My process is based on transformative mediation techniques that I use with my clients and is the foundation for my first book, DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master.
The Seven Choices (gently) help parties in conflict remember their own humanity and contributions to the dispute:
- Forgive yourself for having conflicts.
- Acknowledge yourself for taking any action to resolve the conflict.
- Forgive the world for having and creating conflicts.
- Free the emotions.
- Clear your mind.
- If you must make an assumption, assume you know nothing about anything.
- Listen with your third ear (your h-EAR-t).
This is typically part of the pre-mediation “homework” and is followed by the first of the Five Actions: Define the Conflict. I ask parties to define each conflict simply and succinctly, if possible, using the below format:
__________ and I disagree about ______________________.
It takes some mental effort to simplify the issues in this way, but it gives us something that feels more manageable. It also forces the parties to focus on what can be managed.
After defining the conflict(s), we then Identify the Interests (Action Two) by exploring each parties thoughts, beliefs, wants, needs, and wishes. At this stage, the unmet expectations often become clear, which often allows us to move easily to Action Three: Play with the Possibilities. We can discuss what was expected and whether it (or something close) is still possible. We can also consider each party’s ideal resolution scenario and how that might be created. Then, we move to Action Four: Create the Future, using a plan with Specific, Measurable, Individualized, Likeable, and (relatively) Easy (“SMILE”) goals (even if we don’t always call them that openly). Finally, I remind the parties to Stay on PARR (Action Five): Plan, Act, Revise, and Repeat, until they get the results they want—or something better.