Mediation

Understanding the different ways men and women deal with conflict will strengthen your operation

Submitted by Patrick Cioffi

Where there are relationships, there will be conflict, it is an inevitable part of interpersonal dynamics, and learning to resolve conflict is a crucial part of successful relationships both at home and at work. Many people will just keep quiet rather than express their viewpoint to avoid conflict, which is a great shame because by doing so we might miss out on an exciting new idea. Conflict is not always a destructive force, sometimes when we are forced to find a compromise between wildly different ideas and viewpoints, that energy provides a spark for great innovation. Conflict, like necessity, can be the mother of invention.

The way we deal with conflict is both fascinating and hugely diverse. It is dependent upon our sense of self, whether we had domineering parents or not and how they dealt with conflict, our social group, whether we have siblings and whether these siblings are older or younger than us, our genetics, and a whole host of other factors. Now add to the mix our gender and the gender mix in the workplace and it gets even more interesting!

Men are from Mars…

As with all elements of our personalities, there appears to be a masculine-feminine continuum, along which, all of us lie when it comes to confrontation and conflict resolution. From the shouting match, in your face, about to come to blows approach to the “if I talk about this immediately I might cry, which I REALLY do not want to do as it might undermine me” response. Conflict is often such an emotional experience that unless it is carefully dealt with, objectivity flies out of the window very quickly.

It is an absolute minefield when labeling things masculine and feminine and some people would fight to the death rather than be classified into one camp or other when it comes to emotional responses. The example of trying not to cry might sound sexist but ask any woman if she can relate to it and she will have been there at least once in her lifetime. Men can get frustrated by it and might even consider it a sign of weakness, but it is actually the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ system) activating in response to feeling angry or frustrated. For some, yet, unknown reason, in women it more often cascades down the crying pathway than it does in men. Interestingly, tears also contain a natural painkiller, (leucine enkephalin), which could also factor into the response.

Humans are emotional creatures. We care about our opinions and how people view them, and it is exceedingly difficult to switch those emotions off and Zen Master ourselves out of an overreaction.

It takes two to tantrum

Another important issue is that it is not just about where you lie on the continuum, but where the other person in the conflict lies too. If one is a shouter and behaves aggressively and the other is a conflict avoider, then a good resolution is doomed. What often happens is that Shouty feels that they “won” because it ended as soon as they had their say, while the other keeps quiet or walks away, but will then tell anyone who will listen just how awful Shouty is, searching for the empathy that they feel that they should have received at the time. That is possibly the worse kind of outcome as it breeds negativity and can lead to people taking sides, widening the initial conflict even further.

Are we biochemically predisposed to bear grudges?

Interestingly, whilst men can often be more aggressive than women (mostly because they have higher levels of testosterone), many studies have shown that men tend to make peace more quickly after a conflict and are less likely to bear a grudge afterward. The same behaviors have been shown in male chimps too. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense as men would have had to resolve fights and re-affirm their allegiance quickly and be ready to defend their tribe against rivals and hunt effectively together. Pride is soon over-ridden when life depends on it.

Women, on the other hand, are often accused of being over-emotional and over-thinking things, which can prolong peace-making, but again a degree of this makes sense when you look at their role in the ancient tribe. Women shared child care duties with some of the other females in the group and so developed higher levels of empathy and sympathy than males, both to facilitate nurturing but also to allow them to be shrewd when it came to working out who to trust.

The problem arises when men and women cannot understand or appreciate the different ways in which they handle conflict, and miscommunication leads to damaging interactions.

When people feel that their emotional response is being trivialized or that their hurt feelings are not being appreciated, the conflict is more likely to descend into something negative and destructive. This is where empathy, compassion, and patience must be employed, often by a manager or a third-party mediator who is not directly involved in the dispute. Resolving conflicts in a positive way can be learned and taught, enriching teams and relationships and moving everyone forward.

How an organization handles conflict is an important and often over-looked part of its culture, which left neglected could undermine even the strongest of organizations.

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Mediation

The Five Steps to Conflict Resolution

Submitted by Patrick Cioffi

The definition of conflict resolution is to resolve an issue or problem between two or more people, but is there a correct way to handle conflict? What are the effects of poor conflict management? Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable, as employees have different personalities, goals, and opinions. Conflict management is one of our core areas of expertise. Learning how to handle disputes efficiently is a necessary skill for anyone in management and the key to preventing it from hindering employees’ professional growth. Here is the conflict resolution process in five steps

Step 1: Define the source of the conflict.

The more information you have about the cause of the problem, the more easily you can help to resolve it. To get the information you need, use a series of questions to identify the cause, like, “When did you feel upset?” “Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?” “How did this incident begin?”

