I have a dear old friend who I value for her willingness to ask me hard questions and tell me the truth no matter what. Of course, I appreciate the support of all my friends, but I know I can trust this friend not to try to make me feel better, but rather to help me solve the problem. I’m referring to tips for conflict resolution.
I think I owe the same service my friend provides me to my clients. It’s pretty obvious that people in conflict often feel outraged by the other person’s behavior. Right versus wrong is a seductive path and the underlying idea under many social phenomena, from team sports to Law and Order. But right versus wrong doesn’t help people solve problems and it doesn’t lead to conflict resolution.
When I was a young litigating lawyer, I learned a valuable lesson: The courtroom is a bad place to figure out that the other side has a good point. That means that there are two sides to every story, and from the perspective of the people involved, each thinks themselves “right” and the other “wrong” to some extent.
So, as professionals working with people in conflict, how can we help? It’s useful for professionals (lawyers and mediators) to ask hard questions and give honest answers rather than answers that will lead people to think about the rightness or wrongness of their position.
If, instead, we can help frame the issue as a problem that needs to be solved and to ask questions that need to be answered versus bolstering a person’s feeling of “rightness,” we can refocus on problem-solving rather than bashing.
Tip for conflict resolution: Find some objectivity to translate conflict into problem-solving.
Conflict Resolution Case Study:
Typically, a spouse might come into the mediation with a third-party financial analysis favoring the most amount of money in their pocket. While not ready to put out a number, the other spouse may look at the analysis and say, “Well, that’s not right.” It could easily turn straight into a negotiation: “$7,000.” “$5,000.” “$7,000.” “$5,000.”
Splitting the difference won’t make sense for either person if it’s split just to be finished instead of going back and really looking at what is in each of their cost-of-living analyses and estimated expenses.
I displayed their budgets on a big monitor screen so we could all see and work through the financials together to develop a feasible support package.
It’s important to remember that an argument or a conflict with someone is unlikely to be resolved on one person’s terms without considering the other person’s perspective. A 3-dimensional view needs to be taken where both people are seen inside the frame of the problem. If one person’s perspective is left entirely out, the problem will never be resolved together.
Even when anger, hurt, resentment, and pain are present, if the desire to solve the problem is also present, finding a way to consider the other person’s view is imperative. Our team of lawyers and mediators can help. Contact us today for a complimentary, confidential consultation.
Katherine E. Miller is a Divorce Attorney, who is also a certified mediator and a trained collaborative divorce professional. In practice for over 30 years and personally divorced, Miller is the founder of the Miller Law Group, all women’s boutique law firm with seven divorce professionals. Miller is also the Director at the Center for Understanding in Conflict, the organization that teaches mediation, collaborative law and other conflict resolution skills, and she hosts the podcast and radio show, “Divorce Dialogues.” Additionally, Miller is the former president of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals. She is a graduate of Vassar College and Fordham University school of Law. Learn more: Miller-law.com.