There are four ways to resolve disputes — legal disputes at least.
First, there is good ‘ol hagglin’ or, dressed up a bit, negotiation. Haggling or negotiating are pretty much the same thing. One way to think of negotiation is as conducting a business transaction. It is to deal with another person in the same sort of give-and-take way as a purchase and sale. It is to bargain or trade with another, to enter into an agreement, bargain, or compact.
A little horse trading is often the best way to resolve a dispute. It is usually the cheapest, the most straightforward, lets the least bloodshed, and, at least in theory, can come to a resolution quickly. Everyone is familiar with the push-and-pull of negotiating a good deal, and the principles apply to law as well.
If negotiation fails, the next step up the legal ladder may be mediation which is a process whereby a neutral — most commonly a retired judge or experienced attorney — will try and help guide the parties locked in a dispute to a mutually acceptable (if not always fully satisfying) resolution.
The secret sauce of mediation is that the neutral — the mediator — cannot compel any particular result. It is up to the parties themselves to reach an accord. What the experienced hand of the mediator does is man the tiller of the dispute, tacking first this way and then that in hopes of bringing the parties to their own resolution. More times than not, if both parties are earnest in their desire to lay down the arms of their dispute, mediation has a successful outcome, the differences between the parties can be bridged, the agreement can be reached, and the whole mess can be put to bed.
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