Mnookin proposes a process to help structure decision making in emotionally charged conflict situations. Making a good choice involves solving three problems: 1) avoiding the emotional traps that can lead to a knee-jerk reaction, 2) analyzing the costs and benefits of alternatives and 3) addressing the moral and ethical issues that arise, and they inevitably do, posing a challenge in a situation where a cost-benefit analysis suggests a course of action that is morally repugnant. Not that there are easy answers to this dilemma. Just how much of a challenge this conflict of heart vs. mind poses to a decision maker is shown in the first case study of Anatoly Sharanski, the Soviet dissident; but the theme is interwoven through the remaining seven cases. Mnookin offers a structured way to think about these problems and excavates the decision process by the parties in his case studies but there are no easy answers and Mnookin, like any good teacher, offers us the tools and the examination of the possibilities of their use – choices are in the end our own.
When we are caught between the demands of pragmatism and principle,” he writes, “what we really need to ask ourselves is, To what extent should we look backward and to what extent should we focus on the future? There's often an inescapable tension between achieving justice for past wrongs and the need for resolution. It is another aspect of the Faustian bargain," Mnookin continues. "If you want to resolve the conflict and move forward, you may have to give the devil something you feel he doesn't deserve. This is a bitter pill to swallow.”
Should you bargain with a “devil?” Monnkin's response would be, “Not always, but more often than you feel like it.”