Archive for October, 2009

Conflict – What’s good about the fight?

Martial artists know it, mediators know it and kids in the play ground know it. The best way to get out a of a loggerhead is – to let go. There is an exercise in Aikido where one person tries to get out of the wrist-hold of another. As one person struggles, the other grips tighter and the conflict becomes more intense, and so on… However, as soon as the one caught in the grip relaxes, the other relaxes their effort and the first person is often free to get out.

As mediators, we know this is the place we would like our parties to get to. Unfortunately, the more protracted the conflict, the less likely the person is to let go. This is true both in personal relationship conflicts, like divorce, through to state warfare.

From future-focused and problem-solving models of mediation through to more facilitative approaches, mediators often encourage those in the conflict to loosen their grip on the destructive cycle of conflict. Simply giving people space, listening and giving them a chance to reflect can work wonders – we know this.

However, I am also interested in is what keeps people in a confrontational mode. We know its fear. We know that when in conflict, the last thing we want to do is give in. However, behind this “knowledge” is an attitude that the conflict is bad and we should get rid of it. Yet if we really want to support Continue reading ‘Conflict – What’s good about the fight?’


“Its Not a Cultural Thing”

Trappings typical of an East-end neighbour conflict.

The people

The mediators: Two men in their mid-thirties, one of Morrocan descent, one Australian. The parties: A middle-aged first or second generation Bangladeshi woman, married with three kids living next door to a recently single white English born mother (mid/late twenties) of a 1 year old daughter. So a lot of cultural differnce, but I am going to foucs on the two party’s very different styles of communication.

The young woman desired and was able to communicate directly with her neighbour. This was evident from the beginning and actually part of the conflict: The council had told her not to have ANY communication with her neighbour while the dispute was still officially being dealt with.  This included the mediation process, so there was already there was a bit of resentment toward the mediation service as some other hoop she had to jump through. She had stated in her intention that she did not think the conflict was that big a deal and she was willing to apologise from the very beginning of the meeting.

They both claimed that it was not a “cultural” thing (there is a lot of fear about being seen as racist/prejudice = stupid/criminal) But in actual fact it was very much a “cultural thing.” The Asian woman wanted to address the two (male) mediators directly but did not seek much direct contact with her neighbour. We even pointed this out, (admittedly, we also sided with the mediation culture expectation that the two parties should be addressing each other – It is after all their conflict, not ours!)  So in this case, the Bangladeshi Continue reading ‘“Its Not a Cultural Thing”’