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The two big mistakes people make in trying to get at the "truth" of a conflict


Imagine that you're overseeing a mediation between a couple who's getting a divorce. One person tells a story of being abandoned, painting a picture where their spouse is never there for them, behaves irresponsibly, and has clearly demonstrated that they don't want to be in the marriage any more.

The other spouse looks at them like they're crazy, and says that nothing like that has happened. From their point of view, the marriage just ran its course, and should be allowed to just dissolve.

How could two people come to the same situation with such totally different takes? Someone has to be lying, right?

Well ... maybe. And maybe not.

You see, everybody comes to a conflict with their own point of view on it. And while there are definitely facts in every case, there's a lot more room for contradictory accounts than you might think.

But people often fail to understand this –– or forget it in the heat of the moment –– and end up falling prey to two false premises.

False premise 1: "It's the mediator's job to decide what the truth is."

I see this one all the time –– two people will come in with two completely different takes on the same situation. They present their "cases" to me, each with lots of evidence for why they're right and why their take on the situation is the "truth". Then they expect me to side with one person or the other, and tell them both what the "right" take on the situation is.

False premise 2: "If I can convince the other person of my view, I'll get my way."

Sometimes people don't really care about convincing me one way or the other, but they really want the other person involved in the mediation to get on board with their account of things. They feel like if they could just convince the other person to agree with what they're saying, then they can get their way in the negotiation.

Both approaches miss the point of mediation entirely.

The point of mediation isn't to determine who is "right" or "wrong" in the situation, and it's not about creating a record of absolute truth. It's about creating a plan to move forward that's as much in the best interests of everyone involved as possible. And frankly, you don't need to know the "truth" of a situation to make that happen. You just need to be able to work together enough to figure out some next steps.

There's an old saying that goes, "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?"

In mediation, we might not always get to "happy", but we'll definitely work towards an effective outcome using the same underlying concept. And it's one I'd recommend you remember and using in your day to day life as well, whether you're in a conflict or not.

Because, in the end, we all have different perspectives. We all have different experiences. And if you predicate your happiness or ability to move forward on other people getting on board with your narrative of things, you've got a long wait coming.

As always, if you'd like help navigating any of life's conflicts, I'm here for you. Schedule an appointment today.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

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