I recently read High Conflict by Amanda Ripley. As is often when I read about mediation, she gives labels and organization to concepts I am already familiar with. She does this with case studies she organizes by concept and not by each case.
There is “good conflict or healthy conflict” which is friction that can be serious and intense but leads somewhere useful. There is “high conflict” that becomes self-perpetuating and all consuming, in which almost everyone ends up worse off.
She states that you must know the “understory.” The thing the conflict is really about instead of the “crock pot” or the issue a conflict appears to be about on the surface, when it really is about something else. I have often found that in mediation I have resolved the “crock pot” instead of the “understory.” She warns of the danger of the “power of the binary” which is the reduction of realities or choices in just two. While meditating I caution couples not to see everything as black or white but look for the gray. If each party labels themselves as good and the other party as bad, it makes it difficult to get beyond the labels. It leads to what she calls the “conflict trap,” which pulls people in despite their own best interests. Is a characteristic of high conflict. She notes how conflict is exacerbated by “conflict entrepreneurs” who intentionally or unintentionally exploit high conflict for their own ends and “fire starters” which are accelerants that lead conflict to explode in violence, including group identities , humiliation and corruption.
She suggests a few ways to get out of or avoid the “conflict trap.” One is to find the “fourth way” which is more satisfying than running away, fighting or staying silent, the three usual paths. Another is to investigate the understory, reduce the binary, marginalize the fire starters, buy time and make space, and complicate the narrative.
Illusion of communications. She says the “the biggest problem in communications is the illusion that it has taken place.
These are all good things to know when mediating.
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