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M.E.D.I.A.T.E: Intentionally Planning Conflict Prevention

Improving relationships where we live and work often is a challenge, may be difficult, but never is impossible. No person is without power to exert some positive conflict prevention in life. Most persons either are unaware of the power they have, or lack confidence or skill in acting to make enormous positive differences. Let consider a systematic way to use the power we have to prevent conflict, without the limitations others might wish to impose on us.

In planning a seminar for a major corporation, I wanted to capture the essential points of my teaching on “mediation on the job, in the family and community” using an acronym as a memory device. The word, mediate, provided me a very appropriate acronym that effectively tied my entire presentation: “Make Every Day Into A Team Effort.” Here is the gist of that program.

Make. No person is without the powers to think, speak, and act. These powers truly are without limit. We can have a direct impact on others, and daily do so. Some supervisors are smart-alecks and bullies, yet nothing prevents us from a smile, a calm demeanor, or carefully-worded good advice. Perhaps they will remain the same, but others observe what we do. We do have positive power to use in all circumstances. The choice is up to us whether we “make good” with the opportunities given. Remember the old saying, “No plan is a plan to fail”? You have power to make good where you are. Do you like the results when you do bad things? No. Make a plan to make good of your opportunities in life and at work.

Every Day. Many opportunities are lost because we await the “right time.” How many days or nights are wasted when we were too lazy to use the Present, as we dreamed of a Future that never has come? Remember the Latin adage, Carpe diem, “Seize the day”? In sales, persons are taught to “think outside the box” and visualize uses of present circumstances. Conflict prevention is the same. Try this and observe the results. Determine every day to say or do something genuinely positive and good to someone, including people you dislike or prefer to keep at a distance. Daily do this for six weeks. Keep your speech or deeds small enough to be manageable. Do not try to be an “overnight saint.” That will never work. Everyone knows you are not. Sneak up on them a little at a time each day with goodness, but mean it.

Into. The preposition, “into,” is a dynamic word that carries transformative implications. He turned into an idiot on the spot. She went into a rage. We walked into the room. Understand that the daily use of power is transformative. Have you every thought of yourself as an artist? Few of us can sculpt, paint, sing on pitch, or photograph like Ansel Adams. Your power to prevent conflict, however, is assured to do amazing things to you and the people who experience your power aimed for their good. Use your power every day—not hit-and-miss, here and there–and report back to me what happens six weeks from now. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if I’m wrong that your efforts will be transformative and amazing in its effects and consequences.

A Team Effort. Make a mental list of the diverse and bizarre personalities in your workplace or life. Do you believe now that your daily use of transformative power will transform ugly ducklings into swans, radical individualists into team players? You are not a believer. I know you too well. In the military, what does the trainer think when he or she sees raw recruits on Day One? The experienced trainer ignores what he or she sees and already knows that, in most cases with most people, the system will work. Even washouts are successes. They learn they are not military material, and graduates need not rely on them in life-threatening situations. That’s good. The trainer ignores the evidence of idiots and one day, during some task or event, individuals turn into a functioning team. Why? The trainer kept working the details of the system and visualizing the Team. Look at your group. Will there be “washouts”? Yes, there always will be people not cut out for civil society, and others you wouldn’t want to entrust with anything valuable. Yet most of the people at work will respond to your daily controlled use of transformative power. Keep working the system, regardless of the people around you, and you will see success. One day the Team will occur right before your eyes, all because you kept doing the little things well and modeled the right stuff, every day, for everybody there, including the idiots.

M.E.D.I.A.T.E. in your life and workplace. Use this acronym to work your intentional, daily plan to transform your workplace into an environment where conflict appears with lesser frequency, destructive power, and adverse impact. Report back in six weeks with your results. You receive a cup of coffee if I’m wrong. What will you give if I’m correct?


John Willis

John D. Willis, PhD is an expert in conflict dynamics and drivers, psychological and social; a practitioner in EEO grievances and conciliation; and, consultant to executives on conflict and ethics.  John earned his PhD from the University of Chicago, with concentration on the motives and justifications of the religious wars… MORE >

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