As a manager or supervisor, you need to give both parties the chance to share their side of the story. It will give you a better understanding of the situation, as well as demonstrate your impartiality. As you listen to each disputant, say, “I see” or “uh huh” to acknowledge the information and encourage them to continue to open to you.

Step 2: Look beyond the incident.

Often, it is not the situation but the point of view of the situation that causes anger to fester and ultimately leads to a shouting match or other visible and disruptive result.

The source of the conflict might be a minor issue that occurred months before, but the level of stress has grown to the point where the two parties have begun attacking each other personally instead of addressing the real problem. In the calm of your office, you can get them to look beyond the triggering incident to see the real cause. Once again, probing questions will help, like, “What do you think happened here?” or “When do you think the problem between you first arose?

Step 3: Request solutions.

After getting each party’s viewpoint, the next step is to get them to identify how the situation could be changed. Again, question the parties to solicit their ideas: “How can you make things better between you?” As a mediator, you must be an active listener, aware of every verbal nuance, as well as a good reader of body language

You want to get the disputants to stop fighting and start cooperating, and that means steering the discussion away from finger-pointing and toward ways of resolving the conflict.

Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support.

You are listening for the most acceptable course of action. Point out the merits of various ideas, not only from each other’s perspective but in terms of the benefits to the organization. For instance, you might suggest the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to effectively address team issues and departmental problems.

Step 5: Agreement.

The mediator needs to get the two parties to shake hands and accept one of the alternatives identified in Step 4. The goal is to reach a negotiated agreement. Some mediators go as far as to write up a contract in which actions and time frames are specified. However, it might be sufficient to meet with the individuals and have them answer these questions: “What action plans will you both put in place to prevent conflicts from arising in the future?” and “What will you do if problems arise in the future?

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Mediation

What is Conflict Resolution, and How Does It Work?

Submitted by Patrick Cioffi

How to manage conflict at work through conflict resolution

Conflict resolution can be defined as the informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute.

Several common cognitive and emotional traps, many of them unconscious, can exacerbate conflict and contribute to the need for conflict resolution:

Self-serving Fairness Interpretations: Rather than deciding what’s fair from a position of neutrality, we interpret what would be most fair to us, then justify this preference on the bases of fairness. For example, department heads are likely to each think they deserve the lion’s share of the annual budget. Disagreements about what’s fairlead to clashes.

Overconfidence: We tend to be overconfident in our judgments, a tendency that leads us to unrealistic expectations. Disputants are likely to be overconfident about their odds of winning a lawsuit, for instance, an error that can lead them to shun a negotiated settlement that would save them time and money.

Escalation of Commitment: Whether negotiators are dealing with a labor strike, a merger, or an argument with a colleague, they are likely to irrationally escalate their commitment to their chosen course of action, long after it has proven useful. We desperately try to recoup our past investments in a dispute (such as money spent on legal fees), failing to recognize that such “sunk costs” should play no role in our decisions about the future.

Conflict Avoidance: Because negative emotions cause us discomfort and distress, we may try to eliminate them, hoping that our feelings will dissipate with time. In fact, conflict tends to become more entrenched, and parties have a greater need for conflict resolution when they avoid dealing with their strong emotions.

Given these and other pitfalls, how can you set up a constructive conflict resolution when dealing with conflict at work and other realms? Conflicts can be resolved in a variety of ways, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation.

Negotiation: In conflict resolution, you can and should draw on the same principles of collaborative negotiation that you use in deal-making. For example, you should aim to explore the interests underlying parties’ positions, such as a desire to resolve a dispute without attracting negative publicity or to repair a damaged business relationship. In addition, determine your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA—what you will do if you fail to reach an agreement, such as finding a new partner or filing a lawsuit. By brainstorming options and looking for tradeoffs across issues, you may be able to negotiate a satisfactory outcome to your dispute without the aid of outside parties.

Mediation: In mediation, disputants enlist a trained, neutral third party to help them come to a consensus. Rather than imposing a solution, a professional mediator encourages disputants to explore the interests underlying their positions. Working with parties both together and separately, mediators seek to help them discover a resolution that is sustainable, voluntary, and nonbinding.

Arbitration: In arbitration, which can resemble a court trial, a neutral third party serves as a judge who makes decisions to end the dispute. The arbitrator listens to the arguments and evidence presented by each side, then renders a binding and often confidential decision. Although disputants typically cannot appeal an arbitrator’s decision, they can negotiate most aspects of the arbitration process, including whether lawyers will be present and which standards of evidence will be used.

Litigation: In civil litigation, a defendant and a plaintiff face off before either a judge or a judge and jury, who weigh the evidence and make a ruling. Information presented in hearings and trials usually enters the public record. Lawyers typically dominate litigation, which often ends in a negotiated settlement during the pretrial period.

