Conflict Resolution and Mediation – When Resolving a Dispute What People Say Might Be Different Than What They Mean

This paper will address a resolution dispute issue that is underestimated: the importance of communication in conflict resolution and mediation.

In conflict resolution and mediation, the importance of communication skills is evident because the team has a real opportunity to ask questions and to get the facts needed to resolving a dispute.

The definition of communication in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “information transmitted or conveyed”. But we often communicate without following the definition of communication when we convey something other than our real feelings.

Effective communication skills in family resolution dispute settings are complicated because separating spouses start off with poor communication skills; people do not come to a resolution dispute process if they get along. In addition, people are usually already emotionally depleted when they start a conflict resolution process.

In the family conflict resolution setting, separating couples are often afraid of being made wrong, of sounding ridiculous, of looking weak or vulnerable, or of being put down by their former spouse. So often what people say and what they feel are very different. The value of a skilled conflict resolution professional who recognizes the importance of communication clearly conveyed and understood cannot be underestimated.

For the conflict resolution and mediation practitioner, the importance of communication for resolving a dispute is clear. The conflict resolution practitioner must not offer just family law information, but must bring leadership skills to be able to lead clients from a place of confusion to a place of clarity and self expression.

As an example, in a recent mediation meeting I was conducting, I was conveying family law information about co-parenting when the wife expressed her anger at the husband for not returning her emails in which she was asking for his input about how to organize the children’s Christmas and day care schedules. What started off as a disagreement about how the husband was or was not responding to her emails turned into something much bigger.

After some time, I was able to lead the wife to truly express what was making her so upset: she was afraid that the husband and his family would be mad at her and judge her if they did not get to spend time with the kids on their preferred days at Christmas.

After the wife was fully able to articulate the real fears and feelings, we were able to fully address the issue. The husband and the wife agreed to go over the December schedule together after the mediation meeting to confirm or adjust the proposed schedule as needed. Then the husband will be able to tell his family that he participated in the creation of the December schedule and get their full support.

Even if clients do not have effective communication skills when resolving a dispute, with the guidance of a skilled conflict resolution and mediation practitioner, they will eventually get to the bottom of their feelings. And when their real motivations are known, they can be addressed and incorporated in the decisions that will be made. The obvious risk if the real motivations are not uncovered is that the parties may feel resentful and not support the agreement in the future.

When you are looking into resolving a dispute with the assistance of a mediator, it is important that you inquire about their effective communication skills.

For more information please contact Nathalie Boutet.

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