This paper will address a resolution dispute issue that is
underestimated: the importance of communication in conflict
resolution and mediation.
In conflict resolution and mediation, the importance of
communication skills is evident because the team has a real
opportunity to ask questions and to get the facts needed to
resolving a dispute.
The definition of communication in the Merriam-Webster
dictionary is: "information transmitted or conveyed". But
we often communicate without following the definition of
communication when we convey something other than our real
Effective communication skills in family resolution dispute
settings are complicated because separating spouses start off with
poor communication skills; people do not come to a resolution
dispute process if they get along. In addition, people are usually
already emotionally depleted when they start a conflict resolution
In the family conflict resolution setting, separating couples
are often afraid of being made wrong, of sounding ridiculous, of
looking weak or vulnerable, or of being put down by their former
spouse. So often what people say and what they feel are very
different. The value of a skilled conflict resolution professional
who recognizes the importance of communication clearly conveyed and
understood cannot be underestimated.
For the conflict resolution and mediation practitioner, the
importance of communication for resolving a dispute is clear. The
conflict resolution practitioner must not offer just family law
information, but must bring leadership skills to be able to lead
clients from a place of confusion to a place of clarity and self
As an example, in a recent mediation meeting I was conducting, I
was conveying family law information about co-parenting when the
wife expressed her anger at the husband for not returning her
emails in which she was asking for his input about how to organize
the children's Christmas and day care schedules. What started
off as a disagreement about how the husband was or was not
responding to her emails turned into something much bigger.
After some time, I was able to lead the wife to truly express
what was making her so upset: she was afraid that the husband and
his family would be mad at her and judge her if they did not get to
spend time with the kids on their preferred days at Christmas.
After the wife was fully able to articulate the real fears and
feelings, we were able to fully address the issue. The husband and
the wife agreed to go over the December schedule together after the
mediation meeting to confirm or adjust the proposed schedule as
needed. Then the husband will be able to tell his family that he
participated in the creation of the December schedule and get their
Even if clients do not have effective communication skills when
resolving a dispute, with the guidance of a skilled conflict
resolution and mediation practitioner, they will eventually get to
the bottom of their feelings. And when their real motivations are
known, they can be addressed and incorporated in the decisions that
will be made. The obvious risk if the real motivations are not
uncovered is that the parties may feel resentful and not support
the agreement in the future.
When you are looking into resolving a dispute with the
assistance of a mediator, it is important that you inquire about
their effective communication skills.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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