Before Mediation: 5 Ways to Help Solve a Dispute Yourself

We often see disputes where the parties do not want to go to court.  This could be because of the cost of the court process, or some other reason entirely.  In these cases, we often suggest mediation for the parties.  Mediation is frequently considered as a way to resolve a dispute that requires relatively low investment of time and money.  While this is the case, there are even steps you can take before mediation to resolve a dispute:


  1. Focus on emotions.


A study done by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio focused on people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated.  They all seemed normal except for the fact that they could not feel emotions.  They also all had something else in common – they could not make decisions.  They could describe what needed to be done logically and rationally, however, they struggled to make even simple choices (such as what to eat).


In our experience, the resolution of disputes is almost always significantly impacted by emotional drivers.  Knowing this, ask yourself what could be responsible for leading you to this dispute.  Could one party feel their expertise hasn’t been recognised?  Or maybe one party feels their contribution hasn’t been given the respect it deserves?


Consider these questions and others and ask yourself how some of the damage can be undone.


  1. Be objective in your communication.


Attempt to express your feelings in a way that is clear, appropriate and professional. Also focus on “I” rather than “you” statements. This helps to reduce defensiveness. For example, “I am upset that my effort has not been recognised,” rather than “You are in the wrong because you haven’t noticed everything I’ve done.”


We believe in-person communication is best, closely followed by a phone call.  Tone is often hard to decipher in an email and this method of communication should be used with this in mind.


  1. Listen Actively.


People want to be heard.  And they want to know they’ve been heard.  While this is very difficult to do, when the other person is talking, don’t try and think of a sharp response – just listen to what they’re saying.  It’s subtle, but the other person will notice.


A technique to demonstrate that you’ve been listening is to briefly summarise what the person has been saying to you.  If there are any inaccuracies, the other person should correct you.  Keep going back and forth until you receive a “that’s right” in relation to one of your summaries.


  1. Take responsibility for your own actions and behaviour.


If you think you’ve been at fault (and you probably have in some way), admit it.  Appropriate concessions not only make you look reasonable overall, but it also makes you more credible on issues where you stand your ground.


  1. Think creatively.


A win-win situation can come from adding elements to the negotiation/dispute that you didn’t consider to be relevant.  This ties in with tip number 1 (focus on emotions), once you have established the emotional drivers, consider creatively how they can be met to satisfy the counterparty.



Hopefully, with these 5 steps, you can resolve your dispute without experiencing further time and money costs.