Resolving Conflict for Future Generations

Bob Ensley

CRS Mediator, Atlanta Office

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

[Full Interview]


How did you help one party understand or accept the other party?


That's a very detailed process. You can't do it collectively, in a group, you've got to do it a person at a time or two people at a time. You try to get them to realize that their common objective is greater than their little personal differences. That they can do more together than they can using all their energy, time, and talents opposing one another. You try to get to the point where everybody in a community says, "Let's start trying to find a way that we can cooperatively address the problem." Just start with a few and then invite another person. Some people say, "No, as long as so-and-so is involved with them I won't come. You don't know that SOB, and you don't know what they've done to me, and done to my father. They've never been any good." I'll meet with them and say, "You know, never's a long time but can you imagine what's going to happen if you refuse to meet and what could result if you do meet? How much is doing nothing going to benefit those little boys and girls out here in the street today?" He said, "You know, you don't plant a tree today to enjoy the shade. You plant a tree where someone else will enjoy the shade. You are going to have to understand that. I said, "Can you really afford to be that selfish or that concerned about something that you didn't have any control over?" I said, "I'm not defending that person, you may be absolutely right. But I'm going to be here with you as long as that person is going to do what we all agreed to do. I'm not going to leave you."