By the time most people who are fighting reach the point of filing a lawsuit, the underlying dispute has festered for some time. During that time, the insult of the initial offense or harm is compounded by additional harm: passive aggression, overt snubs, sneaky sabotage, damaged reputations, lost productivity, even physical illness.
Despite the emotional and material harms that often arise from a dispute, most people would rather not even acknowledge the dispute at all! Early on, it seems easier to just ignore the situation, to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist even when it involves harmful behavior and negative consequences for everyone involved. Like a young child who believes that if he covers his eyes, everyone else disappears, most people turn a blind eye to the issues, hoping that the dispute will go away by itself.
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Conflict does not go away by itself. Like a metastasizing cancer left untreated, it only festers and grows, slowly destroying those it infects. The people involved might even forget what started the fight but the anger remains, like a growing tumor, causing emotional pain, material harm, and sapping energy from the ones who suffer from it. The conflict becomes a subconscious yet ever-present source of misery.
Avoiding conflict is an entrenched facet of American culture. In fact, when I was choosing a name for my practice, several friends warned me not to use the word “Conflict” in the title. They were concerned that using the word would turn people off. I complied. But I sincerely hope that our collective attitude toward conflict will change.
Why not address conflict from the beginning, when it is most manageable? We are told that getting to a medical professional early on during an illness helps to ensure a quicker and more successful recovery. It just makes sense. Getting to a conflict specialist can do the same for people in dispute.
The conventional methods of dealing with conflict usually are very uncomfortable for the average person. Litigation and other adversarial processes like grievance hearings often feel like going to the dentist in the days of old when the process of removing an abscessed tooth felt more painful than the abscess itself. Today there are a variety of options for dentists and their patients to make a visit a less painful experience. Mediation can also address the process of getting relief from the burdens of a dispute so that the experience of resolving the dispute is not as damaging as the dispute itself.
Contact a mediator to learn more about the process. Or write to me. I’d be happy to talk with you about what mediation can do for you.