“Why Can’t We Just Get Along?!” The Process Psychology of Arbitration and Mediation

Have you ever had someone in your life with whom you just couldn’t seem to get along? A family member, perhaps? Maybe a colleague? A customer, supplier, or client? All of us have had seemingly “conflict-laden” relationships, and those relationships can be the sources of some of our most painful stress. Sometimes these conflict-laden relationships can escalate into legal battles – for instance, when spouses seek divorce or when business partners decide to part ways.While both mediation and arbitration are processes designed to help people move past conflicts such as these, it’s important for us as ADR practitioners to remember that the ways by which these two processes deal with conflict have fundamentally different psychological consequences on our clients. In order to explore this distinction, it is helpful to first review how conflicts tend to develop.

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