Peace does have a price. The degree of peace we have experienced on our own soil as a country was paid for with the lives of soldiers in foreign battle fields. I do not mean to belittle the terrorist attacks that have occurred here, but in comparison to most other counries, we has seen relatively little carnage in our homeland.
Just like on the macro scale of war, peace on the micro scale of interpesonal relationshp bears a cost as well. From my vantage point as a lawyer who has served as counsel both to families and for businesses, many are unaware of cost of peace or, more importantly, the value of peace. I suggest that we paid the high cost of peace because the cost of war coming to us here at home was far greater.
One way of looking at mediation is that it is bringing the much higher future costs of conflict into the present so that people can pay the lower cost for peace. Another way of expressing this is when people (or organizations) recognize long-term consequences of unresolved conflict, then they become willing to give up positions and begin to reach resolutions.
A simple, yet effective technique in helping this recognition along is “playing it forward”. When a mediator finds a party entrenched on a particular position, they can take them aside and ask them what this conflict will look like a year, two years, and five years down the road. In other words, what price will their position cost. It is using imagination to fast forward the movie of their life to later, worst case scenes. If they are willing to pay the price they imagine, then one needs to go on to other issues.
Most likely, though, the person has been so target locked onto this one position, that they really have not considered the long-term cost. At this point, the mediator can move from the position to the underlying issue. That is where creative ideas can come in that cost far less than what they just saw in the alternate future.
A classic example of this in the family law realm is when parents litigate over timeshare of their young children. Each party is understandable driven by the prospect of losing out on precious moments. But, when the matter is played forward and they imagine life with teenagers, then the parents can begin to look for other ways to keep one another in the loop on milestone events.
This technique is simple enough that anyone can add it to their conflict resolution arsenal. The next time you find yourself locked into a battle with another person, take a breath and play the movie forward. What does that battlefield look like at the end?