My first and maybe not last op/ed.
Divorce-style mediation might have a place in political disputes Walter Marcus Special To The Arizona Daily Star
Listening to the Republicans and Democrats of the supercommittee blaming each other instead of problem-solving sounds eerily is like listening to parties to a divorce.
As a mediator who has successfully mediated hundreds of cases, I believe that legislative disputes can be resolved (or at least improved) by using the tools of facilitative mediation.
Here’s how I would approach “the case”: With everyone present in one room, each side would designate a spokesperson. After reviewing the mediation process and ground rules (respectful listening, no interruptions, no threats, no ultimatums, confidentiality) the first agreement from both sides would need to be that information from the mediation process would not be used in the future.
The process then begins with each side providing the factual basis for their interest. The process cannot proceed until the parties agree on the underlying facts. The supercommittee never agreed on the underlying facts, which doomed the process.
The process continues with the parties articulating their goals. It is essential that the real interest come out. In the supercommittee case, it would appear that the real interest is for each side to win the next election. If the real interest is winning the next election, each party must be convinced that the resolution won’t hurt them at the polls.
With all this on the table, we get to the tough part of the mediation – getting the parties to brainstorm, think outside the box and come up with a win-win solutions. Ironically, a solution endorsed by both sides and an agreement not to use it as a club in the next election could be one path toward a resolution.
Mediation is not a silver bullet, but it can be an effective process and just might work. Often it happens in mediation that the parties learn to communicate better without a mediator and so strengthen relationships, which helps with the inevitable future conflicts. Why not give it a try?
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