Keeping Communication Positive During Conflict

Treat others with kindness and respect:  Even when our feelings are anything but respectful, failure to treat the other side with respect will shut down communication.

Listen to the other person:  Eliminate distractions.  Do not interrupt.  Do not rush.  Give the person opportunity to truly speak what is on their mind and to be heard. With the practice of uninterrupted time, a listener can just listen and the speaker can speak without anxiety about interruptions.  Then, be open to hearing what the person really said:  do not allow preconceived projectons to interfere with listening and hearing what the person really said.  (No, this situation is not just like Minnie Mae’s last year, it is unique!)   The effectiveness and the quality of the communication increases enormously as a result of true listening.

Allow the other person to say nothing, or to pass:   This is a reflection of the principle that mediation must be voluntary and self determined.  Not giving someone the right to pass is a form of peer pressure.

Do not volunteer others to do something they have not already agreed to do:  The extra time and effort it takes to gain true consent (and avoid unwelcome surprises) builds trust, mutual respect, and ensures consensus.

Speak only for yourself and describe only facts:   Use statements that begin with “I” rather than “we”.  Avoid generalizations.  Do not ascribe thoughts or motives to others.  The only way to know what someone thinks or feels is to ask them.  Use of “I” statements also gives us a chance to internally review our own, internal response to the facts.

Speak, but not too often or for too long:  Aim to contribute information that is relevant and not redundant.  Show respect for others by giving them time and attention.

Challenge specific behavior, not the person:   Speak only to specific facts.  Avoid generalizations.

Maintain confidentiality:  Breach of confidentiality destroys trust.  If people fear their secrets and personal issues are going to be disclosed outside the mediation, they won’t feel safe to share their views and fears and ideas and vulnerabilities and mistakes.  Breach of confidentiality results in anger, distrust, and in disillusionment with the mediation process.

Allow yourself and others to make mistakes and to move on from them:  Blame, humiliation, and punishment do not repair or resolve problems.  Instead, these responses put people on the defensive and shut down  communication.  When mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and positive growth, it is easier for participants to acknowledge that perhaps a mistake has been made and to move forward in more positive ways.

This blog post is based on writings of Alan Sharland that can be found at


One response to “Keeping Communication Positive During Conflict”

  1. Hayes Noble Avatar
    Hayes Noble

    These tips on making mediation successful are very insightful. If humanity only practiced these skills every day in all that we do, perhaps we’d have less need for mediation in the first place. Thanks for providing this service and for working to preserve Christian love.

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