When I have these sorts of discussions with other mediators, I then reflect back on why my learning is not necessarily the be all and end all. For instance, when I try to be clear in my everyday life, and try to understand what others have to say, sometimes it blows up in my face. In an intimate relationship, that sort of behavior can come off as cold and unemotional or rigidly rational. Among mediators, that sort of behavior can appear condescending. And those are just two of the possible pitfalls.
One mediator I know says that he tries to guess at what the other person’s concerns are, and respond to them. My personal experience with that, however, is that many times people guess incorrectly about what the other person’s concerns are, and if they are assuming they are correct without actually checking, then they may be going in a very unproductive direction.
I began to compile a list of things that we could do in our daily lives to improve our relationships and manage conflict better. As I looked at the list, I was dissatisfied, both because the list was undoubtedly incomplete, but also because it lacked unification and organization and would therefore be difficult to remember. For me, learning is all about creating a framework that is easy to remember. I realized that the list could be organized into categories, which would facilitate remembering. After doing so, I was impressed by the fact that there were many things that fell into the category that I call “creating a positive dynamic”. In fact, some of the items in the other categories could also be considered ways to create a positive dynamic. It feels correct and true that a major focus of our efforts in our interactions should be in creating a positive dynamic.
The length of the list and the amorphous and incomplete nature of it point out why destructive conflict is so difficult to manage and avoid and why it challenges all of us, both as mediators and as parties.
Here is my undoubtedly incomplete list of ways to walk the walk in our daily lives. I will continue to tweak the list, and it will probably be an ongoing endeavor: