From the CMP Resolution Blog of John Crawley, Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.
If I hear one more ‘mediation expert’ talking making the claim that mediation ‘nips conflict in the bud’, I’ll scream, and not because it’s a terrible cliché! Of course mediation does no such thing. Nor should it. CMP’s mediation service, and our training, has long been proud of the fact we do not ‘nip conflict in the bud’ and it is a sign not only of illogical but also superficial thinking about conflict and mediation, to claim simultaneously that conflict is a ‘positive’ thing which has ‘benefits’ for individuals and employers, and also to state that one of the main accomplishments of mediation is its ability to ‘nip conflict in the bud’.
Conflict has many benefits. It builds self awareness and enables people to learn about one another’s differences. Conflict is a motivator, it energises people to perform and succeed, and it generates creative solutions to problems that need to be addressed. CMP would not for a moment say that conflict ought to be ‘nipped’ anywhere, never mind prematurely ‘in the bud’ before the people involved have had a chance to gain these benefits from the undoubted discomfort that being in conflict produces.
Our approach to mediation is not to use mediation in the hope of fending off a conflict as early as possible. On the contrary. Mediation ought to be, and in our hands is, a process for supporting people in conflict to access the benefits of conflict; to find out about themselves more deeply, to build an awareness and understanding of the other person as a real human being with needs and interests, and to discover that they have their own power and ability to create solutions for themselves.
If what people mean when they say mediation ‘nips conflict in the bud’ is that it supports people to find a path through the pain of conflict and out to resolution, then I’m right behind them. If what they mean is an aspiration to ‘no conflict here, thank you very much’, then I’m not sure I am. CMP trains mediators to bring conflict to fruition, to help parties to generate their own positive outcome from their conflict journey. It is only this model that allows mediation to be a tool for growth and development. Any other model of mediation is simply geared to finding the ‘solution’ that will ‘nip’ this situation ‘in the bud’, not understanding that by taking the gardening shears to this plant, you are simply cutting off growth and the potential for a stronger and more resilient plant.
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