08/13/2009 11:59 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Be Your Own Mediator: Tell the Third Story

"We must have strong minds, ready to accept facts as they are."
-- Harry S. Truman

Be as objective as possible in grasping the story of your conflict.

Embellishing details of the story so that you look good is tempting. The storyteller has a selfish incentive to be the good guy. When pressure is placed upon your identity, you might work towards others seeing you more positively. In conflict, two people can view identity as a zero sum game. The more right you are; the more wrong I am. You can sense this mentality creeping into stories we tell ourselves and other people.

If you can tell yourself the two stories per the last post, now share the third story. Say the story from a third person narrator point of view. The story you provide at this point should be as objective as possible. If you can truly tell the story from your perspective and their perspective, then you can articulate the third story.

In complex multi-party mediations, I interviewed various parties to get fuller picture. In one particularly polarized situation I remember how skewed the different perspective were. As in most engagements like this, I provided a powerpoint presentation. One important segment was the actual description of the conflict. Of course we were very careful of what we wrote and said here, but we described the causes and consequences in a straightforward and objective manner. It brought all the parties on the same page and gave us a common starting point.

Even without a mediator you can do the same thing. The third story may be the one you share with the other person. This story includes questions of what you are still missing and to acknowledgment of the other person's view. The third story may provide a communication path to resolution.

My next post will focus on detecting earlier signs of frustration before exploding.

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