Profound New Insights on Conflict and Client Psychology

As a kid I used to enjoy looking through glasses of water at the objects beyond because, depending upon the shape of the glass or the flow of the water, the images became distorted, bent, and often produced some pretty funny results. What I didn’t realize at the time was that with or without a glass in front of me, I always had a “looking glass” through which I saw the world. We all have one, and a mediator’s ability to interact with the psychologically-based “looking glasses” of clients and counsel can often spell the difference between impasse and settlement.Luckily for mediators, the fields of social cognitive psychology and neuropsychology have made great strides in the past few years. Our understanding of how the human brain processes differently in conflict situations has greatly expanded during this time. But, unfortunately many mediators do not seem to have taken heed of these powerful discoveries, let alone tried applying them in practice. What I will do in this article is go back-and-forth between discussing the psychology of clients’ looking glasses, and identify three ways in which we as mediators can interact with that psychology. While my goal for this short piece is to focus on only three of the most commonly applicable examples of looking glasses in action, my discussion is really only the tip of the iceberg. I encourage any reader wishing to explore more deeply to peruse the “psychology” section of ADR Times, and to contact me directly at zach@adrtimes.com.

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