The Hatfields and the McCoys

On December 9, 2007, the New York Times published an article titled, “No, We Don’t Want to Kiss and Make Up” by Abby Goodnough. The article explored conflicts that take the form of long-running grudges and feuds. These disputes can plague families, and business, professional, or academic rivals for decades.

The article cites the famous feud between the families of the Hatfields and the McCoys: public, violent, and lengthy. The clans fought in Appalachia in the late 1880’s about land, intermarriage, and a hog. This bitter conflict featured kidnappings, arson, murders, trials, and executions.

In 2003, eighty members of the two families signed a truce, drafted by businessman Reo Hatfield. The article quotes him as saying: “Our hostilities were based on real-life disputes over land and politics. We were both good families; we were just conflicted.”

Mr. Hatfield succinctly sums up an important concept: even “good” families can find themselves in conflict. Unfortunately, individual members of a family can find it hard to accept that they are in conflict because they believe (mistakenly) that a “good” family would never find itself in such a position. That denial leads, in turn, to an inability to take positive action to resolve the conflict. It would be better to reflect on Mr. Hatfield’s wisdom; even a McCoy could agree.

Posted in Basics of Mediation and Conflict, Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

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