Asking the right questions makes all the difference. How many times have we made promises to ourselves for the New Year? Why do we follow through with some and not others? Making a resolution is easy; following through with it is a bigger problem. Asking yourself, ‘Why did this not work?’ is not the same as, ‘So, what would make it easier to follow through?’
Asking the crucial question is a step we sometimes forget. Or, we may ask the wrong question. It’s sometimes easier to focus on what you want, instead of asking ‘how do we make change happen?’ For some of us, the motivation behind the resolution is what’s lacking. Simply doing something because it’s good for us may not be enough. Making a resolution that involves someone else may hold us more accountable and may actually be more fulfilling.
How about those family or office get-togethers we’ve just experienced over the holidays? How many of us had get-togethers that we dreaded because of an individual or because of a past event that caused some stress? It’s sometimes easier to avoid those people altogether rather than to confront them. But the effects of avoidance are clear: the people involved usually become more invested in their side of the story and become less interested in working it out.
However, the element of time should not be dismissed.. Sometimes, a conflict needs to ‘ripen’ before the parties involved are ready to talk about a solution. And, often times, a win-win solution doesn’t develop until both parties have reached a point where they feel there is no solution and that the relationship is damaged forever. It is frequently during these desperate moments that a focus on the basic needs and intentions of each party becomes a starting point for resolution of the conflict.
From there, a foundation is created based on the simplest, yet most important, needs. Certainly, mediation is a process that nurtures these types of interactions. However, without asking the right questions, an understanding of the situation won’t be obtained.
Of course, the mediator needs to be trained in order to recognize potential entry points for a foundation and be able to bring them into the open. In some cases, educating the parties involved on the basics of conflict resolution is necessary. Asking the right questions at the right time will facilitate conversation.
In situations involving juveniles, conflict resolution education is pre-eminent. Youngsters act and react on impulses and do not consider their consequences. Teaching them a process based on identifying their needs and how to successfully attain those has proven to be very effective in many communities. A strong relationship between local authorities and their local mediation program can become the basis for such education.
For more information, visit our website at www.mediateadams.org. MSAC offers mediation training, community, family, victim/offender, landlord/tenant, and workplace mediation. Bryana Nelson is a Board Member of MSAC. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Management and Conflict Negotiation.