Mediation Services: Rising Above the Conflict

Mediation Services

Mediation Services: Rising Above

“Taking the high road”, “Stand on the balcony”, there are many other common metaphors.  With mediation services, all these expressions have the same meaning.  In order to resolve conflicts, don’t get dragged down into the game of blaming, accusing, threatening or other common tactics of conflict.  These only cause resentment and increase levels of anger.  They do nothing to help resolve the issue(s).  In fact, they only serve to deepen and lengthen the conflict.  Effective mediation services helps to “take the high road”, “stand on the balcony”; to “rise above”.

Rising Above: Tips to help

Know yourself:

During many conflicts that I have mediated, there often is one party who is aggressive.  These people try to intimidate, bully or try to bait the other person into arguments.  Frequently, these arguments are “minor” and self-serving.  Become aware.  Identify when your “buttons are being pushed”.  Refuse to become engaged.  Change the topic to issues that are important to making resolution.  Ask yourself: “Are we arguing about something important, or just arguing?”

Learn to “flip” it:

The opposite of blaming is sharing.  The opposite of accusing is ownership.  The opposite of fear is hope.  Blaming, accusing and fear encourage downward spirals.  They offer no solution; they only prolong the conflict.  When you find yourself in this cycle, try to do the opposite; flip it.  Make statements that show you take responsibility for part of the conflict.  Think in terms of owning a resolution; “How can I fix this?”.  Develop a mindset of hope; “There is a way out of this.” “This does not have to end badly.”

Take a break:

When conversations become emotional; take a break.  This can be done using three steps.  First, tell the other person(s) that things are becoming too emotional. They are not helpful or productive.  Second, clearly explain why you feel this way.  Let people know what things are being said.  Third, state that you wish to take a break.  Say how long a break you want and that you will come back.  You will be sending a message that the issue(s) are important and that you wish to continue the conversation.

Find a neutral friend:

During stressful times find someone that you can talk to.  But not just anyone.  Find someone who is willing to just listen. Not offer opinions.  Not offer advise.  Just listen.  Take some time to “vent”, to express your negative feelings.  This can go a long ways for you to clarify your thoughts.  To reduce emotions.  To come back to conversations with a clear mind focused on solutions; not arguments.

Focus on the end:

What type of resolution will satisfy both parties?  Where is the middle ground?  What type of resolution will be workable for both parties?  The present situation is not working.  There must be some alternative that will work.  You can not expect to get everything that satisfies you.  You can not expect to get nothing that satisfies you.  Where in the middle can you meet.  What is the worst alternative to the agreement?  What is the best alternative to the agreement.

Rising Above:

I compare resolving conflicts to a dance.  Neither person works independently; they work and move together.  The idea is that together a dance is created. That dance is ongoing.  It can change to suit the music.  In the end, however, both parties contribute to the final performance.  It may not be exactly what each person imagined, but it works.  Don’t get caught up in the “footwork”, rise above the floor to see the entire dance.

Mediation Services: Make “I” statements work for you.

Mediation Services
Make “I” statements work for you

Mediation Services: “I” Statements, not “You” Statements

The purpose of my mediation services is to help people find a way to resolve their issues.  Often I find that poor communication skills are issues.  How many times have you said statements like these?

“You don’t listen to a word I say.”

“I can’t do anything without you criticizing.”

“You don’t take any responsibility!”

Common enough phrases. Especially when emotions are running high.  What do all these statements share?  The focus of each statement is the other person – the word “you”.  By using the word “you”, the speaker sends a message of blaming, of accusing.  As a result, the receiver of these statements has little choice but to defend.  Emotions begin to increase.

As a result, the conversation is now focused on argument, on defend and attack.  NOT the real issue of concern.  Not only are these types of conversations pointless, they are exhausting and draining.  So what can be done?  Mediation services can help.

It’s not about “you” it’s about me (or I).

