Back in December, I spent a day with 7 people, all of whom were in business together and all in conflict with each other. I’m sure they had been so for many years, but the problem was they needed to talk to each other in order to get a business transaction done. They were stuck.
The trouble with us humans – all animals in fact – is that out standard response to conflict is “fight or flight”, the outcome of which is that we will either win or lose the conflict. That works fine in a competitive, survival-of-the-fittest environment, but causes deep scars where inter-dependent relationships are at stake. The only realistic way to resolve a conflict and allow the ongoing “co-habitation” to prevail is to help the disputing parties find a win/win solution that they are happy to sign up to in the future. Managerial mediation is an amazing process that has worked spectacularly well for me in situations when I’ve had to use this with clients. I was confident that it would do so for this family too, although there were many times during the day when my confidence was called into question. However, it delivered a perfect solution for them and they managed to get the deal done to everyone’s satisfaction by early evening. Toughest day of my career I reckon, but certainly one of the most rewarding.
So, what’s the point? It’s this. If you have a situation where conflict is causing difficulties in a relationship, either at work or at home, I strongly recommend that:
1. You don’t allow it to fester. Fight/flight responses are likely to simply make it worse and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to get the parties to collaborate in finding a solution.
2. Take a look at the process of managerial mediation. It gets the parties talking to each other to find a workable, win/win solution that they both (or all if more than two) sign up to.