Dispute Resolution’s Hardest Cases

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Dispute resolution is difficult enough when there are two parties willing to get a conclusion, but when one or both are adamant that they are totally right and that only the other party bends, then such resolution is almost never successful.

Recently this author had a case where both parties were way apart, yet both seemed reasonable in their demands of the other side. Of course there were almost no documents of what the contract should have been, and the only contract was in the minds of the two parties. That was a blend for disaster.

The trouble with this is that both felt they were right and in their own minds, they were. This is the purpose of the contract, drawings, and specifications and so on before the work being commenced. When one or both parties are relying on their minds to work out what they have as a fulfillment of the contract, it opens the door to all kind of misemotion, delusion and fakery.

Misemotion is often the result of what has happened before the current situation at hand. The mediator has to wade through this. You can see it in the person in front of you. How often have you seen a person get angry over money, for example? Plenty, I am sure. Often it is from an earlier upset.

Then ask yourself how much truth gets put out by an angry man? Not a lot is the answer. This is where the delusion comes in. When people are upset they will believe things happened to them that did not. It is simply delusion and the mediator must wade through this also, while knowing this is all part of being human.

And then the last part can kick in. If someone has had something bad happen to them, they might invent some evidence of something that supports their case. This can happen if the person truly believes his side of the dispute and there is no evidence to support their case.

There seems a need to be right by people. In this case, where a person seems to be stating he is right, perhaps the correct procedure is to allow him to be right, while giving him the facts. Often, if you tell a parson they are wrong, they will become your bitter enemies and the dispute will never get handled. This is not looking to placate the person as such, but allowing him to be right on what he is stating.

A philosophy that can help the mediator is when you adopt the concept that there is never a one hundred percent correct solution and the same for incorrect. Every decision is based on percentages of grey. Thus you can adopt that everyone is right to a degree, and of course wrong to a degree. Just some are more or less along the scale than others. This helps the mediator get to the end of the dispute with his own sanity intact.

If you understand all the above you can help your clients more to resolve their conflicts.

Nick Broadhurst is the author of science fiction books, children’s picture books, and comics. He also writes articles on contemporary philosophy. For a living he is an architect, building contractor, building inspector, and worked in many countries.


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