In looking through some of the blogs I follow, I came across this post that talks about the misunderstandings that can happen in mediation. Have you ever had that happen in a class, mediation or a dispute resolution? Maybe in just a conversation?
My guess is you have.
Even if you haven’t, ever notice how many conflicts, big or small happen because one person says one thing and the other hears something else? Recently that’s exactly what happened between me and my eldest daughter.
Years ago, I did a year of law school and though I didn’t stick with it, (as it really wasn’t for me) the best lesson I learned was in the Contracts I class. The professor said “…words to a lawyer are like scalpels to a surgeon, they are the tools that we use…”
Now, as I learn more about mediation in my program and begin to practice with my internship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission I understand the power of what that professor mentioned all those years ago. And how it applies to the whole field of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
And of course there’s the field of non-verbal communications that can tell you a lot, like this article mentions.
So let me ask this – when you communicate, have a conversation, do you consider how you’re communicating? Not just the content, but what journalists call the mode of communication?
I never did, not really, not until I took a class here at Columbia called “Intrapersonal Dynamics and Conflict” taught by Barry Sommer. It opened my eyes to the issue of language in communications, and drove home the point my Contracts professor made.
Practicing all this is harder than you think, and can be a distraction from what you’re trying to say. But when I help with a mediation it’s always in the back of my mind.
So what do I do if I suspect I’m reaching a sensitive point in negotiations?
I pause, I slow down the speed of my talking so I can think ahead as I talk. And so far that has cut way down on the misinterpretations and miss-communications.
Like most skills, I find that practicing this verbal awareness helps make it more automatic. Personally, I never want it to become automatic to the point of learned behavior, like driving. But the more I think about the mode and method of my speech the easier it becomes. And the less damage control I have to do after the fact.
But I know I have a long way to go to master this skill set.
What do you think?