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Conflicts can arise in almost every human activity, not only in marriages. Neighbors can disagree about everything from how loudly they play their music at night to whether or not their neighbor’s pets may use their property as a canine comfort station. Parents and children, tenants and landlords, teachers and pupils, employers and employees, workers and supervisors are among the relationships famous for allowing small misunderstandings to swell into major confrontations. The list goes on and on.

Why is it so hard to resolve these types of disputes? Why do so many of them start with finger-pointing and end with permanently damaged relationships? Why are “hot topics” so difficult to deal with rationally? The missing ingredient in these failed attempts is the ability to understand the other person. Call that “empathy.” To reach an lasting agreement, we must know not only what the other side believes, but also why it does. And then, not only must we understand the other person’s point of view, but the other person must know that we do.

Trying to convince the other side that we are right, without acknowledging the sincerity of their beliefs, never mends the broken fence. Without empathy, we are left talking to ourselves.

My work with sparring – even warring – opponents begins with the basics of conflict resolution:

  1. Separating the people from the problem;
  2. Uncovering each side’s interests, both their individual and shared interests;
  3. Using those interests to brainstorm ideas that can lead to a resolution
  4. Emphasizing the goal of a win-win outcome: no big winners, no big losers.

If you’ve been wrestling with a family, neighbor or other interpersonal problem that seems to have no solution, consider the benefits that mediation can offer. I’ll be happy to speak with you by phone, or via e-mail. There is no obligation and no cost for the consultation. Gather as much information as you need before making a decision.

Thank you for spending this time with me.



Harold Brienes

You can reach me at 203-372-9055, or via e-mail at