Mediation – The Graceful Art of Restructuring Conflict
Conflict often seems to be an inevitable part of our lives – whether on the national scene, at the workplace or in our families. Frequently conflict will seem to sort itself out, usually with a compromise or even a capitulation of one person and while it rarely goes away, it can lie beneath the surface so that we forget its presence, at least until the next time conflict peeks out at us.
But what about the conflict that doesn’t go away? Maybe you’re dealing with an intractable fellow employee, who seems determined to destroy your reputation at the workplace. Perhaps your child or step-child is thwarting your every effort to parent competently. Or it could be that your partner in life has somehow changed, or maybe you have different goals now and it appears that your marriage is ending.
These types of conflicts can threaten our very well-being and may clash with our perspective of who we are and where we think we stand in the world. We become competitive and defensive. Our viewpoint narrows and hardens into concrete positions. We start to describe our lives as a series of episodes, where we are the wronged party, the victim, the helpless one. We no longer know which action to choose. We lose the capacity to resolve the conflict in our life.
The paradigm of mediation suits the resolution of these conflicts well because the mediator gently moves the participants away from firm positions and complaints into a discussion of goals, concerns, dreams and interests. This is the area that is rich with solutions because now we can discover areas of commonality and mutual understanding. When participants are invited to take a step back and to take a long view of the crisis, conflict can recede as options – not compromises – begin to present themselves.
The co-workers can agree that they each want to advance to positions of more responsibility and that the success of the company is important to them both. They can now move beyond mutual sabotage and plot a course built on their respective strengths and value to the company.
The parent and teenager can understand that independence is an important and necessary part of the teen experience, and can then set parameters that allow the teen to grow and stay safe. They can now move beyond broken curfews and increased punishments.
The divorcing couple can acknowledge that they each love the children, and are loved by them and that it is important to all that they each experience financial security. They can now move beyond blame and recrimination.
“I want to be financially secure” is so much easier to achieve than “I have to have the house.” “I want you to be safe” is easier to hear than “My house, my rules.” Now we have a host of options to explore because you have each defined your “win” more broadly.
These are not new ideas. As the mediator guides the participants through and past their positions into a deeper conversation, human nature allows participants to open up and see a different perspective. We all want success in our endeavors. Mediation allows us to expand our understanding and definition of success, and that makes it much more attainable.
A mediation is an affordable way to resolve conflict in your life, and a skilled, experienced mediator will demonstrate skills that the participants can take into their lives to manage future conflict.