I watched the speaker describe how as mediators we may struggle to keep our own emotions in check. We are human just like the parties we mediate and find ourselves at times wanting to help or solve the problem.
Then the he said the thing that inspired me for life: “In mediation I have to realize it’s not my problem to solve. I’m here to create a platform for people to see each other more three-dimensionally.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard conflict management framed so perfectly. Creating a platform to see each other more three-dimensionally. In so many conflicts this is just the opportunity we need.
When in conflict with another person or group, we want to get straight to resolution. That’s natural. But “resolution” typically translates in our mind to our solution, our way of thinking. We want to change the other person’s mind and get the outcome we want. If we can’t, we experience the usual reactions of anger, frustration, defense, and rising blood pressure.
When we react this way, we activate the amygdala, the reptilian part of the brain. Our options narrow and our self-awareness drops.
What if we approached conflict conversations not with a goal of resolution but with a goal of seeing each other more three-dimensionally? How would that change the game? What if even for a few minutes, we focused not on the content of the conflict but on the person we’re in conflict with?
This skill takes a lot of practice. No human is exempt from slipping back into defense. What’s more, sometimes anger is completely appropriate in conflict. We don’t need to shy away from the difficult emotions of conflict, we need to honor them.
But we have options for what comes next. We might pause a couple of seconds before we respond, look beyond the person’s opinions to their humanity, practice active listening, or find one tiny point of agreement before expressing our perspective.
You may not change your mind about your views, and that’s okay, but you may change your mind about the person with whom you disagree. Who do you want to see more three-dimensionally? Take that step, however small. The time is now.
Every organization has conflict, so every organization should be equipped with the ability to create that platform of curiosity and complexity for their teams. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about our conflict management coaching program.