Below are a number of other skills that may be helpful in dealing with particular situations during the conflict resolution process. Many of these are most useful for mediators but may be applicable in other situations.
If someone says something positive, perhaps acknowledging something helpful the other party has done, it is important to pick that up and try to develop it. For example: if they say “I could try to meet with him sometime…” a mediator or negotiator might say, “Please go on. Could you be more specific?” Or if they say, “I don’t think X is being deliberately difficult…” the mediator might thank them for saying that and encourage them to say it directly to the other party.
Any sign of apology or expression of regret should be acknowledged as very positive, as should recognizing the other party’s point of view, conceding on a particular issue or offering a compromise. A typical reply by a mediator might be, “Thank you for saying that, it was very useful. Is there anything else you wanted to add?”
Reframing is changing a negative statement concerning an important issue by one party to more neutral wording and saying it back to the other party. Negative statements that are not relevant to the issues can be ignored.
Mutualizing is identifying and pointing out issues and concerns that apply to both parties. This helps them to see that they are not as far apart as they thought and that some agreement could be possible.
Normalizing is pointing out that their problem is not unique and is sometimes a natural part of what happens between people in organizations. It is not to belittle their problem but to show they are not alone and resolution is possible.
This is providing a summary of the parts of what has been said that are most likely to provide an opportunity to move things forward. The summary should omit irrelevant material, any personal slights and anything else that is not central to the issues.
Use of a Flip Chart
It can often be useful to summarize on a lip chart so that everyone can see where they are. You might include:
- Issues seen as important by both parties
- Any suggested points of agreement that have emerged at that point
- Any important issues that cannot be dealt with in the mediation but can be dealt with elsewhere
It is helpful to encourage the parties to ask each other clarifying questions and to ask them to feed back to one another the key points of what each is saying. It can also help to check that a party has heard what the other has said.
If the mediator is challenged by one of the parties, the challenge should be acknowledged and then the issues returned to. Do not defend or get into an argument.
Asking for examples – for example when someone is making ‘global’ complaints about someone else ‘always’ doing something.
If someone is not adhering to the ground rules, point out the behavior, say it is against the agreed rules and ask them to stop.
Suggested Useful Questions
- What could you personally do to improve things?
- What is it about that behavior that upsets you (makes you angry etc)?
- Could you tell me more about that?
- Could you describe the situation between you and X?
- What do you mean by …?
- So, what is the key issue for you?