With conflicts it easy to spot emotions.  People can quite clearly express their anger, confusion, frustration etc.  But the important part that is missing from the conversation is “why” they are feeling this way.  What is causing this emotion?  If a person can not express why they are feeling a certain way – how can they expect others to understand? Without understanding, how can there be a reasonable resolution.  It is all connected.

What is an “I” statement

Before making an “I” statement there are tow important things to remember:

  1. Making an “I” statement involves taking a risk.  When expressing how you feel the expectation is that the other person will respond in a positive way.  I have found that the this happens in the vast majority of times.  Trust that this will happen for you as well.
  2. You need to know yourself.  You must be able to clearly identify your emotions as well as specific examples of what is causing these emotions.  Remember: you are not accusing the other person, you are explaining events.

Making the “I” statement.  Very simply, these are the four parts of an “I” statement.

  1. When (….objectively describe event) happens
  2. I feel (…..identify your emotion)
  3. I feel this way because (…..objectively describe why).
  4. I would rather (….describe another way of dealing with this event).

Take another look at these steps.  There is no blaming or accusing.  It encourages the positive rather than negative.  Emotions are identified but are not the focus.  Statements are objective not subjective.  It offers an invitation to find an option.

One last word about “I” statements.  Your emotions are yours.  They are valid.  This is how you feel.  That needs to be respected.

Divorce Mediation: Making decisions

Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation: Decision-making that suit you and others.

Divorce and separation is a stressful time.  Making important decisions can be difficult.  Divorce Mediation can help ease this.  In fact, the basic purpose of divorce mediation is to help people make sound decisions.

Have you ever made an “impulse purchase”?  Made a decision that really didn’t make any sense?  Of course you have; we all have.  Lots of research out there suggests a reason for this.  It seems that humans are more likely to make decisions based on their “emotions”, rather than “logic”.  This is based on neuroscience research into how the human brain works.  I won’t go into a lot of detail.  Research tells us that during the decision-making process, how we feel about things usually takes control before we can how we think about things can take over.  This probably goes back to our basic survival instinct.

Negative emotions, such as fear or anger are powerful.  But no more powerful than love or happiness.  The question is; how to best control these emotions so that correct decisions can be made.  Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Take a short break.  Don’t be pressured.  Very few decisions need immediate response.  Allow yourself walk away.  To think.  You can always come back.
  2. Focus on what you need….not what you want.  Ask yourself important questions.  Why do I want to make this decision?  What is the worst thing that could happen if don’t make this decision?  What’s the best thing?  Is there a better option?  Is this decision in the best interest for me, or for everyone?
  3. Identify your emotions. What are you feeling at this moment?  Making a decision to spite someone else is just as dangerous as making a decision to make yourself feel better.  Having emotions is natural.  We are suppose to have emotions.  But it is important to accept these emotions and be responsible for them.  Emotions are only part of the decision.  Emotions should not be the only reason.  There needs to be logical reasons as well.

Remember when facing important decisions, separate emotional thoughts so you can focus on logical thoughts. Once you have clarified your logical thoughts, then you can add your emotions.  If both your logical and emotional thoughts are in balance: then you have made the correct decision.

 

 

Divorce Mediation: The needs of children

Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation; Helping your children get through it.

Divorce Mediation can assist parents help their children through divorce.  Much has been written about how divorce can have a negative impact on children.  I suspect we can all agree on this. Maybe it’s not so much the divorce that’s important.  It’s what happens after the divorce!  What can co-parents do to help children deal with the situation?  Divorce Mediation may help.  I would like to offer some ideas.

Children of divorce; Where can we start?

I think we can start with some “truths” about children.  Is is very important to understand one thing before you read further.  These are “guidelines”.  They are not absolute “truths”.  These are starting points from where you begin your journey with your child(ren).  Each child is their own person they will have their own strengths and weakness.  So, where do we start?

  1. Each child is unique.
  2. They will be upset.
  3. Children can survive divorce.
  4. How parents handle the divorce is critical.

