Mediators are trained to give clients instructions that both sides must be willing to listen to each other in order give resolution a chance. I’m going to stop requiring participants to listen because listening doesn’t accomplish squat. Let me explain.
In my opinion it’s too easy to listen—or at least claim you’re listening. All you have to do is sit there. You can think about your last vacation, try to remember the 5th item on your grocery list, or clutter up your mind with any number of ponderings—all under the guise of listening. Sometimes the only real effort listening takes is staying in one’s seat and not leaving the room.
Rather than requiring my clients to listen, I’m going to ask each of them to consider what the other has to say. I believe there’s more than a subtle difference between the two. I looked to Webster’s to see what the dictionary had to say and though there are a number of definitions for the words that are quite similar, I found these two meanings particularly interesting.
Listen: to pay attention
Consider: to look at thoughtfully
Considering allows one to move from idle listener to engaged co-participant. Listening doesn’t demand much but considering requires a lot. To consider fully one must mull it over, play “what if”, ask mindful questions, create clarity, and develop ideas that start with the initial proposal but end up somewhere else. It’s hard to do that if you’re just listening.
Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies. She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success. Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.
Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways. “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity. Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.
Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington. She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes. Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm. Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.
Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on www.amazon.com, www.dummies.com, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.