Resolving Disputes

Understanding the other Person’s Point of View

You probably know how you feel about the argument and what problems you think need to be resolved. You could almost certainly describe how the other person has acted and how her/his behaviour has affected you. And, you could name the most important issues to you in the dispute. All of that is good because you will need to discuss these things in mediation.
But, you may know a lot less about how the other person has been affected and how s/he sees it. In fact, many people make the mistake of assuming that the other person wants her/him to be miserable, is not bothered by the conflict, or even enjoys it. This is almost never true! Most people engage in conflict because they have genuinely different interests, expectations, information, or values.

How would you answer the following questions?

  • How does the other person feel about the dispute?
  • How would s/he define the problem(s) that need to be resolved?
  • How would s/he describe my behaviour in this dispute?
  • How has my behaviour in the dispute affected her/him ?
  • What are most the most important issues to her/him?
If you cannot confidently answer the above questions, you have just discovered a potentially important clue for unlocking the dispute! You may believe that understanding and solving the other person’s problem is “the other person’s problem,” but here’s the problem with that belief: The concerns of the other person are why s/he is in conflict with you! If you don’t really understand these concerns – from her/his point of view, you cannot do anything to address them. And if you can’t address them, the conflict will remain unresolved.

Try to understand the problems expressed by the other party exactly as s/he sees them. This does not mean you have to agree with what the other person says or abandon your own concerns. It only means you must understand her/his concerns. To accomplish this during the mediation means you will need to listen carefully to what the other person says. If you see things differently, you will have an opportunity to explain that. But disagreeing before the other person knows you understand exactly what s/he has said, tends to discourage her cooperation to work with you to resolve the problem.

The mediator(s) will guide the discussion so you both will have the opportunity to hear the concerns of the other person. While it may be difficult to listen to a point of view with which you disagree, what is said may reveal important and helpful information for you.