As a parent or at work, you’ll probably be called upon to mediate a dispute at some point in your life. You require diplomatic skills even if you won’t need to use them to negotiate international peace or halt a government shutdown. Skillful intervention works for settling which child gets to sit in the front seat or how to keep the office break room clean.
It’s challenging to step into the middle of a disagreement, but it can also be rewarding if you can facilitate a solution. Implement these suggestions to mediate conflicts and enhance communications.
Benefits of Mediation
1. Break through impasses. Sometimes people are unable to work things out on their own. Mediation offers outside assistance that can help them make progress.
2. Empower participants. While the mediator facilitates the discussion, the participants get to express their views and propose solutions. Everyone benefits from talking, listening, and taking part in the remedy.
3. Foster connections. Studies show that even though we try to avoid those we find irritating, we tend to like them better if we spend some time with them. Mediation puts disputants in the same room.
Gathering Information through Mediation
1. Bring those who are arguing together. Sit down with both parties at the same time. Separate meetings can create suspicions and misunderstandings, especially when there are already underlying tensions.
2. Establish ground rules. Let everyone know the expectations. State the purpose of the meeting. Explain that they each will be given time to tell their side of the story.
3. Be neutral. Take an objective stance. Listen with an open mind. Avoid leading questions and try to let the disputants do most of the talking.
4. Ask people to speak directly to you. If you’ve ever watched court TV shows, you know the judge tells people to talk to them rather than to each other. In fact, you may want to arrange your chairs much like a courtroom with both people facing you.
5. Focus on one issue. Stay on topic. Deal with one issue at a time.
6. Describe specific behavior. While it’s valuable for the involved parties to express their feelings, facts help to clarify the process. If your child says their older brother was mean to them, you need to know if they were locked in a closet or just sent to bed on time.
Taking Action through Mediation
1. Summarize the information. Review and repeat the information given by each party. Ensure you’re all on the same page.
2. Identify shared interests. Take a moment to think about the goals you all have in common. Maybe you want to gain a new customer or meet a tight deadline.
3. Ask for suggestions. Now is the time for each person to talk about what they want to see happen. Encourage them to have a discussion with each other and find areas where they are willing to compromise.
4. Write out a plan of action. When you reach a decision on what you’re going to do, put it in writing. It will help the disputants remember exactly what they agreed to. A written document also provides a sense of formality that motivates people to live up to what they promised.
5. Follow up. Even the most successful mediation sessions may need reinforcement. Schedule a time to get back together for a full review. You may need to make adjustments. On the other hand, you may want to use your follow up meeting to reward everyone for doing a great job.
Every conflict provides an opportunity to make positive changes. Discover the satisfaction of using mediation to achieve greater cooperation at home and work.