What is important here is to understand is the importance of parents and co-parenting.  Children will deal with divorce/separation in their own way.  Being upset is natural.  Your child may be upset for a period of time.  Perhaps more than a year.  Patience is important.  How well the child handles divorce will depend on how well parents handle their divorce.

Divorce and children; What have we learned.

There is much research that supports the notion that children can be resilient.  Here are some things to keep in mind if you are divorcing/separating and have children.

  1. During divorce, children will feel many things: anger, rejection, surprise, unhappiness.  They NEED to be listened to.  They NEED to be encouraged to express themselves. If not to you, then to a professional.
  2. Children can feel isolation if their needs are not tended to.  When parents are too busy in arguments
  3. Expect your children’s behavior to change……..for a period of time.
  4. Keep your children out of the “middle”.  Your conflict involves the other parent…….not your child(ren).
  5. Keep negative comments about the other spouse away from children.
  6. Discuss and explain to your child(ren) about changes in their lives.

My main message to parents, and for the child(ren) for that matter is this.  The family unit is still there.  There is a mother, father, brothers and sisters.  The family exists.  It just looks a little different than before.  Therefore, it needs to function a little differently.  However, some things remain the same.  Children need to feel loved, secure, attached to the family unit.  Even if the unit is separated, on an emotional level the family is still there.

Family Mediation: The power of apology

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Family Mediation: When trust has been damaged.

There are statements I often here during family mediation. “I don’t trust them”.  “There is nothing they can say”.  “That is the most insincere apology I have ever heard”.  How many times have you said, or thought this.  How many times have you given a less than sincere apology.  Just to avoid the conflict.

Sound familiar?  During family mediation and family counselling I frequently hear this.  Statements like these tell me that trust has taken a beating.  For family mediation, restoring at least some level of trust in important.  But how?

Family mediation is not a “magic bullet”.  A mediator cannot restore trust into the relationship.  Only members of the family can do that.  And that starts with someone making an effective apology.

So what is an effective apology?

Start with this.  What is the purpose of your apology.  To avoid conflict? To avoid responsibility?

Or, is your purpose to resolve the conflict in a helpful manner. To restore some level of trust. To open lines of communication.

If your purpose is the second statement. You are on the path to making an effective and powerful apology.  Making a sincere apology can remove roadblocks.  Can lower anxiety and anger.  Can allow for helpful conversations.  Can result in opportunity to create common goals.

Lots of research indicates that a powerful apology has seven components.  There are two keys here.  First, components must be given in order.  Each part depends on the other.  Second, each part of the apology needs to be clearly stated by the speaker.  Then understood by the listener.  Here they are:

Revelation: there is a problem, something happened that created a problem

Recognition: a realization that someone has been hurt, damage to the relationship has been done – either intented or unintended

Responsiveness: a desire to deal with the issue, a time frame is created

Responsibility: take ownership of actions and words, at least part of the issue belongs to me, I did or said something

Remorse: acceptance of hurt feelings, – based on the first four “R’s”

Restitution: offering a meaningful re-payment, giving something back

Reform: providing plan for change, committing to creating change, being part of a solution

Why do effective apologies work?

Giving an effective apology does several things.  It takes strength and courage to admit to errors.  It shows a desire to take responsibility for part of the conflict.  It tells people that you are willing to create change.

Offering an apology can immediately remove a barrier.  It opens the door to helpful conversation.  Often, one or more of the people in conflict are wanting to hear an apology.  Once that is heard, people can become open to discussing issues of importance.

Avoiding issues is usually considered a sign of weakness.  Confronting issues in the spirit of finding solutions can be considered a strength.  It moves the conversation forward.  It moves the focus from what “has” been done, to what “can” be done.

Miles

Having family conflicts.  Want more information?

Contact me today at (403) 952-8752, or at mtmediate@gmail.com

 

Mediators: Choosing a mediator

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Mediators: Choosing the right one.

Looking for mediators? Choosing the “right” mediator, like choosing any other professional, can be difficult.  Let me give some tips and information to help with your decision-making.  Finding  mediators that matches you and your needs can make all the difference.

