Conflicts often involve a great deal of tension and emotion. This means it can be tough to think clearly and make smart decisions, even if you would usually be capable of acting reasonably. Conflict causes your high order mental processes to go haywire and cause you to have aggressive reactions that escalate a problem. The reason for this is feeling helpless and scared, but the outcome is a conflict that has spiraled out of control.
The good news is it is possible to regain control of the situation and gain traction in a dispute. Achieving a state of police assertiveness can turn a tense situation into one that is focused on problem solving. When people see you as someone who is quietly confident, their desire is more about pleasing you and winning your favor than it is about winning or overpowering you. One of the best ways to achieve this state is by identifying someone’s underlying needs by asking questions and staying focused on the main issue. These are things mediators try to do when working with disputing parties on resolving a problem.
What are some of the questions a mediator might ask to achieve this position of facilitator and make it easier for disputing parties to resolve an issue?
What was the event that started the conflict? Identifying when a person began to lose his or her faith in the other party can be very effective for moving a dispute forward. It can also help to identify if the problem in one person’s view is not the same as the other.
What are your deepest values and/or priorities? For instance, does one party value time while the other values money? Is one person looking for a strong bond that comes through honesty while the other just wants to avoid an argument, even if it means a shallower connection? Does someone value creativity while the other one value competency? Identifying priorities can help you determine each person’s point of view and can help you help each person understand themselves and their dispute partner better.
Are there things you already agree on? Most of the time this is the case in a dispute – there is already some common ground. What is the strongest disagreement? It can help to address this first or to get a few smaller wins before conquering the biggest hurdle.
If an agreement is not possible, what comes next? One of the most powerful tools a mediator has is the knowledge of what follows a failed mediation. Sometimes explaining this to disputing parties is enough to push them into being more open-minded about negotiations.
What is your role in the conflict? How would you describe the other person’s role? These descriptions can clarify a lot about perception and help parties figure out where they stand.
Remember, everyone involved in a dispute is already feeling insecure or anxious. Boosting their confidence and giving them traction can make it easier to resolve the matter. Allowing one or both parties to resort to bullying or arrogance throws everything off course and undermines the ultimate goal of mediation.