In general, it makes sense to start off with a less expensive and less-formal conflict resolution process, such as negotiation and mediation, before making the larger commitments of money and time that arbitration, litigation and a trial often demand.

What conflict resolution methods have you tried before? Leave us a comment.

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Mediation

Need to Work out Conflict Between Staff in Your Workplace

Submitted by Patrick Cioffi

TRY VOMPING!

“Vomping” is a simple and effective tool for working out interpersonal conflicts, establishing understanding, and finding common ground. If you follow the steps, it can really work.

A good recommendation is to familiarize your entire group with this process even before conflicts arise. That way, when an issue does come up, every person in the group will have this tool to tackle it— “hey, can we VOMP about this?”—and others will know what they are talking about! No one must be afraid to bring something up because they don’t know how to handle it. Everyone is equipped with these simple steps to follow.

VOMPing happens in four stages—Vent, Own, eMpathize, Plan.  This process works best when two people step aside and communicate one-on-one in a private and respectful manner.  Each person needs to recognize the process and agree to go through all the steps, alternating turns and listening actively, without interrupting one another.

 

  1. Vent

First, both people “vent” about this issue. This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story completely uninterrupted and get it all out there. Just make sure you use “I” statements, speaking only from the first person to describe your own personal experience.  Be vigilant about not disrespecting your partner and be honest. Use concrete examples, express your emotions, and get it all out there. One person goes first, then the other goes. While your partner is speaking, listen actively and do not interrupt them at all. Each person should have the time to tell their story.

  1. Own

Now, each person takes “ownership” of their words, actions, and attitudes and acknowledges their part in the story. Even when it seems like one person is totally “in the wrong” a conflict is never entirely one-sided. Be honest and remember that both of you are motivated to clarify and resolve the problem.

This is a very exciting step in the process of conflict resolution because it allows each person to assume responsibility for their part in the conflict, and since both people are committed to taking responsibility, much of the fire of hostility is extinguished in this step. Ownership is a safe step because both people are committed to this process and to identify their role in the conflict.

  1. eMpathize

This is your chance to stand in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. When you do this, you can honestly internalize and recognize the other person’s experience and relate to their emotions and both the intended and unintended effects of your words and actions. Empathizing helps us grow in our understanding as people and brings us closer together.

  1. Plan

Now, suggest concrete actions and agreements that can be made to address the issue and solve the problem. Find the common ground here and make an action plan. The plan doesn’t have to be set in stone and can always be revised later.  Plans are important so we can move forward and feel like we’ve really accomplished something through the process. Plans can also be referred to as a mutual basis for accountability in the future.

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Mediation

Benefits of Mediation in Employment Issues

When faced with a legal problem at their place of employment, many believe that their only option is to the take the matter to court being unaware of the benefits of mediation in employment law cases. Mediation is a legal alternative to costly and lengthy litigation and is beneficial to both employee and employer.

Our firm, Inspired Mediation Services, offers mediation services to both employees and employers. In our experience, mediation is sometimes the best way to quickly and affordably resolve a workplace-related legal dispute.

Mediation is an Alternative to Litigation

One of the biggest benefits of mediation in employment law cases is that it can often keep a matter from entering into litigation. Court cases can be long and expensive, costing both employee and employer an excess of time and money. A benefit of mediation is that it aims to resolve the issue before it ever has to go to court. Most matters can be settled in only a single mediation session, providing a solution without a long and costly court case.

Mediation Improves Communication

Another benefit of mediation in cases of employment law is its ability to improve communication between employer and employee. Mediation allows both parties to speak freely about the matter in a confidential, moderated session. This increased communication can improve workplace relations and allow the matter to be resolved without feelings of bitterness and resentment.

Mediation Provides a More Satisfying Resolution

Many who engage in mediation say it provides the benefit of a more satisfactory resolution to their legal matter, as compared to litigation. Employee and employer can work together to find a solution they both agree on without having to rely on a decision made by the courts. Those who have settled their employment law cases through mediation often say they would utilize the process again should they ever have the need, as it provided them with a more fulfilling resolution than they would have received if they had gone to trial.

Before taking your employment law case to court, it is important that you explore and consider the benefits of mediation. Polaris can help you examine your options and assist you in the mediation process.

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Mediation

BENEFITS OF MEDIATION A Simple Explanation

  • Avoids court appearances and litigation costs.
  • Insures the highest level of privacy.
  • All aspects addressed: Legal – Financial – Emotional – Parenting.
  • Addresses and emphasizes the needs of the family.
  • Effective, child-centered and sustainable co-parenting plans and agreements.
  • Employs problem-solving techniques that foster efficient, fair and respectful resolution of issues.

  • Dramatically contains costs.
  • Allows you to retain control of the decision-making process.
  • Provides the maximum amount of flexibility and respect.
  • Helps the newly configured family to begin new lives in a more hopeful and healthy way.

