Mediation – Disputes Transformed into Successful Arbitration
Mediation. Conflict resolution. Look almost anywhere, from family to government, to work, to volunteer efforts and charities and you will see conflicts and disagreements abound, of varying degrees. These could be from the simple short-lived, like, “Where do you want to go to eat?” to “that is not in the contract and I cannot do”. Sometimes these can be settled with both sides working things out. Other times, both sides can dig in their heels, being justified by either a formal contract or previous agreements. That’s where an impartial third party, a mediator, must be relied upon to negotiate a consensual, informed, and fair agreement for a win-win solution for both sides.
Wanting to do Good
Up until this point, I never fully understood how a mediator works or why mediation would even be needed. Recently my search for charity work led me to a family-run charity that was in the process of having its branding website designed, finalized, and online. I discovered the charity via another charity I am involved with and quickly took interest in their focus goals. I reviewed their recent journeys to the country of their focus and liked their story.
I realized I could assist in taking much of that story with pictures and narrate/curate it for highly visible web content on their website. If the charity can present their progress and successes, it would lead to more support and donations, hopefully from a global audience. My job was simple. I take all the snippets of words, phrases and sentences to create a flowing article with a simple call-to-action at the end, mainly, to donate to the cause. However, as I began to submit my articles, roadblocks began to appear. I began to be distracted by an underlying story that was rearing its head for me to see.
And this dispute was smack in the middle of my planned trajectory that would stop me dead in my tracks. My efforts to write would come to a dead stop. Alas, I walked into a dispute that was already well-rooted and would make my contributions pointless. It was as if these underlying disagreements were just waiting for me, or so it felt. But I am glad it happened because I am now able to write this well-experienced article of tips for you if you should ever happen to walk into a dispute. My tips will help you work and enact a solution for a win-win resolution, whenever you see an opportunity or need, to mediate.
I Walked Into Being a Moderator
As I walked in cold, little did I know of the background story. Little did I know, both sides were already in a stalemate and not moving anywhere. In my present-day, I assumed it was only web content that was lacking and still yearning. I latched on and saw my calling. However, in the thick of web development, branding was also a key element being shaped and developed.
Yes, the web developer was waiting for web content, however, as it trickled in, from me now, it had to be shaped to focus and reinforce the branding of the charity. At times that was what was pushing back my content, which I so arrogantly thought, was written well and represented the charity’s work. Of course, I am not a web developer, and from the onset, my only goal was to assemble and write a good web narrative, to save the web developer time and help the web developer focus on high-level overall website design and of course, the branding message the website should project.
Branding is key for a charity, as a big part of a charity’s website is to summon donations from donors, in support of the charity mission. So each page, article, story, video, and picture has to always support the unified branding message of the charity. That’s what the website, holistically, has to deliver – a consistent branding message.
Here are my real-life, learned tips to help you mediate. Of course, I credit the years I spent, and continue to spend, in Toastmasters. Toastmasters has helped me to not only speak and present, but to listen, learn, connect, bridge gaps with others, and most importantly, not to take criticism personally. Whenever I am presented critique with something I have done, I take it as an opportunity to learn and refine my process, as I did during my mediation exercise I share with you today.
When you are in mediation mode, here are my tips, as I discovered them, in helping me towards a resolution between my 2 parties. I deliberately did not use numbers to list them because neither point is not any more or less important than the other.
- Stay Neutral
Remember that you are the 3rd party, the 3rd side, and not in either of the 2 sides you are trying to mediate between. Don’t favor or openly support either side and give them the misleading feeling that they have you on board – on their side.
- State Clearly What Your Goal Is
Let both sides know what your goal is and how it will help them. Firstly, ensure that your goal meets the S-M-A-R-T acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound. Ideally, this would be in a 3-way video call. This way, each side gets to hear the other side’s response. Even silence says a lot. But barring that, one-on-one is still good. It explains to both sides what your basic rules are.
- Stay Focused On Your Objective Goal
Don’t let either side distract you from your stated goal. Stay focused on what your outcome goal is. Each time you communicate with either party, there may be a tendency, either deliberate or non-intentional, to steer you toward that party’s interest.
- Don’t Get Dragged Into Either Side’s Story
Every time you communicate with each side, you may be getting another story being told to you about the other side. This happened a lot in my case. But to aid me in learning the previous history I walked into, I just let that side spew and tell me their story. Sometimes I felt the story was an attempt to justify why they are doing what they are doing. Sometimes I felt like it may be an attempt to win me over and sway me to their side. Sometimes it was just either side listening to themselves speak and perhaps convincing themselves that they are doing the right thing.
- Get Both Sides’ to Commit To Your Suggestions
Get both side’s buy-in. After sharing your intended goal in mediation between both sides, it would be beneficial to ask both sides to commit to agreeing to your plan of action and what you may choose as the path to both sides of resolution; a win-win solution. This means there may be times with either side doesn’t fully agree with your suggestion towards progress. Each side has to agree to possibly accept a point I may choose as the outcome which they do not agree with. But with the goal of keeping our movement forward towards progress and not being stalled and locked in a holding pattern, each side may have to compromise.
- Keep it non-Personal
Don’t take things personally. Keep everything you do non-personal. Be objective. It is very easy to let your feelings slowly slide in and take over. Try as best you can to remove your feelings and sentiment from learning towards either side. Again, keep focusing on your intended outcome; YOUR goal, stated above.
- Address Each Side in Neutral Terms
From the beginning, do not address either side by their personal names like Bob or Ann. Raise it up and address by the company or organization name they represent in this dispute. Refer to each side as Company A and Company B or Side A and Side B. This helps to remove the personal references which disputes tend to bring into the spat. It also reminds everyone that the 2 organizations involved are free-standing entities, with all people involved, working for that organization. So even if the charity on 1 side has only Bob and his partner as founders and principles, the charity has its own identity separate and aside from Bob and his partner. They both just work for their charity.
- Celebrate Every Accomplishment
Celebrate every accomplishment, however small, you have achieved in your mediation challenge. Any progress is a learning step for you. You also helped both party’s move forward in their stalemate and helped them move forward. Whatever you did not accomplish, no doubt resulted in a learning experience for you. Like everything, the more you work through the more skillset you will acquire in your masterful potential at becoming a top-notch mediator.
Well, despite all that I learned in my mediation experience and shared with you above, I did not succeed. That is ok because fate was telling me that I was not needed here. There was a bigger task in progress here, that being building the brand initiative. The narrative I committed to writing was just a small part of it. Ideally, there would have been another person above me, shaping the narrative I wrote, to take on the branding theme. So I voluntarily admitted that I could do no more and exit. There was also several times where one of the sides did not agree with what I was writing. So we stalled there. I began to feel like I was
What Is Your Mediation Calling
Hopefully, I have given you several pointers on how to mediate and arrive at a successful conflict resolution. Conflicts and disagreements are constantly lurking around us and should you happen to be dropped into a dispute between 2 sides, you are closer to assisting with my heart-felt pointers above. I like you, am not a professional mediator, or mediator of any caliber. But you and I must still be ready if called into action to resolve a dispute between 2 sides. It may be like mine above on a professional level or it may only be 2 of your children trying to work something out.