The Conflict Pivot isn’t only for people who want to resolve their own conflicts. It’s for mediators and other conflict resolution professionals like you and me, too–people who help people resolve their conflicts.
I’ve been using the book’s principles and approaches in my mediations and consulting for years now and it’s changed the way I work. Here are the ways conflict pivots can help you in the mediation room and leave you with more satisfied mediation clients:
Help clients bring their “A” game to the table
When we can keep our cool and balance in conflict, we’re better able to access our good skills, our favorite tools, and our clear thinking. That’s true for our clients, too. When I’m headed into a mediation, I do whatever I can to help my clients bring their “A” game to the table, knowing they’ll be better served if I can help them this way.
To that end, I often use the conflict pivots as part of my pre-mediation work with clients (I’ll say how in the last section). More often than not, this particular pre-mediation work has paid huge dividends later in the mediation room.
Replace ground rules with something better
If you like to use ground rules, it’s probably because you want to help your clients make good behavioral choices during mediation. The problem is, ground rules do very little to achieve that goal. Ground rules tell your clients how you want them to behave (or not behave), but when the going gets tough, there is often a significant gap between what they know you want and what they can actually do. They’re no different from you and me–behavior is not quickly changed simply because someone wants it to.
I’ve found that conflict pivots, particularly the second pivot and its work with conflict hooks (Chapter 4), is the bridge over that gap. It’s actually more than a bridge for me…I rarely use ground rules at all because when clients can access their “A” game, I don’t need to rely on rules to help them bring their better selves to the table.
Discover important issues
In the book I say, “With the three conflict pivots, you will be able to achieve one of two things with any conflict on an ongoing personal or professional relationship: 1. Truly let it go and move on. 2. Know precisely what you should discuss with the other person so that real resolution between you is within your grasp.“
When my clients work through the three pivots, they frequently discover significant issues between them that have never been discussed. It’s not uncommon for these issues to become important fodder for breakthrough conversations in mediation.
Address difficult dynamics on the fly
On occasion I may find myself working with clients who aren’t familiar with conflict pivots. As we’re working, I may notice that they’ve been “hooked” by something in the conflict and are no longer able to bring their best thinking and work to the conversation.
When that happens, I often meet with each party privately and do a mini-conflict pivot walk-through with them in order to unpack what’s going on for them and help them get their feet back under them. On some occasions, if things have gotten very hot under the collar, I’ve even temporarily adjourned the mediation and used a longer private session with each party to work through some or all of the three pivots (more on this in the last section).
Keep your own calm and balance
Anyone who has mediated for any length of time has experienced the mis-directed anger of a client, attempts at manipulation by a client’s attorney, or the bitter winds of conflict blowing over us and affecting our own behavior.
I’ve found the conflict pivots, and most particularly the knowledge of my own conflict hooks, to be a lifesaver in those moments. They help me keep my cool, get my calm back when I’ve temporarily been knocked off balance, and, in so doing, ensure I’m doing right by my clients.
How I use the book with clients
Here’s how I use the book with my clients: I give them a copy of the book as part of pre-mediation preparation for being at the table together. I give it to them enough in advance that they have time to read it (it’s a fairly quick read) and complete the worksheet (which they can download for free). I schedule time to go through the worksheet with them and discuss their conflict hooks and ways to manage those hooks at the table. This is all part of the pre-mediation preparation.
In some mediations, I leave it at that. The conflict pivots serve as a tool to help me help them bring their “A” game to the negotiation table and to stay calm if things get testy.
In other mediations, especially those involving parties who will be in ongoing relationship (work colleagues, for instance, family members, business partners, etc), I may well encourage them to use what they discovered during the conflict pivots to serve as fodder for some of our discussions. In instances like these, I’ll raise this possibility with them in advance so that they’re ready and not put in an awkward position inadvertently.