Communicating is a key aspect of conflict resolution. It occurs in all human interaction in some fashion. During any conflict listening is typically impaired. To agree, the parties need to be able to communicate effectively.
Listen: Everyone should work at developing effective, interactive listening skills. When the other person is talking, you have the chance to learn something,--if you are listening to what they are saying rather than thinking about what you are going to say.
Observe: When speaking, you are responsible for making sure the others are listening. Verify this by observing the non-verbal reactions to what you say.
Signs of discomfort at what you are saying:
- A furrowing of the brow.
- Tensing of the upper body.
- Clenching of the hands.
- A set jaw.
- Leaning forward suddenly.
- Looking away, closing a portfolio or folder, or packing a briefcase.
Most important, watch the other person's eyes. When you are pressing too hard they will harden and stop focusing on you. What you are seeing is the other persons thinking about his response or how to end the discussion rather than listening to what you are saying.
Take Responsibility: Make sure you are being heard and understood. The other person will likely have to review what was said today with others. Make it your goal that he or she be able to clearly restate your case as you intend it to be heard.
There are simple ways to keep the other person interested and attentive to you.
1. Pepper your comments with questions designed to draw them into the discussion. By being involved in the dialogue, they will have to consider what they are saying. And when they speak, it is your turn to listen. They may reveal something of value.
2. Use silence to draw their attention. Pause before an important point you are about to make and let the silence grow until they take notice. Then proceed knowing you have their attention at the moment.
3. Use questions to reinforce their understanding of what you have said. Ask their opinion of a point you just made. If they have missed the point, restate it. You won't have as good a chance to reinforce what you have said once they leave the meeting.
Once two people are focused on each other and listening, communications can become intense. A mediator, while working to get the parties to discuss their respective issues, also monitors the reactions and interjects as required to keep the tone of the exchange productive. He may also use caucus sessions to separate the parties briefly to keep them from becoming too agitated.
In managing a negotiation you typically need to serve as both a mediator and negotiator to lead the discussion towards resolution. Don't be hesitant to ask for a short break to let things cool down or to simply get up. This will break the tension and allow everyone to take a breath.