Tag Archives: conflict

HMG in the News (ST Forum 1 July 2014)

Linda wrote in to Straits Times forum to encourage more face to face dialogue with regards to controversial disagreements / conflicts in the public space.

"A dialogue may not necessarily lead to consensus. But even an emotive dialogue, if facilitated on neutral ground by a skilled moderator, can lead to greater empathy about the other party's wants, needs and desires. Parties can still agree to disagree, but they walk away with better understanding of how to engage constructively with minimal hostility."

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/disagree-over-something-lets-talk-20140701#sthash.46HuhZcI.dpuf image

War and Peace: Five Ways Mediators Reframe Conflict During a Negotiation

When disputes occur, it is common for some parties to adopt a more aggressive stance than others. This could manifest in various ways, including being confrontational and using attacking phrases. When faced with an impasse, the disputant might fallback on the language of war, using phrases like “I can’t retreat from my position” or “he keeps attacking what I said”, words designed to escalate conflict rather than bridge it. When an inherent aggression is tinged with a sense of hubris, the outcome can be catastrophic. Consider a recent case involving two executive committee members of a prominent association who filed law suits against each other in the high court. When the presiding Judge instructed both parties to go to mediation, one side decided not to, thinking they had a sure-win case. The side that rejected mediation eventually lost the case and is now suing their lawyers. Their false arrogance resulted in a substantial loss and huge legal fees. Experienced mediators are trained to help all parties - even those predisposed to aggression - to reframe conflicts during a negotiation. Here are five approaches they may use to help their clients: 1. Look at the issue through different lenses “Do not judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins.” This Native American proverb reminds us to refrain from judging another because we may not be fully aware of what has shaped their opinions, values and identity. Mediators may use techniques like having respective parties imagine the other’s perspective, or using narrative forums and listening circles to help disputants understand the dynamics behind the conflict. Most importantly, they want to help the parties involved see that other perspectives may be just as valid and credible. 2. Reducing tension Mediators seek to reduce tension and de-escalate hostility between disputants by creating forums framed around a set of limited objectives that encourage all parties to communicate openly. This helps to mitigate the risk of the cycle of conflict escalation, which often happens when disputants come into the session with incompatible frames. 3. Finding common ground Mediators may also help disputants establish common ground as a basis for agreement. Using visioning exercises and other explorative processes, mediators guide the different parties to identify things they agree on, whether it be what they want the desired future to be, to actions that all parties can agree to. This helps shift the focus from the short-term perspective to a longer-term one. 4. Question what constitutes loss and gain “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein’s wisdom resonates in a conflict setting, where mediators will help disputants identify the possible benefits that could be gained from resolving the conflict. Mediators will also seek to help the parties involved reframe their perceptions of loss into gains. 5. Having options is a good thing! Mediators also help their clients see the value of having multiple options. By making options and alternatives desirable to the various parties involved in a dispute, mediators help disputants break out of a single-solution mindset (i.e. an “I benefit/you lose” mindset or vice versa) and be open to multiple outcomes with different degrees of loss and gain, both tangible and intangible. Dora Yip, HMG Research Associate

Why You Should Insist on a Mediation Clause in Contracts

When a dispute occurs, choosing to mediate as a first step makes good business and financial sense. Litigation and arbitration can be both expensive and time-consuming, not to mention stressful, what with the worry that comes with long, drawn-out court battles in the former and the finality and legally-binding nature of the latter. In what is a growing trend the world over, many organisations and individuals now insist on including a mediation clause in contracts, one that calls for mediation as the first step in settling disputes. Here are three reasons why:
  1. Most businesses and people want to resolve disputes as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. It is in all parties’ interests to do so. Mediation has a remarkable track record - between a 60 to 75% settlement rate - especially when used at an appropriate juncture during the dispute.
  2. Mediation allows each party to tell their side of the story. In our experience, many disputes escalate because the different parties want their positions to be heard and validated. Mediation encourages empathy and understanding, something which more adversarial processes do not.
  3. A mediation clause pre-empts conflict and protects all parties from acting in the “heat of the moment”. If the contract does not have a mediation clause, it may be a challenge convincing the parties to use mediation when they are in a middle of a dispute. Think of the mediation clause as an active reminder to always pursue a peaceful resolution to conflict before embarking on a more adversarial approach.
An example of a mediation clause that can be inserted into a commercial contract is provided below: “If a dispute, controversy or claim arises out of or relates to this contract, or breach, termination or invalidity thereof, and if such dispute, controversy or claim cannot be settled and resolved through negotiation, the parties agree first to try in good faith to settle such dispute, controversy or claim through mediation, under the rules of [to insert rules governing mediation1]. The mediator shall be mutually agreed to by the parties, failing such agreement, the mediator shall be appointed by HMG.” While most practitioners agree that every lawyer-drafted contract should have some form of a dispute resolution clause, there is still a widespread variance as to the mode of dispute resolution to employ. Mediation is a sensible first-step, and we are likely to see the growing trend of its inclusion in contracts both locally and globally. Do contact us to find out more about how mediation can help you and your organisation minimise conflict. Dora Yip, HMG Research Associate 1. Refer to paragraph 3.6.7