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Conflict is inherent in human life. It is part of our gift of independent thinking. Conflict can be positive, when properly handled. But poorly handled conflict is disruptive at best and destructive at worst.
As an attorney, I deal with conflict daily. I like to tell my clients that I am a problem solver. In some instances, the resolution of problems can be accomplished employing certain time-honored methods of conflict resolution. When a prospective client first comes to my office, I listen to their recitation of the problem they are facing. Through discussion, we explore their attitude toward the event or events which concern them. We also try to explore the attitude of the other individuals involved. We discuss some absolutes, such as the law, the propensity of the court to view the problem is certain ways, and the possibility of addressing the problem directly with the other persons or their counsel. We then try to make “educated guesses” regarding the likelihood of the prospective client obtaining the exact results they desire. We also try to determine how we might resolve the matter, whether through a better understanding by the prospective client of the problem itself, through simple sending and receiving of letters, face to face mediation, or submission to the court for resolution.
As a mediator, I am able to meet with both sides of a conflict. We explore the problem in much the same way as I do with a prospective client, without my giving advice. Then we discuss possible resolution. All information gained in a mediation is confidential and all parties must agree not to that confidentiality. However, if a resolution is reached, each agrees in writing not to revisit the conflict, whether in discussion or in a court.
As a substitute Judge for 18 years, I was presented problems within a structured framework. In the General District Courts and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts in which I served, the rule of equity prevails. This gives the Judge the opportunity to “make things right”, while still observing the rules of evidence and procedure. Inherent in all three of these roles is the duty to listen and to understand both the problem and the individuals involved.
If you find yourself in the middle of a disagreement, decide what kind of help you need to resolve it. Talking with a lawyer to learn the law may help you determine whether you need to assert your “rights” by hiring the lawyer and taking the matter to court or whether it is a disagreement which can best be solved by talking through it with the help of a mediator. It may cost a few dollars to get some legal advice, but you should weigh the cost of a consultation against the pain of continuing to be angry and disconnected from your neighbor, friend or person with whom you’ve done business.
Much has been written about the best way to resolve conflict. Marriage counselors and family therapists devote much of their consultations to advice on how to bring persons to a common understand of problems and resolution of their differing approaches to them. In most instances, all advice revolves around one tool of human interaction – communication.
Below are some steps which are universally held to be necessary to properly resolve conflict.
1. Creation of an atmosphere of discussion which does not demean the other.
2. Identification of the problem at hand.
3. Shared expression of concerns regarding the problem.
4. Shared listening and understanding of the opposing party’s concerns.
5. Shared exploration of possible resolutions. (Also called expression of desired outcomes)
6. Attempts to understand how desired outcomes will affect each of the parties.
Just talking about a problem doesn’t do much good unless each of the persons involved will make an honest attempt to understand the others views, how they perceive the events or problem, and how they believe it should be solved. The word “dialogue” is frequently used by mediators and counselors. Dialogue means more than just repeating one’s own view over and over. It requires listening with an open heart and opening up ones self to the concerns of others. It does NOT require giving in for the sake of peace. It does NOT require adopting the other person’s view as one’s own. It does require finding words that express a perception of problem and resolution without denigrating the view of another. It does require finding an answer which will allow each to share in the resolution.
In a truly successful resolution process, there must be a desire to find common ground, a desire to truly understand, to respect the dignity of each other, and to find answers which will benefit everyone in our common enterprise.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Steve Goodier, a respected speaker and writer, recently wrote this wonderful story about decision making. It is equally applicable to conflict resolution.
COOL HEADS AND WARM HEARTS
If you’ve ever struggled making the right decision, you may appreciate this story:
A young man seemed to take an unusually long time to place his order at the flower shop. When the clerk asked how she could help, he explained that his girlfriend was turning 19 and he couldn’t decide whether to give her a dozen roses or 19 roses — one for each year of her life.
The woman put aside her business judgment and advised, “She may be your 19-year-old girlfriend now, but someday she could be your 50-year-old wife.”
The young man bought a dozen roses.
My wife Bev understands that logic. As part of our anniversary tradition, which usually includes an evening out and sometimes a night away from home, I also buy her a single rose.
I made that decision on wedding anniversary number one. But it wasn’t easy. My heart argued for giving her one rose the first anniversary, two roses on the second, and so forth. But my head argued that, in twenty or thirty years, a roomful of roses would not mean as much as something simpler — not to mention the cost! In the end, my heart and head reached a compromise.
So I buy the one special rose every wedding anniversary and then we treat ourselves to a wonderful and romantic evening away. Over the years, Bev has dried every anniversary rose and saved the petals in a decorative jar.
The roses helped teach me something about making decisions. Any kind of decision. I’ve discovered that good decisions are made with both my head and my heart. Together, cool heads and warm hearts can solve most any problem.
A cool head asks the hard questions. A cool head thinks it through. A cool head objectively weighs the options.
But a warm heart asks the tender questions. A warm heart considers feelings and relationships. A warm heart asks what feels right.
Making the right decision is often difficult. And it seems we never have enough information when we need to decide. But the best decisions are made from both a cool head and a warm heart. It usually takes both of them to get it right.\
Purchase Steve Goodier’s books and sign up for his free inspirational
newsletter at: http://LifeSupportSystem.com. Or call 877-344-0989.
Part of finding that right attitude is to imagine yourself in the position of mediator. Imagine the question being put to you. Then think about a mediator’s responsibility to “help the parties find their own resolution.” Sometimes the facts favor neither party in a dispute. Rather, the dispute is a product of the way each person views those facts. Have you ever encountered a person who said “That’s just the way I see it,” and truly felt that he or she had said the last word on the subject? We frequently close our minds to all except how we “see” or react to a situation. Our separate experiences lead us to evaluate and categorize events in light of our own views of the world. Letting go of that narrow view is required to truly listen to someone who has a differing perspective.