I’ve learned a lot about techniques to resolve conflict during my four years as a member of the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. Most of these focus on negotiation and mediation skills in the context of civil litigation. At our most recent ADR Committee meeting, two mediation specialists from the Dayton Mediation Center introduced me to a distinctive approach to conflict intervention and resolution: transformative mediation.
Transformative mediation has broad applicability well-beyond the courtroom. That is, people may find it useful in resolving conflicts in their daily lives (rather than just legal disputes).
First, I must provide the caveat that I am fairly new to the concept. I have participated in one presentation and conducted a relatively small amount of research on transformative mediation. Nevertheless, here are my observations.
Transformative mediation views conflict as a crisis in human interaction. Rather than typical, civilized communications, those in conflict tend to degenerate into a worsening cycle of weakness and self-absorption. The weaknesses fostered by conflict include confusion, fear, disorganization, and uncertainty; the self-absorption includes defensiveness, suspiciousness, and self-centeredness. This makes meaningful communication very challenging, and interactions become destructive. It significantly impairs one’s ability to resolve the conflict. I’m certain everyone has seen or experienced this in an argument — people resorting to pettiness, name-calling, and irrelevant personal attacks. Either side may feel like they’re arguing with the proverbial wall.
The objectives of transformative mediation are to shift weaknesses into self-confidence and calmness, and to shift self-absorption into openness and responsiveness to the other person. The positive shifts seek to restore civility to the conversation and to foster a constructive dialogue. This allows the parties to move toward a resolution of the conflict. The trick of transformative mediation (indeed, what a transformative mediator should be skilled at doing) is to recognize and seize opportunities to shift the weaknesses and self-absorption into strengths and openness.
If you don’t have the benefit of a transformative mediator, I offer a few simple suggestions. Take a break during the conflict and purposefully work to calm your emotions. Once you have achieved a level of calmness and clarity, think about your position and organize your thoughts. This will build the right kind of confidence. Next, put yourself in the other side’s shoes. Try to empathize with the other’s perspective, and appreciate (even if you don’t agree) why they have taken their position. Ask the other party to do the same. Once you re-engage with the other person, maintain the calm confidence and openness you created during the break. Strive for a constructive dialogue rather than an argument. Look for a solution, rather than a win.
If you would like to know more about mediation, alternative dispute resolution, or risk mitigation, please contact Ryan McLane, an attorney in the law firm of Dressman Benzinger LaVelle with offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Crestview Hills, Kentucky and Louisville, Kentucky.« Back to news