We provide a credible organized confidential process to engage your conflict in all its richness, tapping it at the most effective point to move you forward
We invite opening to expose underlying rationales, encourage principled opposition, support authenticity, elicit diverse interests, generate value, and sustain honest dialogue – the space where solutions live. We use purposeful empathic listening to build trust and keep it.
We provide a safe environment and an organized process to bring out what is driving the conflict. We work to achieve an effective expression of the dispute – the clarity of a genuine expression of difference without avoiding or denying. This, not pointless and destructive fighting, generates forward movement and options.
We work with parties to deal with the right issue, at the right time, with the right people at a productive level of depth. We assist parties to achieve value congruence and authentic voice, bringing hopeful and grounded optimism that change can and does happen.
We avoid the traps of debates – a mediation isn’t a debate – and the traps of being stuck in positions or in the past. We aren’t distracted by personality or by behavior away from the nature of the conflict itself. Our focus structures the dynamic and frees you to attend to your specific conflict. Together we find the constructive next step.
We don’t bring a preformed solution; we engage the dynamic in the room, shifting as needed between the substantive, procedural and psychological dimensions of your conflict to provide the independent assistance you need to achieve results.
We are independent and omnipartial – never neutral
We create and conduct a process that doesn’t unfairly advantage a party at the expense of another. Neutrality is an aspiration, an intention – it’s never ideally or perfectly achievable. In a sense it is a weak aspiration, unsituated in relation to power – neutrality implies being out of gear, implies blandness, uncommitted, not engaged, even cowardly. We always stay engaged with your conflict and we stay independent, while connected. We know that our own interests are never paramount when engaging your conflict. We remain on everyone’s side.
We walk with the other party but not with the literal truth of what they say. We validate them and their experience, not the facts in their story nor the righteousness of their claims. We walk with them – neither deserting nor silencing them. We forge a connection to their personal subjective truth, the thing that is true for them, the reasons they believe what they believe. It is only when this is acknowledged and validated that people can begin to open up and understand more, understand connections, understand complexity and begin to move towards something new. And of course we do this for you too.
We omnipartially hold their concerns by engaging empathically, by striving to understand, by framing vulnerable moments. There is nothing ‘touchy-feely’ about this. Rather, it is the hard work that that gets things unstuck and moves parties through seemingly impossible conflicts and through irreconcilable differences.
The aspiration to neutrality, at its best, models non-reactivity and non-judgement, while also aspiring to hold this space for the parties to enter into as they feel safe to do so. We engage with this while recognizing that reactions and judgements are part of the process.
We won’t take sides at the expense of the other, but we’ll often take sides, in the moment, to get the parties to communicate more effectively. We’ll take sides to move, to frame, to challenge, to connect, to support, to transform – but we’ll never abandon any party in this process.
We’ll never ignore the questions of prior relations, of whether and who stands to gain. We’ll never ignore the biases and strong opinions which may prejudice us as interveners or call into question our independence or our integrity. We hold and commit to all these values AND we believe in the omnipartial holding of empathic space with direct honesty. We believe we can make a significant difference in your conflict by not trying to make things significantly different, not trying to make things how we believe they should be. We believe that if we bring this deep commitment and can convince you that this is so, then we can throw neutrality out the window without sacrificing a thing.
We balance honesty & empathy
The key to powerful conflict interventions is the balancing of honesty and empathy. Deeply honest and empathic questions defuse and disarm defensiveness allowing parties to suspend judgement, allowing communications to flow and land. It is crucial to use both – honesty without empathy is brutal judgement – entrenching positions, resentments and mistrust – while empathy without honesty is ineffective sentimentality allowing parties to safely stay in uncomfortable and unproductive spaces. The balance keeps it real – and drives your process forward, drives the building of relationships and the crafting of resolutions. To reach deeper honesty we use greater empathy. To build greater empathy we use deeper honesty. We build trust and keep it, or if we lose it we use honesty and empathy to get it back. It is the core of what we do.
We create the linkage to facilitate the reciprocal incremental risk taking that moves your process to resolution
The taking of risks opens the way. Risk taking should always be carefully considered, but almost certainly not avoided entirely. By risk we mean an intentional interaction with an uncertain outcome. When considered risks are exchanged in conflict situations the potential for value creation and creative resolution are magnified.
The way out is through. To move through impasse in mediations we build trust and keep it, guiding the parties through their process of taking considered risks in an incremental and reciprocal way. We move deeper, encounter resistance, and with a simplicity of intention bring honest and empathic questions to bear on the impasse. As change happens we move deeper, encounter resistance and repeat until we transform the conflict dynamic and achieve resolution – always on your terms.
