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U MEDIATION K JOURNAL


Advocating mediation in bus iness


Advocating mediation in bus iness


The Psychology of Conflict


The need for mediators to understand human behaviour in conflict


A mediator’s prime function is to achieve a perception shift – both as to the dispute and as to the other side. Without such a change in attitude, the parties will remain in the same entrenched positions as those at the start of the mediation, and little or no progress will be made towards resolution. This is not easy, for these positions will have been created over periods of weeks, months or years, and will have become rigidly sedimented. Yet the mediator is expected to achieve this in a matter of hours.


One of the first lessons to be learned by any mediator is that such an attitude shift is not achieved through logic. Lawyers often set out their client’s case in carefully drafted ‘letters before action’ – cogently reasoned, legally persuasive, logically convincing arguments, setting out in numbered paragraphs the strengths of their client’s position. The letters are fired off in the naïve belief that the other side will, upon reading them, suddenly realise the error of their ways and capitulate. Rarely, if ever, does this happen. Instead, back comes a reply, equally cogently argued, but dismissing every point made in the first letter, and setting out in further numbered paragraphs a series of even more extreme defensive points. Sadly, it seems, logic and reason are in fact counter-productive: the greater the cogency of one argument, the more extreme is the response.


The problem is that parties in dispute are invariably


driven by emotions: they see themselves as victims of some injustice, and seek only vindication, revenge, and retribution – they want blood on the walls. When in such


By Paul Randolph


a frame of mind, parties to a dispute are in no place to listen to reason. Those involved in disputes often pray for ‘common sense to prevail’; there may be much sense, yet it is rarely common. Each party sees their own common sense as the only objective ‘truth’, and it will be diametrically opposite to that of their opponents.


Emotions cloud judgment, and overwhelm reason. Allegations of fault or breach are deeply hurtful, and all criticism is taken personally, producing emotional defensive responses.


Anger, one of the most common cmp resolutions


emotions in disputes, is usually precipitated by a perceived loss. Most disputes involve some form of loss - whether tangible, such as money, property, land, objects or possessions; or intangible, such as loss of reputation, time, or future plans, hopes and dreams.


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The mediator’s task is therefore to disarm the anger, absorb the emotions so as to enable the passions to subside, and so move the parties to a platform where they are more amenable and ready to listen.


But if logic does not work, what does? What will enable the mediator more effectively to work such miracles and in a short space of time? The answer is:


understanding of the psychological traits of human behaviour in the face of conflict.


cmp resolutions Professional mediators


Paul’s book ‘Mediation - A Psychological Insight into Conflict Resolution’ is available at www.paulrandolph.net


Professional mediators


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Mediators with over 20 years’ experience of workplace mediating


PROFESSIONAL MEDIATORS


Mediators with over 20 years’ experience of workplace mediating


Expert mediation training From a national certificate in mediation at work through to awareness raising and short courses


2222UK Mediation Journal | Issue 1 Sponsored by


Expert mediation training From a national certificate in mediation at work through to awareness raising and short courses


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EXPERT MEDIATION TRAINING From a national certificate in mediation at work through to awareness raising and short courses


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