The Rapoport Intervention–Try It!

18 Dec

So, you may be wondering about the title of this post–who the heck is Rapoport and what is his intervention?

Well, let me tell you!

Anatol Rapoport was an early 20th century mathematical psychologist who came up with the idea that, during conflict, people will see the other party as dis-similar to them and tend to see themselves as having all the positive history, traits, and qualities. At the same time, people will see the other person as having very few of these qualities–and having several negative qualities, too.images

Basically, he said this: We are programmed to believe we are “all” good in a conflict, and the other person is “all” bad.

You can see how this would be a problem during conflict!

So, Rapoport suggests two things: When we identify a negative quality in our adversary, we try to see that very quality in ourselves. And, when we identify a positive quality in ourselves, we should try to see that very quality in our adversary.

I can see how this would be helpful in mediation–most parties are often blinded by the conflict and can’t identify positive qualities in the other party. Instead, they are focused on only the negative. So, what if we turned things around and asked each side to identify positive qualities in the other–and identify negative qualities in the self?

I imagine this would throw things off a bit–in a good way–and force both parties to really understand the other party’s point of view. After all, if the other person isn’t “all” bad, then, maybe, he has a point!

I use this all the time in couples therapy, and I think it has applications outside the therapy room. So, go ahead, try it–and see if you do it in your own life, too!




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