April 2017 ~ Conflict Resolution: Getting to Agreement
Conflict Resolution: Getting to Agreement
Sometimes, situations get completely out of control. Someone gets mad about something, they feel they are "right" and someone else is "wrong," attorneys get involved, costs escalate and no one can see an end in sight. Eventually, a judge or jury decides the case and determines a "Winner."
Or people can attempt mediation or arbitration to resolve the differences. Even the day before going to court, people can stop the runaway train of legal contention and take a different approach.
Mediation and arbitration are becoming increasingly popular for the simple reason that they do work.
We had an opportunity to be part of a mediation experience recently that finally ended a legal situation that had been in contention for quite a few years.
In mediation, no one gets everything they want. And, everyone has to give up something in order to come to resolution. In the end, everyone wins if they can get out of the cycle of escalating costs with no end in sight and no control of the outcome. The vicious cycle can stop.
When dealing with people for any reason, a good sense of humor is always important. Instead of constantly fighting over whatever the "issue" is or who is "right" or who has the "best case," we can change the dynamics. Often, we need to step back, take a deep breath and realize that whatever the contentious situation is, it doesn’t need to kill us or bankrupt us or keep continuing forever down a path that we cannot control at all. We need to let go of our fixed, rigid, unbending positions and allow things to get resolved so that everyone can get on with their life.
A good mediator is able to work with the "facts" of a case, listen to all sides and get to the heart of the matter:
A resolution that everyone can live with means that everyone has to give up something in order to get something they want. They all want the vicious cycle to end. How it ends eventually depends on the skill of the mediator and the parties involved. They all know the unpredictability of judges and juries, and that one or both parties stand to lose much more than they already have invested in fighting over the issue so far. That is a strong incentive to continue negotiations and the mediator's job is to keep the parties focused on the goal they all want: ending a bad situation before more damage is done.
More and more types of business contracts contain language about arbitration before a situation gets to a lawsuit.
What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?
Arbitration is the process of resolving a dispute (as between labor and management) or a grievance outside of the court system by presenting it to an impartial third party or panel for a decision that may or may not be binding. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arbitration
Mediation is a nonbinding intervention between parties to promote resolution of a grievance, reconciliation, settlement, or compromise. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mediation
In arbitration, the decision-making authority for a situation is given to an impartial party. In mediation, the decision-making authority rests with the parties themselves, with the assistance of a skilled mediator to help that process. Mediation allows the parties themselves to retain control of the decision, rather than giving the decision to someone else.
The mediator for the situation that we experienced recently had a very good sense of humor. He used humor to skillfully to diffuse some of the contention as well as using very good negotiating skills to bring the parties to resolution.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In provides some very good examples of how issues can be resolved peacefully.
Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High, provides many good examples of how people can learn to work better with other people.
If you are facing a difficult situation, take some time to look into other options for getting the situation resolved without getting into a lawsuit. Maybe a third party can help. A skilled mediator can make the difference between a bad situation that is spinning out of control and finding a way to end it once and for all.
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Page updated: October 16, 2023
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