The Difference between Settlement and Resolution

First published in

Have you ever "resolved" an issue, only to have it rear its ugly head months, even years later? I recently met with someone who was involved
with a past conflict, and found that the interaction triggered
unanticipated anger, hurt and other emotions. The relationship, which I
had tried to keep intact, had a tail of lingering bad feelings. Why
does this happen, when we have seemingly put all of the pieces in place
to have an issue wrapped up tight and put behind us? The reason comes
from the difference between settlement and resolution.

Settlement, especially in a litigation context, means that all elements are in
place to end a conflict. This may result in the payment of money, the
doing of tasks, or the ending of a lawsuit. What settlement sometimes
fails to address is the root cause of the conflict. Often, settlement
processes focus on getting to the "bottom line" of monies to be paid.
It is haggling, posturing and distributive bargaining.

Resolution comes from a place of healing--of letting go. It often requires that
we unearth what has caused the conflict in the first place, and then
dealing with it. Even in a pure commercial context, conflicts
frequently stems from anger between business people, misunderstandings
and broken relationships. When we start to talk about these issues, and
more importantly, listen to these issues, we can begin to really
resolve what has become between us.

So, how do we progress past settlement and towards resolution? Some tips include: 1. Express (read
"vent") your feelings about the impact a conflict has had on you to the
other side--a skilled mediator can help navigate these waters; 2.
Evaluate the source of your anger/frustration and try to figure out,
given your feelings, what solution would best work for you; 3. Listen
to the other side and see if you can gain insight into their perception
of the conflict; 4. Face up to your role in escalating the conflict and
realize that you might have some accountability in it; and 5. Don't
underestimate the impact of a well meaning apology Taking this
proverbial step into the danger can often lead to better resolution to
the issue at hand. So next time--before you just take the money, take a
step back and see whether you would rather settle or resolve the

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