‘The origin of all conflict between me and my fellow-men is that I do not say what I mean and I do not do what I say’: it is beautifully put by Martin Buber and it is spot on. I sinned against it recently and suffered the consequences.
People often ask me whether I lead a conflict-free-life as a mediator. I don’t offcourse. Just recently, an inspiring collaboration of mine turned into an argument that almost escalated into a conflict.
I was contacted by a fellow mediator with whom I had already collaborated in the past. She told me that she was about to take on the mediation of a dispute between more than thirty people and asked me to join her. I said yes right away. I hadn’t yet conducted such a group mediation before and our earlier collaboration had been successful. And last but not least, I really like and value her as a person and as a mediator.
Agreements about the financial investment by all parties are settled during the first mediation session. It was clear that the lead was hers and what my colleague told me before hand was that she wanted to pay me for any work I would take out of her hands. We didn’t agree on a fee, but she suggested to agree on what was ‘reasonable’ later on in the process.
After one of the mediation sessions we went out for dinner and talked about many other things beside work. When the check arrived my colleague wanted to pay my share too. When I said there was no need and offered to pay my half she insisted that it was only ‘reasonable’ considering the work I had taken out of her hands. All of a sudden I realised she meant to say that a dinner was a reasonable remuneration for the work I had done. I was shocked. When I protested our intimate conversation turned into an unpleasant and unexpected negotiation.
I felt deceived. Why did she wait so long to specify what she felt would be a reasonable fee for my work?
But then again, I had waited just as long as she did. What was my excuse?
This is why the English expression To assume (ass-u-me), makes an ass of u and me is so true. Assumptions are the mother of all conflict. And the longer you wait to speak things through the more every one fills in from their own experience and alienates from the other person involved.
Yet discovering just how different our expectations had been and how they may have evolved in the process did not solve this issue. I still wished to be paid a reasonable fee and my fellow mediator still considered a symbolic fee a good way to go about this.
Did we manage to work this out? Luckily we did.
What I had to do was be my own mediator and apply the Break Through Method. These are the important steps of the Method:
1. Go to the balcony
2. Go stand next to him or her (in this case)
3. Don’t say ‘no’
4. Build a bridge
5. Use your power to educate the other person but don’t let it escalate
In my next article you’ll read how I managed to solve this argument while using the Break Through Method, and I will teach you how you can apply the Method successfully yourself.
But for now, here is valuable advice: SAY what you mean and DO what you say.
It will save you from a lot of mishaps in your business and personal life.