The Most Important (And Often-Overlooked) Tool for Conflict Resolution

The Most Important (And Often-Overlooked) Tool for Conflict Resolution


Isn't it frustrating when someone just won't listen to you? You've begged, reasoned, pleaded and things still aren't getting done the way you want them. You're the only one pulling your weight and you've had enough. So you call on a mediator. 

A quick fix?

The relief is immediate — finally you'll get things sorted. After months (or years!) of arguing, your husband, your partner, or whoever else has been raining on your parade for so long, will have to sort themselves out. In no time at all they'll be seeing things from your point of view. 

And sometimes it does work like that: lay out the issue, find a compromise, and make an agreement. Job done. Time to move on. 

It's not always so straightforward though. While you can put a short-term Band-Aid on a conflict, if you want real resolution, you may well have to go deeper.

Often, the dispute itself isn't the real issue; it's merely the symptom of an underlying problem.

Which means that as nice as it might sound to have someone from the outside come in and tell you what to do to resolve a dispute, you're only going to see real change if you treat it as an inside job. 

Let's imagine we have a couple going through a custody battle. She's Type A, a high-achiever; she knows how she wants things done. He's a bit more chilled out. She's stressed out trying to take care of all of the custody arrangements because she can't let go enough to trust him. And she should trust him because he's a great dad, he just doesn't do things the way she does. 

She believes Dad's easy-going attitude is the crux of the problem — and sure, that will need to be addressed — but to really solve the issue, Mom needs to explore her own control-related stuff. Otherwise they'll be right back to square one the next time this dynamic comes up. When it comes to conflict, it really does take two to tango, and two to set things right.

Yeah ... it can be a lot of work. But you don't have to do it by yourself.

You might decide to seek out counseling or therapy –– and if you do, fantastic, that's often a super-helpful choice –– or you might decide to address these issues at the mediation table. 

How a mediator can help:​ 

Maybe you need to explore the hidden reasons that have led to the point of conflict. Everyone has subconscious ideas and attachments that make them react to situations in certain ways. Sometimes these reactions speak to past trauma, or they're simply long-held habits that you've never thought to question. 

One of the first steps towards conflict resolution is to make a choice about how deep you want to go — sometimes the best course of action is to acknowledge that resolving the dispute is enough for now, that perhaps the underlying conflict is too painful to address. However, if you can bear to dig deeper, a mediator can often help facilitate the transformation. 

Together you can look further into what has motivated certain behaviors, the thought patterns behind them, and explore different ways to interpret and react to disputes.

Eventually you'll begin to view conflict differently.

This is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job: guiding people to view their conflict with a completely different mindset, helping them see the dispute almost as a separate "being", distinct from either party. And once you've reached this point we can begin to have really honest discussions about this separate "entity", "Mr. or Ms. Conflict", deciding calmly how we're going to deal with it, whether individually, collectively, at my table or with the help of other professionals.

A new approach.

Sometimes, adopting a new approach is actually enough to ensure conflicts don't reach the point where outside help is needed. If you can begin to think about conflict differently in your day-to-day lives, you can begin to deal with it differently. 

Conflict is rarely a simple matter with one clear cause. Rather it's the complex result of deeper issues on multiple sides. It's often rewarding to try to dig deeper into our inner selves, decoding our behavior patterns and analyzing our reactions to discover the real reasons driving our disputes. 

You have more control over your conflicts than you realize.

If you need help with conflict resolution, remember, I'm always here for you. Find out how I can help here.

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Sunday, 26 May 2019