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Lawsuits and arbitrations often sort out disputes in their legal sense.

They rarely sort out disputes in a satisfactory personal, business or financial sense.

Anyone familiar with the litigation and arbitration process can tell you about how unsatisfactory the result was in most instances.

  • They cost a fortune.
  • Think of the legal fees.
  • Think of the administrative costs (court reporters, expert witnesses, transcripts, travel, and the value of company resources wasted in the process).
  • Think of how little you achieved compared to what you hoped to achieve.

A few people come out of the process glad that they did it. Many do not.

There are better ways to manage disputes. After fifty years of law practice, I have learned how to avoid them rather than embrace them. The difference is incredibly better.

In any business context people can begin to become unhappy with their relationship.

The reasons for that are almost endless. The buildup of every full blown dispute began substantially before it came to "lawyering up" and the end of it came long after.

A large part of the reason is that people naturally seek to avoid confrontation. They don't want to deal with it. It isn't high on anyone's list. And so in most instances it gets worse rather than better.

Positions are taken that are defensive in the confrontation sense - what if we come to blows kinds of things. People write things, memos, emails, instructions that make matters worse rather than better.

Months and sometimes years are spent in mutual distrust (to put it nicely) and people do all the wrong things, like send each other accusatory emails and far worse.

The value of whatever the relationship may have been intended to be in the beginning is lost, at least to one side of this, but it keeps on going, more weed than flower.

That's how conflict and dispute management usually works. Anyone in business for a long time has probably experienced some or all of this. Not everything we do works out the way we intended.

How can we change the way this is traditionally handled so that the length of its infectious presence is minimized and its cost greatly reduced?

Where do you begin in trying to answer the question whether to try this better way of conflict avoidance?

To begin, one truth needs to be recognized: Anger has a Value of Zero.

If you can convince yourself of the truth that anger has no value, and if you can see that earlier rather than later dispute avoidance effort holds significant potential for favorable results, we can begin to bring costly confrontations to less destructive conclusions more quickly.

At the point at which you are thinking of sending someone an accusatory email, you are about at the end of confrontation avoidance at reasonable economic cost. If you have just received an accusatory email, this is your last practical chance to step back from the brink.

Part of the war persona is the ancient battle boast - I am wonderful and you are terrible.

If someone made you read BEOWULF in high school or college then you know what that ritual is all about. This is a tipping point that people do not recognize. They think it is a beginning. It is way past the beginning. This problem began way before that email, and if you had recognized it well before that moment you might never be sending or receiving it.

When you think of all you spent after that email went out in your last "fight to the death", you will understand the savings of funds and resources associated with my approach.

There is a pigeonhole practice for dispute avoidance called Conciliatory Law Practice.

But, what I am suggesting is way beyond that, far from any touchy feely politically correct exercise. This is hardball played with intellectual acuity rather than with noise.

Specifically, there are always ways to derive valuations of potential conflict results. Among those valuations there is one or more that both you and your potential adversary can live with, no matter what the nature of the dispute. These valuations are not solely derived through accounting exercises.

Accounting is a numbers only game.

If you have ever seen this work you will never handle potential disputes in any other manner?

Can a completely unreasonable person refuse to participate as a matter of irrational obstinacy? Sure. Then you can always go back to wasting resources in all out confrontation with nothing lost by way of positions having been compromised. Is that likely to happen?

Probably not. I have seen very angry people awaken to the realization that this is the best way possible to deal with disagreement. It is how you find the leverage point that makes this work.

Often that requires some very outside the box thinking.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Dispute Resolution category.

Cooperation is the previous category.

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