Conflict Resolution|Mediation

The Three Simultaneous Exchanges in Mediation

Of the many skilled mediators I have been privileged to know, few are more insightful and articulate than Robert Creo.  Bob recently shared a terrific perspective over a tasty lunch: That three discussions, or dances, inform a negotiated settlement discussion, and only one of them is acknowledged by the parties.  The mediator who acknowledges all three is in a better position to manage expectations and to find a viable solution.

The first of these is moral indignation.  This is a hard-wired response, a connection to some primal sense of justice.  One party thinks that the other did something wrong,  something that their mother or their priest would be ashamed of them for doing.  The accused party either denies it or refuses to acknowledge it.  But that sense of “you did a bad thing/no I didn’t” is at the table.

The second is the feeling of disappointment, or betrayal.  Before this happened, the parties trusted each other.  One of them never dreamed that the other would behave this way.  Their friendship, or trust, or past regard for each other has been seriously compromized.  “I never thought she would do this to me” is also at the table.

The third is the money. 

Creo is not saying that the money is a disguise for the other two.  He’s saying that when someone says “She owes me money” what is really happening is “She did a bad thing and she betrayed my personal trust and our friendship.  Plus, she owes me money.”

Creo is reminding us that relationships in dispute are still relationships, and that they are not only about money.  Respecting the perceptions of injustice and betrayal is as important as focusing on the money.

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