One of the most valuable benefits to mediating a conflict is that the parties have the opportunity to not only resolve their dispute, but also to both preserve and enhance their relationship. Conflict, handled poorly, can destroy future collaboration. Handled well, parties can repair their relationship and reap the benefits of future collaboration.
Who might benefit from this process?
- Divorced parents who must collaborate to raise their children but are unable to communicate effectively; or
- Co-workers that experience conflict in the workplace; or
- A business engaged in a commercial dispute with a customer or supplier.
Each of these situations has the same dynamic. That is, that the continued success of each individual or organization is dependent upon present and future collaboration with the other. In the above scenarios, if the parties are unable to collaborate,
- children suffer from the ongoing conflict of their parents, or
- the workplace becomes inefficient because of the disruption caused by a conflict, or
- businesses suffer the consequences of the loss of an important customer or supplier.
The question begged by this article is whether it is better to resolve your conflicts in an adversarial and potentially destructive manner that further compromises your relationship or, in the alternative, whether it be better to resolve the conflict in such a way that not only resolves the dispute, it also enhances the relationship between the parties?
Obviously, the latter is always superior to the former, and there is a process that is, by its very nature, designed to achieve this result: Mediation. Rather than engage in lengthy and expensive adversarial court proceedings that pit the parties against one another, mediation, by its very nature, is designed to help parties work together to find common ground.
The approach is to create a safe, collaborative environment where both parties co-create a mutually acceptable solution. The process is based on the following concepts:
- The mediator provides a safe, comfortable environment conducive to the exchange of ideas; and
- The mediator promotes meaningful dialogue rather than allowing the parties to engage in unproductive debate; and
- Facilitating this dialogue allows the parties to seek understanding; and
- Understanding, by its very nature, creates trust; and
- Once trust and understanding are achieved, the parties are free to explore their own, mutually acceptable outcomes.
- The process is focused on what is possible and how to implement it rather than dwelling on the past; and
- It promotes notions of fundamental fairness, creativity, flexibility, and innovation; and
- The parties create their own outcome, rather than have one imposed upon them.
In my 27 years as a mediator, I can attest that those who go through this process have a much better chance of future collaboration than those who engage in adversarial proceedings. Trusting parents work more closely to ensure that their children get everything that they need, co-workers work more efficiently in a harmonious workplace, and businesses preserve relationships important to their success.