Constructive communication in conflict situations
Emotions often run high in conflictual situations. This usually makes it difficult to communicate constructively or think rationally, let alone negotiate in a reasonable way. In these cases, turning to a neutral third party (the mediator) to help parties find a common and sustainable solution that is acceptable for all parties involved, may be a wise choice.
What is mediation?
Mediation is the process of dispute resolution by a neutral third party. In this process, the mediator acts independently and refrains from offering solutions. Instead, the mediator facilitates the dynamics between the parties involved and fosters open and constructive communication. As such, mediation is an interactive process where a third party helps conflicting parties through the use of communication and negotiation techniques. The mediator helps parties to reflect on their needs, interests, fears and wishes and then continues to facilitate the parties’ negotiation process. While the mediator can engage in some reality testing, the mediator typically refrains from providing advice or settlements to the parties.
However, sometimes in the case of an “evaluative mediation”, the mediator may share his/her opinion and elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of each parties’ case. This may also include referring to the potential risks and benefits associated with litigation.
During the mediation process, legal, tax or other types of technical advice may be needed to come to a final settlement. Another approach may be to appoint two mediators who mediate together (co-mediators). By working together, and challenging each other, the quality of the mediation process is enhanced. There are different types of co-mediation:
- Co-mediators have the same background and expertise and work as a team to increase efficiency.
- Co-mediators have different backgrounds and expertise and work together as a team to incorporate all the knowledge needed.
- There is a principal mediator and assistant mediator.
In some cases, face-to-face mediation may be inefficient, impossible, or just not the preferred way forward. In these cases, online mediation or hybrid types of mediation (combination of face-to-face mediation and online mediation) may be an option. Reasons to opt for online mediation could be the following:
- Parties do not feel comfortable in the same room together. Reasons could be an ongoing power play or the presence of intense emotions.
- The dispute originated in an online transaction, and neither party has ever met physically before.
- Some issues need to be solved rather quickly, in an efficient way, and parties live in different geographic areas.
For advice on how to conduct these mediations online, you can turn to Katalien Bollen, who is MCC’s team lead, and holds a PhD on mediation and the use of online tools.
When to opt for mediation?
Mediation can be initiated at any moment. It may take place in the absence of any litigation, before or during litigation. The mediator acts independently from the lawyers involved in the litigation.
In the mediation landscape, we distinguish different areas or fields of practice. Download our infographic to find out more!
Services for mediators
Acting as a mediator can be complicated: clients may use difficult tactics, one of the parties may raise personal comments to the other party as well as to the mediator, or the mediator may personally get emotionally involved in the case as it resembles their own personal situation. In these cases, it can be challenging to stay neutral and impartial. In other cases, the mediator may just have the feeling he or she got stuck. They therefore may need some extra input to decide on the best next steps. In order to support mediators, we offer the following services:
The mediator buddy
As a mediator, integrity and impartiality are constantly required to help people communicate and negotiate in their search for a conflict resolution. The mediator’s job is delicate as it involves questioning people’s underlying interests, emotions and identity. To stay balanced, to manage own biases or prejudices and to grow as a professional, mediators need to engage in intrapersonal work. To do so, it is helpful to be able to rely on a buddy who can act as a “mirror”, who can challenge, ask critical questions or might provide different ideas on how to approach a certain issue within the mediation case at hand. The mediator buddy contributes to the necessary checks and balances to guarantee the mediator’s integrity.
On a regular basis, Mediation I Communication I Coaching (MCC) @ Deloitte Legal organizes (online) intervisions in which a group of mediators analyse recent cases, as mediated by mediators taking part in the intervision: How would other mediators have approached the case? And why? Often this is also combined with a role play. As such, intervision is a form of knowledge development in a small group of mediators who share common challenges or problems. During intervision, mediators can consult other mediators’ expertise to gain new insights as well as skills.
All mediators associated to MCC have in-depth experience and expertise in their field and some of them are certified by the Federal Mediation Commission.
Responsible partners for the different fields of practice: Alain-Laurent Verbeke (Divorce and inheritance mediation), Jürgen Egger (Commercial and business mediation), Annick Visschers (Mediation with tax authorities), David Roelens (Corporate mediation) and Stijn Demeestere (Labour and social mediation).
For each case, we will select the most suitable professionals to intervene.
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