It’s been busy recently – and in a very good way. The positive power of mediation is clearly moving up the agenda, in the workplace as elsewhere. Amid the encouraging signs, however, we have to remember the “touchstone” of best practice in mediation, as well as continuing to raise its profile. So I wanted to remind you of a book called “Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most” by Patton, Stone and Heen.
To have a difficult conversation is something we all struggle with: we know we must address an issue with a colleague and we also know it risks being uncomfortable and possibly worse. So we repeatedly put it off before finally stumbling into a confrontation, when we could have had a more positive experience had we tackled it earlier.
Difficult Conversations is based on many years of research at the Harvard Negotiation Project. It teaches us to understand that we’re not engaging in one dialogue but three: the “what happened” stories (what do we believe was said and done), the “feelings” conversation (the emotional impact on everyone involved), and the “identity” conversation (what does this mean for everyone’s opinion of themselves).
I am still learning every day how to be a better mediator – and I encourage everyone to learn to look at difficult conversations as a source of positive long-term learning rather than a negative short-term discomfort. And in a world full of tricky conversations, understanding their multi-layered nature really helps us move on quickly from difficulties to better relationships between individuals and teams.
Caroline Sheridan, Chair, Workplace and Employment CMC group and Founder of Sheridan Resolutions