Five Tips to Mediate a Dispute

I enjoy a good robust debate. I find it can be very stimulating and present an opportunity for me to learn something new. In every facet of life, we encounter individuals with whom we have disagreements. Recently, a woman in her forties came into my office seeking suggestions as to how she could best deal with her soon-to-be ex husband.

“There’s a ton of stuff we have to work out such as dividing up our assets, child support, visitation, and such. Every time we talk it ends up in a fight. I just can’t take it anymore! He’s impossible to deal with!” Been there, done that, I thought. However, my divorce more than three decades ago was relatively amicable. I made the decision the day he left that I would not allow it to get ugly, that I would not fight or argue with him, and that I would always treat him with respect. Even at such a young age, I had enough wisdom to know that fighting never works.

We all enter into negotiations with different agendas, points of view, different needs and wants, hope for a particular outcome, and concern for our own well-being. Very often there is a lack of trust in the other party that they care enough about us to consider our feelings and rights. We believe we must fight for what is rightfully ours. With fear as the foundation of our dispute, our approach is laden with trepidation and defensiveness. Sensing our uneasiness, our opponent prepares to defend him/herself as well. This is a recipe for disaster.

Here are five steps you can implement to make the process proceed smoothly to a mutually satisfying conclusion.
1. Enter the negotiation with an open mind. Like a parachute, a closed mind is certain death. Both work best when open. Be willing to listen to and consider what the other person is saying.
2. Rather than listen simply to prepare a response, listen to better understand their position. Understanding leads to compassion and compassion allows for a more equitable settlement.
3. Be fair and reasonable. Refrain from making outlandish demands. It damages your credibility as a rational individual.
4. Speak honestly and politely. Always make certain your heart is an active participant in any conversation.
5. Be willing and prepared to compromise. It assures the other party that on some level you respect their rights as well as your own. In the event future negotiations arise, they will be much more willing to cooperate, remembering how just you were originally.

Whether you are involved in a divorce, a contractual dispute, or a simple disagreement with a friend, these five principles will ensure a shorter and smoother road to a resolution. That leaves plenty of time for more fun activities.

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