Governing bodies and training.

To possess the designation of “Mediator” certain training must be done.  Lawyers, perhaps not all, have training specific to mediation.  A person would have to ask specifically if their lawyer does mediation. Not all do.

I am a professional mediator.  I received all my training  from Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Institute of Canada.  I am held to professional standards from that group.  As a Qualified Mediator I have received significant (60+) hours of instruction, skill development, and assessment.   This training is specific to mediation skills, conflict resolution and communication skills.  Annual training opportunities are provided.  I do this to help me keep current and to refine my skills.

What skills do Mediator have?

Mediators possess many skills.  Skills that help people express their concerns and desires in a clear and helpful way.  

First, I consider mediators to be “professional listeners”.  I listen to people with an open and curious mind.  I really do want to find out what is causing the conflict.  And the points of view of each person. I do that by listening to what they say without judging.

Second, mediators practice asking good questions.  This is more difficult than it seems.  A good questions can do several things.  A good question helps clients:

           * think about what is really bothering them

           * clarify and identify issues that are truly important

           * encourage them to think about options and alternative

Simply put, asking a good question will help clients change how they look at a problem.  Helping them move from a negative thought to a positive thought.

The most important thing I can do, is to help people move forward.  Find an option that resolves their conflict.

 

How do I find a Mediator?

Well, you’ve found one right here.  

Or, go to ADR Institute of Canada website.  There you will find a prompt that will guide to a list of mediators found in your area.  

Other than that, do a google search, find a list of lawyers in your area.  Regardless of how you find a mediator I would strongly suggest that before hiring, have a conversation with that person.  I offer free first-time conversations all the time.  It is important the both the mediator and potential client can have a positive working relationship.

 

 

Dispute Mediation: Listening with Empathy

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DISPUTE MEDIATION: Part Three – What are the benefits of Empathic Listening during the mediation process?

Welcome! This is the third and final blog series about Empathic Listening.  The previous two blogs gave a general overview of skills and then a brief application of those skills.  With this final blog, I will outline benefits of empathic listening.  Benefits for you during a dispute mediation. Benefits to enhance your relationships in general.  As the above quote suggests.  Most people during difficult conversations spend time thinking about how they will respond.  Instead, people should be listening to what the other person is trying to tell them.

Remember, listening with empathy means that you want to “check up” on what you are hearing.  You want to check that you are understanding what is actually being said.  You are checking to confirm the point of view of the other person.  You do this by: paraphrasing, re-stating, clarifying or just being curious about what the other person is saying.  To borrow from Steven Covey; you want to “listen with your heart.”  

Why should I listen with empathy?

I think the question here is: What’s in it for me?  What’s the benefit?  Without being self-centered – these are good questions.  There are lots of “pay-offs” for improving your listening skills.  Especially when you find yourself in conflict.

  • Reduced misunderstandings:  Misunderstanding often leads to more conflict.  Think about it.  How many times have you become angry because you felt misunderstood?  What happens to the communication level?
  • Increased respect:  It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable!  It requires both parties to listen for understanding…….not for blaming.  It is very difficult for people to talk openly when they feel under attack.  When under attack people will start to defend.  When attacking and defending……..what’s happening to the issue(s)?…..to the understanding?………to the communication?
  • Demonstrated trust: Rather than just going through the motions – listening with the intent to understand demonstrates a willingness to trust.  Trying to understand shows that you are willing to trust and to be trusted. It may be difficult at first…….but…….once a level of trusting and trustworthiness is established, communication will increase.

So, what’s my point?

So, what’s the point of this series?  Empathic listening can be a valuable skill for those involved in a dispute mediation.  It can be valuable and helpful tool to reach a resolution to disputes.  Developing the skill to listen with empathy can help improve any relationship; family, personal or professional.  It only take time, knowledge and commitment.

