How many Facebook friends do you have? 200? 500? 1,000? Now, how many “real” friends do you have? Cornell researchers found that we have an average of two confidants. Two. We run the same risk in our professional lives: email, instant messages, texts…all of this makes it easier to communicate – but also harder. Face-to-face communication is not obsolete; in fact, it is, in many ways, more important than ever.
Mediation is not an adversarial process. It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, us vs. them. It is a process by which both parties can work to discover their own solutions. A mediator is not an advocate. He/she does not argue the facts for one side or the other; and he/she doesn’t provide legal advice. But what does this mean in terms of the mediation agreement or contract? Can mediators write these agreements?
Psychologist and philosopher William James said, “Whenever two people meet there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other sees him, and each man as he really is.” This makes for a crowded negotiation table. When handling conflict, the issue at hand is only part of the issue.
There are different styles of conflict coaches and different styles of conflict coaching. When choosing a conflict coach, you have to be sure their style and approach melds with your needs.
The thing about finding a conflict coach is that you cannot be sure it’s the right fit until you give someone a try. When you have an issue and think you would benefit from coaching, it requires a bit of a shot in the dark. That’s not to say you are completely blind: you will have a sense of this person’s experience, credentials, and background even before meeting with him/her, thanks to the internet. Before you hire a conflict coach you should speak to the living, breathing person and ask him or her these 4 important questions:
In mediation, negotiation, and conflict coaching, you run into a wide range of emotions; well, maybe not so wide. People are typically upset, angry, frustrated, and confused. These are relatively temporary emotions based on the situation in which they find themselves. But we also have, according to Dr. Richard Davidson, author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, emotional styles that are part of our ingrained personalities. These are not transient, but rather part of who we are. They can also be modified according to Dr. Davidson.
Sometimes it seems like we could use conflict coaching everyday and twice on Mondays! But the point of conflict coaching is to help you develop the skills to handle disputes and disagreements on your own, regardless of the specific circumstances. Having the know-how and support to get you headed in the right direction can make a tremendous difference. There are, though, situations in which coaching is invaluable regardless of how skilled one is… These include:
“I’ll see you in court!” We imagine that, if we said this, we would then march right into a scene from A Few Good Men and deliver a stirring speech, before we are vindicated. You can handle the truth; you will prevail. If they made movies about what really goes on in court, though, no one would ever go near a theater or a television again. If you are counting on the swift arm of justice to swoop in and set the matter right (“right” for you, that is), you might be disappointed.
Conflict coaching is not therapy; it is not like talking with a friend and receiving advice that you may not need or want. Coaching is intensive; it’s targeted; and it’s focused. The method will unlock your thinking on key issues, interests, and goals and help develop new, more effective, strategies.
The youngest infants are able to communicate their needs and wants – for food, for comfort, for warmth. And they do so quite effectively! Ironically, that as our ability to express ourselves increases, so too does the chance of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The purpose of communication is to relay our message to another person clearly and unambiguously. Babies are wonderful at this; when they scream and suck at their hand, we know just what they’re “talking” about. It’s the adults that have problems; the process of communication is often muddled, interrupted, or obscured, and this can lead to conflict. It can feel like one big session of that game we played as kids – Broken Telephone.
Say you need to purchase materials for your business from a supplier; it’s an emergency – you needed these supplies yesterday, and you cannot wait for tomorrow. When you go to the supplier, he sees that you are in trouble. And seeing this, he knows he can charge you a premium for the materials. Now, what if, instead, you went to three or four suppliers who could meet your needs and budget? When the first supplier knows this, suddenly he is a lot more reasonable in his prices.