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How to be Your Own Mediator: Tell the Story Twice

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Test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. F. Scott Fitzgerald


After you vent your side of the story, retell the story from the other person's point of view.

Here is how to do this. Choose a specific conflict with one other person. Particularly useful is selecting a person who you blame for the current poor working relationship. Now, find someone else who you can confide in to be a listener and do the following exercise.

Tell the listener a story where the other person is responsible for the problems between you. The story you tell should have a beginning, middle and end. Tell the story from your perspective. The listener should just stay quiet and listen without interrupting.

Now, pause. Perhaps even take a deep breath and a break before retelling the story. Slowly go through the same story, except this time you (rather than the other person) are accountable for every outcome of the situation. If something bad happened like the other person shouted at you, retell that detail by saying how you caused the outcome, no matter how tenuous e.g. you said something to trigger the reaction, you initiated the conversation or you made fun of his prized superhero tie and belt set.

In mediation, if the timing is right, I will sometimes have each party tell the story from the other person's perspective in private or with the other party. It gets that person to acknowledge the validity of the other person's point of view and it affirms that other person as well. In private, it is similar to what is described above and can lead to a turning point. I remember how doing so helped break through a stalemate as one party in mediation recalled how they had been friends in the past, which led to reconciliation.

Catch the ways you leave out the other person's perspective. Alter your actions by altering the stories you tell yourself and others.

My next post will focus on telling the third story i.e., being as objective as possible in grasping the story of your conflict.

To learn more about the importance of communication skills particularly in negotiation and conflict resolution, read about the solutions, results and publications Grande Lum has created at Accordence, Inc.
For further discussion, contact Grande at grandelum@accordence.com

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