  • The only model that provides a structure to address and provide private financial information, emotional support and guidance all within the same process.
  • Helps preserve respectful relationships after separation, divorce and business partnerships.
  • Assists engaged couples in creating fair and appropriate pre-nuptial agreements
  • An efficient and powerful process to resolve Family Disputes, Business Disputes, Co-Parenting and Paternity
  • Dissolutions or Marriage and Dissolutions of Domestic Partnerships
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Mediation

Why Use a Mediator Who is a Business Expert

Has your business come to a standstill because of undisputed issues?

Don’t have anyone on staff with the credentials, expertise and negotiation skills required to resolve them?

If you answered yes, you need a Business Mediator who knows the corporate world inside and out.

Why You Need a Business Mediator

Running a business can be demanding not only physically but mentally as well; stressful. Your aim should be to think of and implement strategies for business growth. Wasting time handling petty internal disputes can delay that growth for years.

However, these are inescapable parts of running an organization which, if handled well, can result in big gains. It could be anything from a contractual dispute to a disagreement between business partners, vendors and employees. In such cases, a Business Mediator will prove invaluable because they:

De-Escalate Tense Situations

Irrespective of the scale of a conflict, things can get heated and if they escalate, the experience can be quite draining. And in many cases negatively affect employee morale, decrease employee productivity and loss of staff.

Take contractual disputes, for instance. Irrespective of how complex or simple a contract is, there is always room for doubt and ambiguity. If those issues are not resolved, one party may threaten to sue the other or ask for monetary compensation for supposed damages.

Rather than taking the legal route, which is always costly for all, if both parties agree to a mediation agreement, both can get what they want with a mutually amicable solution.

Resolve Disputes Amicably

Mediation offers an amicable way to resolve conflicts without escalating them since it doesn’t take sides. The aim is to find a mutual solution that meets the needs of both parties. Since both parties come to an agreement together, they are more likely to follow it and since the experience can be referenced for future disputes, it can nip other potential issues in the bud.

This is a preferable method than hiring a lawyer who typically charge thousands of dollars in fees. Additionally, mediation works more quickly and can last for a couple hours, unlike dispute resolution from a lawyer that can take numerous hours to complete. If the other party hired their own attorney, the conflict could last for days., even weeks. Additionally, unlike public court cases, mediation is conducted behind closed doors at a venue that is convenient for both parties. Mediation guarantees that the issue and its result will never be placed in the public domain. Mediation is confidential.

Are Masters of Communication

Skilled mediators are Masters of Communication. They know how to “read” people, diffuse tension and streamline open discussions that can result in a fair and reasonable resolution. In other words, a mediator is master at refocusing people on mutually beneficial outcomes without ruffling feathers, so to speak. As critical thinkers and problem-solvers, they help involved parties to see a conflict from a different viewpoint, without letting personal biases interfere.

That is not to say that mediation always ends in a settlement. However, even if id a party does not agree with the other party, you will at least be aware of their biggest concerns in the conflict and can act accordingly in the future.

Mediation vs. Arbitration

Mediation is often confused with arbitration – they are quite different. Mediation is an informal, impartial, confidential, non-binding and a voluntary process. It is mutually settled between two conflicting parties. The mediator is present to facilitate the process and assist the parties to reach an agreement.

Arbitration is a process where the facts are submitted to an arbitrator or an arbitration panel and after reviewing all evidence, a final decision is made. The decision is final and binding.

Is Mediation Expensive?

NO! When you consider all the costs associated with a lawsuit, mediation is a bargain. The parties are free of all the costs associated with attorney fees a trial, and as a bonus- you get certainty.

Remember, trials are unpredictable. No one can guess what a jury (or even a judge) may decide. Mediators’ fees are almost always split between the parties; you’ll know the fee your mediator will charge prior to the mediation.

Why You Should Hire Me as Your Mediator

With extensive knowledge of Business Law and with four decades of experience as an accomplished business owner, I bring in-depth insight on key complexities and issues that can derail a corporation if they are not resolved amicably.

My main areas of expertise include, but are not limited to:

  • Pre-suit disputes
  • County, Civil mediations for contracts, landlord/tenant disputes, intellectual property, internet, foreclosures, personal injury, to name a few.
  • Alternative conflict resolution.
  • Business and Contractual law

In the business world, even the smallest issues can take on devastating proportions if they are not resolved in a timely and cordial and mutually beneficial manner. Whether it involves contractual obligations or issues between investors, vendors, employees or creditors, I have the business experience and extensive knowledge into the corporate legal framework to make a positive difference.

Besides streamlining the mediation process, my expertise saves time. Think about it. Would you rather spend more time negotiating terms or explaining basic terms to the mediator? With a skilled and certified Business Mediator, you can expedite these meetings without incurring extra costs.

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