I went for pizza with some friends and we had a conversation about how much pizza I can eat and I was joking and said it depends on how hungry I was. I said sometimes I can eat eight pieces of pizza, and other times I will only have one “whole” piece. So the conversation went on and I then said, the whole pie, a slice of the pie, several slices, it all depends on how you look at it. There is more than one way too look at a pizza; 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, or more slices but no matter how you slice it you still have a whole pizza to work with. There can be multiple variations with different toppings and types of pizza leading to lots of creativity and options.
This example above is a great descriptor of how the mediation process and ability to generate options should be viewed. It is an opportunity to be creative to reach a goal. Use these pizza graphics as a reminder to help move from positional thinking to a focus on interests… It can be compared to the processes of either a best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), worst alternative to a negotiated agreement (WATNA), and the middle ground of the zone of potential agreement (ZOPA). It is sort of like having all, some, or none of the pizza. There is typically more than one way to achieve a desirable outcome to a situation given the flexibility of mediation and helping parties understand it is OK operating in the middle ground.
More often than not in today’s society many people tend to believe when conflict is involved that only one person can win while the other must lose. For many societal reasons we don’t gravitate towards creating win-win outcomes because many think if they compromise they are considered weak, they don’t win, or it is more challenging to do so, and requires thinking outside the box to work in collaboration to reach a mutually desired outcome. However, these collaborative approaches more often than not lead to greater options and satisfaction all the way around.
As a mediator, it is vital to have the ability to assist the parties early in the process to openly communicate what it is they truly need from the mediation process. The pre-mediation process is a good place to start that conversation. By doing so it provides for a much more efficient and effective process and participants often walk out of the mediation feeling satisfied about the process and with an acceptable outcome. This often times helps avoid the potential of having to battle things out in court where one person wins and one loses or potentially even worse where nobody wins. If facilitated effectively the mediation process genuinely focuses the parties on communicating what they want and why they feel they need or deserve what they are asking to be considered. Effective communication and removing the positional mindset is and will always remain a major slice of the mediation pie.
So, are you hungry yet? Well next time you are sitting around enjoying the slice(s) of pizza, remember the importance of everyone being open minded and flexible when it comes to brainstorming and generating realistic non-positional options to aide making the best possible considerations about any given work and/or life situations.