We operate with comfort amidst uncertainty
Solutions to conflicts live in uncertain spaces. It is in uncertainty that creative options are generated, but it is in uncertain spaces that fear can stifle creative responses to conflict. Our comfort with uncertainty is the essence of what we bring to the conflict interaction. We always know less than the parties about their own lives and circumstances. What we do know, through purposeful listening, is how to recognize, confirm, and hold your concerns so you are free to explore new possibilities without fear of losing what is most important. We walk with you, untangled by the risks you face as you choose to explore unprecedented options, and thus add to your safety by anchoring the process so that missteps don’t hold consequences.
If it was easy you wouldn’t need us. If the direct path that never ventured into unknown territory was an option, the conflict would have been resolved already. We acknowledge the uncertain aspect of every conflict, but we also recognize the subtle signs that help us navigate through uncertain spaces. Because we don’t ultimately care what parties choose for themselves (we aren’t in a position to know what is best for them in their lives) we are free to recognize the felt differences in the moment, the discernably different states of openness and trust that parties feel, as well as the degrees of permission, ease, and tension that can make all the difference in a negotiation or mediation.
We explicitly say no to win-lose thinking
It isn’t necessary but it can be helpful to think of the other party in your mediation as an opponent. An opponent is not an enemy, with an opponent there is creative tension. There can be adversarial cooperation which can serve an integrative function and conflict can work to increase value. This coordinating rivalry can be a win-win. We love win-lose games, but not win-lose conflicts. There is no point to engaging serious conflict this way. There is a better way. It is not a question of harsh or gentle language, nor is it a question of presentation or style. You neither have to necessarily play nice nor be belligerent and tough. You don’t have to pretend to feel other than you do. You DO have to access your power and be a credible adversary AND be genuinely open to mutual problem solving for mutual gain. This is the negotiator’s dilemma and it is a paradox worth engaging in. We can help.
The struggle to shift from a lose-lose conflict to a win-lose fight is a waste of time and energy. You don’t need to engage in a pointless expensive fight with at least one guaranteed loser, handing over your power to someone else to fight for you. Nor do you need to go it alone or give up. We can help change the structure of your conflict interaction. We can lead a confidential process where you and your “opponent” can present your views, think through your options, and move your conflict in a productive direction.
Because we’re on your side, and theirs, we won’t smother your conflict, we’ll help you work it. We’ll encourage parties to work wisely and in a mature manner as they engage their specific conflict. We’ll help focus a long term sensibility on short term goals to move the process where it needs to go to meet your needs. We endorse and use the classic facilitative mediation technique of shifting from positions to interests. That is, shifting from preformed conclusions about what would need to happen (such as: my position is that you must do x y and z) to the underlying needs that must be satisfied (the things that happen if they do x y and z). Crafting solutions from positions leads to lose-lose compromises where everyone is giving up something and no one is ultimately getting what they want. Taking the time to shift to underlying interests leads to win-win compromises where everyone is getting what they want. The shift from a conflict of positions to an aligning of interests means joint problem solving – not pointless fighting. It means recognizing that whomever you are mediating or negotiating with is not an enemy.
This is as true of bargaining relationships as it is of entrenched personal conflicts. Working for resolution is the alternative to continued engagement with a conflict dynamic that may be destructive, dysfunctional, and wasteful. There is no escaping the fact that parties in dispute are already working together to create the conflict, the existing dispute is already and necessarily collaborative – generating the results that everyone is living with and may continue to live with. This may seem depressing, but it offers the promise of transformation to empowering, productive and creative collaboration. We say yes to omnipartial win-win struggle.
We are an ally to your process, bringing flexible approaches and a diverse skill set
We are flexible because we are committed to moving forward on whichever road is best to facilitate interactions between parties. It is in these interactions that processes open up, options are generated, understanding crystalizes, and change happens. We engage parties on an emotional level, the level that clouds conflict thinking, the level that entrenches parties against their own forward movement, the level that generates
meaning. We do this explicitly with parties comfortable with this vocabulary and implicitly with parties who aren’t. We always track and engage the emotions – sometimes we talk about them. This ain’t therapy. Emotional engagement is necessary but not sufficient. We focus on helping parties negotiate progress, agreements, and settlements that work for them now. We translate to legible terms. We keep the conversation going. We pause when its needed. We help you to learn (to expand your understanding & vision) to adapt (because sometimes obstacles suggest better possibilities) and to influence (to expand their understanding & vision).
A range of techniques from a range of toolboxes is needed. From the facilitative toolbox we help parties access their inherent problem solving skills and engage the other party in ways that work for them. From the narrative toolbox we track the stories as they unfold, noticing the potentially productive uncertainties and contradictions that express the complexity of our experiences and open paths as yet unseen and unimagined. From the negotiative toolbox, we help you stay balanced on the razor edge of the negotiator’s dilemma to maximize integrative growth and distributive satisfaction. From the therapeutic toolbox we structure and maintain a safe environment for your confidential process. We bring the presence needed to hold the space and the ability to draw on the capacities of the parties to craft solutions that work.