Do It Yourself Mediation

Stages of Conflict Stage 1: Latent Conflict:  "latent conflict" or "unstable peace," exists whenever individuals, groups, organizations, or even nations have differences that bother one or the other, but those differences are not great enough to cause one side to act to alter the situation. Differential power, resources, differing interests or values all have the potential to spark conflict if a triggering event occurs.

Stage 2: Emerging Conflict:  The situation is triggered by an event transforming the latent conflict into a manifest, "erupted," or "emerged" conflict.  Escalation may be vertical—hostile behavior becomes more intense—or horizontal—hostile behavior of the same intensity spreads over a larger area, affecting more people. Often the escalation feels like a spiral out of anyone’s control.  Escalation can be caused by the parties themselves or by actions that third parties take.

Stage 3: Hurting Stalemate:  Escalation cannot continue indefinitely. De-escalation can be temporary or can be part of a broader trend toward settlement or resolution. Or escalation may lead to a stalemate, a situation in which neither side can win. If the pain of continuing the conflict exceeds that of maintaining the confrontation, the parties are in what is called a "hurting stalemate," which often presents an ideal opportunity for negotiation and a potential settlement.

Stage 4: De-Escalation: Negotiation: Decision making theory kicks into gear in this stage.  Evaluations are made based on rational calculations of opportunity cost, risk analysis, game theory, expectations of power gain, economics, etc.  Decision making breaks down when the rational road meets the emotional rollercoaster. 

Stage 5: Dispute Settlement:  Finally, if and when an agreement is reached, peacebuilding efforts work to repair damaged relationships with the long-term goal of reconciling former opponents.

When you come to mediation, the mediators will use a time tested set of skills to help you identify your needs, hear what the other person is thinking and feeling and communicate in a way that allows you to clear up misunderstandings and move forward in finding a solution that works for everyone. These skills can be practiced on your own and if done correctly and consistently will help you through difficult conflicts.

Active Listening
Conflicts often result out of misunderstandings that occur when someone interprets a statement in a way other than it was intended or on the other hand, when someone feels like they are not being listened to and understood. Active listening means engaging yourself as a listener and working to really hear what the other person is saying to you. Try not to form conclusions or think about your response while they are talking, instead, give them your full attention and let them know that you are hearing them by restating what they said in your own words and clarifying that you got their message right.

Rewording Toxic Language
The way that we say things makes a world of difference. Take a look at the following sentences and see how the message changes when the toxic language is changed to describe the same interests or needs in a more positive way.

A: “I am sick and tired of your mess, is it that much to ask for you to do your own dishes?”
B: “I am feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the house chores and it would make me feel a lot better if you could help out with the dishes”

A: “I don’t care if you’re busy, that project was supposed to be completed and returned to the client two weeks ago, why haven’t you gotten it done?”
B: “I know that you have a lot on your plate right now, how can we prioritize tasks to make sure we get the finished project to our clients in a timely fashion.”

Understanding body language
Studies have shown that non-verbal language actually speaks much louder than the words that we say out loud. In fact, up to 93% of the message that people receive from us is communicated through the way we use our facial expressions, body gestures and positioning. Sounds crazy right? Well, try watching a movie on mute; it is actually pretty easy to understand what the characters are communicating. So what does this mean in regards to conflicts? It means that if our body language is communicating a negative message, that message is going to be heard loud and clear and may cause some problems for the person who “hears” it. Becoming familiar with your non-verbal communication style can be helpful in avoiding misunderstandings resulting from body language.

Tips for turning conflict into opportunity!
Next time you are faced with a difficult situation with a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor, try using the tips below to avoid misunderstanding and create a productive conversation that addresses everyone’s needs and concerns.

1. Talk Directly
Assuming that there is not a threat of physical violence, talk directly to the person with whom you have the problem. Direct conversation is much more effective than sending a letter, banging on the wall, throwing a rock, or complaining to everyone else.

2. Choose a Good Time
Plan ahead and allow yourselves enough time for a thorough discussion. Don't start talking about the conflict just as the other person is leaving to make dinner. Try to talk in a quiet place where you can both be comfortable and undisturbed for as long as the discussion takes.

3. Plan Ahead
Think out what you want to say ahead of time. Explain what the problem is and how it affects you.

4. Don't Blame or Name Call
Antagonizing the other person only makes it harder for him or her to hear you and understand your concerns. Don't blame the other person for everything or begin the conversation with your opinion of what should be done.

5. Give Information
Don't interpret the other person's behavior: "You are blocking my driveway on purpose just to make me mad!" Instead, give information about your own feelings: "When your car blocks my driveway, I get angry because I can't get to work on time."

6. Listen
Give the other person a chance to tell his or her side of the conflict completely. Relax and listen, try to learn where the other person in coming from.

7. Show that you are Listening
Although you may not agree with what is being said, let the other person know that you hear her or him; repeat to them what you hear them saying to make sure that you understand correctly.

8. Talk it Through
Once you start, get all of the issues and feelings out into the open. Don't leave out the part that seems too "difficult" to discuss or too "insignificant" to be important. Your solution will work best if all issues are discussed thoroughly.

9. Work on a Solution
When you both feel that you have expressed your concerns, been heard and clearly heard the other person’s concerns, start working on a solution. Two or more people cooperating are much more effective than one person telling the other to change. Be specific: "I will turn my music off at midnight" is better than a vague "I won't play loud music anymore."

10. Follow Through
Agree to check with each other at specific times to make sure that the agreement is still working….then really do it!

Here are some videos that explain helpful skills and concepts to keep in mind when dealing with conflict.

Check Assumptions:

Release your certainty to find the truth.  Become aware of your assumptions and check them with the other person. 

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for”

~John Lubbock