Want to know what I’m thankful for this year? Thanksgiving dinner. But it’s not because the food is delicious (although my sweet potatoes are amazing …). It’s because holiday meals are the perfect testing grounds for mediating disputes.
Think about it. Mediation, when successful, is simply communicating through conflict with the goal of reaching an agreement that lets everyone carry on with their normal lives without leaving significant permanent damage. If that doesn’t epitomize the Thanksgiving experience for you, then I don’t know what does!
But don’t worry. We’ve got you, your granny, and your gravy boat covered this year. Knowing how important navigating disputes is for our families and clients, I recently engaged in learning more about the world of mediation. I emerged fresh with ideas for helping you transform your communications in the boardroom and the dining room, making holiday meals with your ever-opinionated uncle not only mildly tolerable but downright enjoyable!
Turkey Day Tips
The following tips are lessons learned from the understanding-based model of mediation, which is shown to be one of the most highly effective approaches to resolving conflicts — whether during an awkward family dinner or a legitimate professional disagreement. Mastering these three concepts will help take your communication skills to the next level.
- Be in it to win it. The first step to any successful mediation involves setting your team’s sights on a lasting, durable outcome. This high-level approach will help build sustainability directly into the process, which means that things are less likely to fall apart once a few loose ends start to fray with time. So, commit to a loftier goal at Thanksgiving this year: fostering a dinner table conversation that strengthens relationships for the long term, rather than simply keeps things calm until next November rolls around.
- Keep your seat. Inclusivity is the cornerstone of any good mediation session, at least for the understanding-based model. By ensuring that all participants can hear, respond to, and contribute to the conversation, you can help prevent the game of telephone that often comes with relaying information through third parties. If a break is needed, then take it as a group and pause the conversation until everyone is seated again around the proverbial table. While whispering colorful commentary to your closest allies may be a lot of fun, these side conversations undermine the goal of creating a shared experience that builds long-term trust and understanding.
- Give up on “perfect.” Congratulations! If you’re making any sort of honest effort to communicate with each other, then you’re communicating the right way. The reality is that there’s no perfect way to engage in a hearty exchange of ideas, especially when opinions or personalities clash. But there are best practices to communicating effectively (and there’s definitely a wrong way), which can help ensure that incremental progress is made toward resolving conflict and restoring trust among everyone involved.
Mediation may not have been part of your original plan for the Thanksgiving holiday but being understood is something we are all seeking. The concepts and lessons that I’ve learned — and continue to learn (#AlwaysBeLearning) — from mediation empower me to cultivate stronger professional and personal relationships, ones that I grow increasingly grateful for, year after year.
If you’d like to learn more about the understanding-based model of mediation or mediation more broadly, I’m always happy to chat!