-sounding observations as a “seasoned” and “guerilla” negotiator, particularly in referring to Barack Obama, where Mr. Benjamin declares that his “reflexive pragmatism makes him cringe at that idealism.” I hope Mr. Benjamin is right that he is simply over-reacting to the demise of his marriage, for this article seems out of character. In fact, I can’t tell if he is being sardonic, sarcastic, or cynical. For the sake of discussion, I will assume it is all three, though I am not at all certain which part is which!
Where Settlements Cannot Go – Towards a Praxis of Reconciliation in Group Conflicts (Part 6 of 6)
We have now reached the final installment of our investigation into the underlying dynamics that promote forgiveness and reconciliation following large group conflict. Each step first focused inward and away from the conflict to find the seeds that must be planted and grown to move on. It stands conventional conflict resolution practice on its head by not only standing in between the warring parties, but turning them away from the conflict before again turning towards each other in a process that starts out tightly controlled but becomes more fluid and unpredictable as it goes. The process and facilitators are not neutral, and this is not mediation in the conventional sense; it is a voluntary process to help those wounded by conflict restore their relationships torn apart in the heat and confusion of battle. It is intended and designed to move groups of people who desire it to forgive for their own benefit, and reconcile should they choose to do so.
Where Settlements Cannot Go – Towards a Praxis of Reconciliation in Group Conflicts (Part 5 of 6)
We have now seen the first three steps of the process of bringing groups wounded from conflict back into relational closeness. The first two steps, turning and remembering, were tightly controlled. The third step, understanding, was also controlled, but less stringently so. Each step has been marked by inward reflection and outward action. The last two steps follow the same pattern of reflection and action, but are increasingly fluid and less well-defined.
Where Settlements Cannot Go – Towards a Praxis of Reconciliation in Group Conflicts (Part 4 of 6)
This series of articles describes the underlying empirical dynamics that assist large groups in reconciling following conflict using a process hallmarked by the acrostic TRUTH. The goal of the process is to assist groups that wish to heal and reconstitute relationships torn by organizational or community conflict by helping them overcome specific barriers to forgiveness. Part 1 examined why settlements fail to resolve conflict, defined forgiveness and dispelled several myths and misunderstandings regarding forgiveness and reconciliation. Part 2 looked at the necessity of Turning inward to find our own contributions to the conflict. Part 3 examined and described the necessity of Remembering what each had done that may have contributed to the conflict, and moves one from passive acceptance of those actions to active acknowledgement through the simple truth statements of confession. In Part 4 we will examine the single most powerful layer of the continuum, what I have termed Understanding.
Where Settlements Cannot Go – Towards a Praxis of Reconciliation in Group Conflicts (Part 3 of 6)
In Part 2, Turning, we examined the foundations for the first layer of a large-group forgiveness and reconciliation process. In it, we redirected the clients thinking from self-centered suffering to the universal suffering of the group. In doing so, they became more aware that they have within each of them both victimhood and predatory behavior. The common unifier was their shared pain, which served as a bridge across the chasms of conflict in creating a sense of shared sorrow, but also shared hope. They have begun to lower the barriers between them, though not very much. In peering over the barriers, they begin to see once again not only the shields of the other side, but the human beings behind them. They still fear each other, and their anger is still their primary motivating force.
Where Settlements Cannot Go – Towards a Praxis of Reconciliation in Group Conflicts (Part 2 of 6)
To reiterate, my primary interest is in finding true resolution to organizational and community conflict and the reconciliation of conflict-damaged relationships. The empirical data led me to conclude that large-scale reconciliation (the healing of pre-existing relationships damaged by conflict) cannot occur without forgiveness. Though forgiveness happens on an individual level, my quest was to find a process to encourage forgiveness and reconciliation on a large scale. While my work focuses primarily on churches and other religious organizations, the empirical data strongly suggest that my findings are also applicable to secular institutions. This series is a result.
Where Settlements Cannot Go – Towards a Praxis of Reconciliation in Group Conflicts (Part 1 of 6)
It is always difficult to admit that what one is doing is often insufficient, but this is that admission. After 30 years in the field of conflict management, including 16 years as a mediator, I have come to believe that conflict in ongoing relationships cannot be managed—it must be completely resolved or it will live on and reconstitute itself with greater destructive energy than before. Like most mediators, I have seen many conflicts where relationships fairly begged to be healed but have not known how to help the parties get there. Nowhere is this more true than in those conflicts where there is an ongoing relationship. Where I once considered getting a settlement to be the measure of success, I have now reversed myself and believe that stopping with settlement is sometimes the measure of failure. Let me explain.
Apology: More Power Than We Think
Mediators too often focus on settlement as dispositive of the conflict rather than merely as the issues coming out of the conflict. They often recognize that the relationship needs repair, but do not know how to help the clients get there. Appropriate levels of apology can break logjams. Unfortunately, apology in mediation is underrated because mediators do not understand the four levels of apology and are not trained in the art of helping people apologize.
Should We Negotiate With Terrorists – A Counterpoint
Washington Mediation Association President Cris Currie writes on the Mediate.com website that we should be willing to negotiate with all, including terrorists. I bring a different perspective to this discourse, and I differ with Mr. Currie.