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For weeks the battle raged. Democrats and Republicans were locked in a battle over budget cuts that ultimately would determine whether the United States Government would remain open for business. And there was President Barack Obama, stuck in the “middle” of the conflict. Both leaders – Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – seemed committed to their party’s position with no willingness to budge. In the end, both sides gave a little, as did the President, and a last-minute deal was reached to avoid a government shutdown.


  1. Review the rules for active listening. Using what you can glean from the article, did any party (Democrats, Republicans, the President) appear to engage in active listening? Given that this situation will occur again in the near future, what advice would you offer each side? Note: focus on communication issues and ignore the politics.
  2. Comment on President Obama’s decision to bring Rep. Boehner and Sen. Harry Reid to the White House for a series of face-to-face meetings. Was this an effective strategy? Was the choice of channel appropriate for this issue?
  3. What type(s) of conflict was/were present in this negotiation?
  4. Analyze how this conflict was resolved. First, identify the issues that both sides were seeking to satisfy. Next, evaluate the degree of assertiveness and cooperativeness displayed. Finally, determine the conflict style that led to an agreement. Defend your choice.
  5. What role did the President play in this negotiation? Would you characterize what he did as mediation?

SOURCE: P. Kane, P. Bacon, Jr., & D. A. Fahrenthold, “Budget Battle Came Down to 3 Men and Their Weaknesses,” Washington Post (Retrievable online at

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