Mediation: Having a Difficult Conversation

One of the best mediators I have worked with describes the mediator’s role as helping people have difficult conversations.  I don’t use that line in my mediations but I often think about that description when working with parties that know they should resolve their dispute but cannot find the path forward. With that in mind, I found this interesting article on how to have those conversations if you are conflict averse.  These tips come from an executive leadership coach and is not specific to mediation of civil legal disputes but is nevertheless instructive:

The article, “How to Have Difficult Conversations When You Don’t Like Conflict,” is worth the 3 minutes it takes to read.  If you don’t have time to read the article, his points are:
  • Begin from a place of curiosity and respect.  The other side has a different perspective, approach the conversation to learn why they do not agree with you.  Most lawyers begin a mediation with the intent of convincing the other side — a difficult task if you do not understand their point of view.
  • Focus on what the other person is saying, not your response.
  • Be direct.
  • Don’t Put It Off.
  • Expect a Positive Result.

The first two points are the most relevant to mediation of civil disputes.  As I have written elsewhere, it is near impossible to be persuasive in a negotiation if the other side does not believe they are heard and understood.  The final point is also important in that it is difficult to negotiate when you assume the negotiation is futile.

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