The New York Times Metropolitan Diary on January 26, 2009 included a story about a parking dispute on a New York street. Two drivers vied for the same parking space, each part way in the space, one nose first and one backed in. Neither would give in and neither could convince the other to give up. A crowd gathered. Eventually an onlooker variously described as a “peacemaker” or a “mediator” inserted himself between the shouting drivers and spoke with them. Next he pulled a coin from his pocket, they made their calls, and the coin was tossed. The loser protested briefly, then drove away.
This simple story illustrates one of the basics in conflict resolution: neutrality. Although the dispute was not complicated or protracted, it needed resolution and the parties could not do it themselves. In this case, they needed little more than an impartial third-party and a fair process that favored no one. Fortunately, a level head and a coin were at hand.