I learned this in mediation training and it is really one of the most helpful mediation tools I know: People are not against YOU they are just all about themselves.
IF you can start realizing this when in conflict, the other person’s position will seem less like an attack. The “attack” mentality comes from being personally involved and failing to step outside of your own personal views. I know this is hard to do but you have to consider the other party’s perspective when analyzing his/her positions. What do they NEED that is making them take that position? How does that need jive with the position they are taking? Can you help fulfill the need differently? Do not underestimate this one: Does recognizing the need have value in and of itself such that the underlying position changes as a direct result of your awareness? Does knowing the need in context with the other person’s perspective versus thinking the other person’s position is an attack change your position at all?
In our consultations with people who are thinking about using the mediation process, they are usually so damn sure that the other person is not going to budge and that the situation is hopeless. When I ask why I am generally told something to the effect of ” Well I have done everything I could, there is no talking to x.” Yes, I understand that and at the same time, you must understand that facilitators are not taking anything personally and are not at the other end of the conflict. That is a great non-threatening position to be in and as a result, definitely changes the dynamic of discussion. Hence, you cannot summarily conclude that the other party may not be open to the mediation process. Doing that just shows me over and over again how self-involved most of us are when in conflict. If we cannot solve it then it is unsolvable. For the most part, that is an untrue statement.
The mediation concept of realizing that people are not against you they are just all about themselves is one way of becoming like a facilitator precisely because you become less about self-interest and more interested in the other. In doing so, you express empathy, you show you care, you ask better questions and your demeanor comes off far less defensive. This is going to help move the discussion forward.
Of course, you always must remember that just like your negotiating partner you are all about yourself as well. As a result, you may not be able to see the other’s perspective precisely because you simply cannot get out of yourself. If that is true, recognize it and ask for a facilitator/mediator. However, perhaps you can step outside yourself enough to actively listen and pay attention to what is motivating the other side. If you are going to be the catalyst that pushes the conversation forward, knowing this tool will help you get out of entrenchment, better understand the problem, and make room for more and better solutions to the conflict.
Thank you, Martina Welke, CEO/co-founder, Zealyst. for reminding me of this important mediation concept.