Remember; when people find themselves in conflict, the usual response is to blame or to defend.  Preferring to listen with the intent to respond.  Next time you are faced with a conflict try to listen to understand.  Listen to understand the other point of view.  Listen to hear their “story”.   It really is a question of respect.  When someone feels respected and listened to….what happens to the conflict may surprise you!

Miles

I am a mediator in Medicine Hat.  Please contact me at 403-952-8752, or at mtmediate@gmail.com.

Mediation Process: Listening Empathically

mediation process

EMPATHIC LISTENING: Part two – How can I listen with empathy during the mediation process?

Welcome, this is part two, of a three part series of blogs on Empathic Listening during the mediation process.  In the last blog I wrote in general terms to define what empathy is and why it is a valuable skill to the mediation process.  When conducting mediations, I find it a very useful tool.  It helps to keep the conversations civil, focused and purposeful.  We all want to find a helpful resolution to the conflict.

LISTENING or HEARING: What’s the difference?

Let’s start by finding out the difference between  “listening” and “hearing”.   How many times has a parent heard, “You’re not listening to me.”  In a workplace, how often do you hear, “They just don’t get it.”  During relationship conflicts, how frequently does someone say, “They don’t hear what I’m saying.”  What do these statement have in common?

What they have in common is that the person is “listening” but not “hearing”.  So, what’s the difference?

Clues that let you know you are hearing during the Mediation Process

When you are truly hearing someone, you will find that you are:

  •         curious about the other person
  •         setting aside your own opinions
  •         are paying attention to the other persons eyes, posture, gestures, and hands

Doing these allows you to be “in the moment” with your speaker.  You are in tune with everything that they want to tell you.  Not just their words, but their deepest values and beliefs, their inner emotions.  Things that are of utmost importance to them.  Things that they value.  This is Empathic Listening.

SKILLS FOR EMPATHIC LISTENING

Just like any other skill; running, singing or anything else, listening with empathy requires learning skills and then practice.  Here are a couple skills that I have learned and practiced that can be effective in helping me really “hear” the other person(s).

1. Patience: Take your time, allow the other person to gather thoughts, to repeat themselves.  Let them guide the conversation.  Often, it is very difficult for people to reveal their true concerns.  Trust must be established.

2. Control your impulse to help:  Refrain from giving suggestions or opinions.  Remember, you need to be in the moment with the speaker.  That means you want to encourage them to speak.  They want to be heard: to tell their story.  Offering suggestions/opinions in not helpful.  Doing this will only push the speaker away from what really needs to be told

3. Be curious: Don’t be satisfies with what you may have just heard.  It is likely that the speaker has more to say.  Encourage more conversation.  Ask for more information, more detail, more explanation.  Remember you are after their inner most values and beliefs.  That takes conversation.

4. Silence can be good:  In my experience, most people do not reveal everything of importance very quickly.  Conflicts can be very confusing, there can be a lot going on.  It may take a bit of time for the speaker to organize thoughts, remember events or it can be just be difficult to reveal issues.  Be silent – time does not have to be filled completely with conversation.  Being quiet allows for the speaker to organize their thoughts, it can encourage the speaker to guide the conversation to what is important to them.

SO WHAT DOES EMPATHIC LISTENING SOUND LIKE?

During the mediation process, asking a good question that encourages a full answer is critical to “hearing” the speaker.  Another skill that can be learned and developed through practice.  Remember, if you are going to be “in the moment” with the person, they need to talk, in order to talk and converse – you need to ask a good question.  Here are some good phrases that encourage conversation:

1. You sound confused (or any other emotion).

2. Help me understand.  When you said…….

3. I’m confused about….

4. You don’t have to answer this right now, but think about…..

5. So you think that…..

The most important point of these stems is that at no point has the word “I” been used.  The conversation is not about me….it’s about the other person.  By using the word “you”, the focus of the conversation is placed on the speaker.  Right where it should be.

The mediation process can be a successful option to litigation.  Skillful use of Empathic Listening can really help move the process towards resolution!

– Miles

For information contact me, today: (403) 952-8752.

 I am a mediator located in Medicine Hat, Alberta.