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Georgina's Blog

November 2019

Managing Conflict hits Radio 4

It was really good to see Evan Davis's The Bottom Line on Radio 4 address the thorny topic of Managing Conflict. While this programme concentrates on business, conflict and how to resolve it is the mediator's stock in trade. They had the excellent David Liddle representating mediation. He has done fantastic stuff introducing mediation into schools and some top-end workplaces like The Met and HSBC, The Post Office and Network Rail. I foresee that he may be indispensable in the last two after the election potentially......I recommend a listen because many of the lessons that they draw from managing conflict in business apply equally well to family mediation.

One of the many things that resonated with me was how all of the panel described the inherent anger to be found in a conflict situation. Anger at the injustice, or the situation, or the loss, but what they reminded me is that you don't SEE anger, you see the outward signs of it represented in people's behaviour. Why the anger? They explain that in most cases the angry person needed to feel respected or heard or both, and neither happened. Mediation provides exactly the environment where you can defuse anger and require people to listen to one another so that people are heard and their view is respected.

Another nugget of wisdom was that while you may be angry, you can choose how you behave, how you respond to yours and other's anger. That anger might have blown up over something trivial to another person but it might have been representative of much more to you, or a trigger from a previous incident. They recommend that when you are in the grip of that anger, talk it through with a friend or neutral third party - a mediator springs to mind - who can help you gain perspective and to think through your feelings but also to deliberate upon what the other person might be feeling too. This latter point can be incredibly useful if you are to try to understand and address whatever you are disagreeing about. Both people in a conflict have goals and needs and both sets of needs and goals have to be considered.

A point that came through loud and clear was that no one ever sorted out a conflict via email. Emails are ripe for misinterpretation and assumption. Talking face to face with someone is the best way to get to the nub of any conflict - scary as that might feel initially. Avoiding conversation will just escalate the conflict they remind us. They recommended a safe place where that conversation can occur. Mediation offers exactly that protected space where you can talk without judgement and without prejudice.

Blame came up too. They confirmed that looking for blame will just interfere with finding a solution. Set blame aside, attribute responsibility to yourself as well and you might be in the frame of mind to start working on what is going to resolve your problems. Find the common ground between you - often your children -so that you have something to work on together and focus less on what you disagree on. Easy to say I know, but food for thought. If you would like to have a listen, go to the following link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0009t5v