Our world is filled with many problems including a conflict that demand our attention and collaboration. Conflict, or more specifically, interpersonal conflict, is a fact of life, and particularly of organizational life. One of the most common difficulties is a conflict with friends and co-workers, with children or parents, with a spouse, with people who hold opinions different from each other. However, conflict can also arise in relationships and situations outside work. Interpersonal conflict has been defined as: “An expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from the other party in achieving their goals”.

The most widely accepted definition of conflict refers to conflict as the ‘pursuit of incompatible goals by individuals or groups. In other words, conflict situations arise when individuals or groups pursue positions, interests, needs, or values that may lead to actions that come up against the interests, needs, and values of others when they also want to satisfy their goals.

Third-party mediation is one of the alternates to resolve the conflict. The Mediation of Conflict brings two conflicting parties to the table, along with a professional mediator. Effective regulation of conflict requires a skill to resolve the conflict. The mediators having empathy and understanding can start to take on a more compassionate approach to conflict and get less involved with the emotions that surround it, working through the essential questions instead. The job of mediation requires knowledge, skills, and dedication to resolve the dispute. Accordingly, mediation is founded upon a dynamic set of professional skills. It can teach, develop and maintain the habits of practice to be a successful mediator or conflict resolvers.

The mediator might often face difficult settings and might be unable to appropriately use the knowledge and skills because of certain deficiencies in awareness, such as an excessively self-centered perspective; strong negative emotions; automatic, habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving; insensitivity to emotions; insufficient social skills; and inadequate focus or concentration. Mindfulness can help people overcome such deficiencies in awareness. However, mindfulness is difficult to establish and maintain, in the face of those very obstacles, especially in proximity to the heated conflict.

Mediators “…seek to enhance their ability to be dispute resolvers by moving beyond knowledge and skills to deeper levels of engagement in their work” (Bowling and Hoffman, 2003). The primary step to being a mediator is to give due mindful attention to the problem. Mindfulness can be considered a valuable contributor to this process (Roeser et al., 2012).

The application of mindfulness to reconciliation and conflict management requires identifying and handle strong emotions, develop effective communication tools that help navigate conflict and integrate mindfulness into your interpersonal relationships, etc. Mindfulness is a conscious awareness of the present moment. Being mindful is to live in the present moment with regard to our sensations, feelings, thoughts, and actions. It brings about self-responsibility.

Mindfulness derives from ancient Buddhist philosophy, psychology, ethics, and is related to meditative practices. The word “mindfulness” carries many meanings. In common parlance, to be mindful means to be “conscious or aware of something”. Practicing mindfulness can help a person achieve these insights, that is, to see things as they actually are. Mindfulness, is a systematic method of paying attention, deliberately, at the moment, without judgment, can help us gain awareness of our mental and emotional processes, our habitual reactions, and their manifestations in our mind, body, and breath. Such self-awareness opens the door to developing ourselves in ways that will enable us to be more skillful and to get greater satisfaction from our work and our lives.

The principal method for cultivating mindfulness is practicing silent mindfulness meditation processes such as meditation etc and then deliberately bringing mindfulness into daily life. The basics of mindfulness meditation, a systematic method of moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness, which develops both calmnesses of mind and body and deep insight into the workings of our minds and hearts, deepen self-awareness and be kinder to practitioners and others.

Mindfulness decreases the prominence of self-centered focus and fosters the strength of other-centered focus. It reduces the power of strong negative emotions. It promotes freedom from automatic, habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It fosters sensitivity to the emotions of self and others. It improves social skills and strengthens both forms of attention and non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness can foster understanding of and compassion for others. It can help to understand compassion for others. It recognizes interconnectedness, supports us to enter inside to know about how our minds work. It enhances the ability to notice and let go of self-cantered, perceptions, and intentions about self and others. Mindfulness is a certain way of paying attention – can help overcome these obstacles and improve decision-making in negotiations and other conflict-related situations.

But mindfulness is difficult to establish and maintain, especially in proximity to the conflict. Mediators adopt various means to encourage mindfulness in the conflicting parties. These are- reframing, summarising, transforming of narrative, rhetorical questions are all intended to encourage reflection, offer a different perspective, and foster insight and self-awareness. The practice of mindful conflict management allows paying attention to the present moment in conflict, recognizing own conflict pattern, behavior, and conflict response with an attitude of openness and non-judgment. It helps the mediator for automatic response with an attitude of curiosity towards his / her perceptions and then working more skilfully with discomfort, frustration, anger, and worry, emotions that automatically occur when the mediator doesn’t feel comfortable in conflict.

Mediation is a viable way to solve disputes by allowing the parties to make the decisions about their issues rather than the court making the decisions. An unresolved conflict or interpersonal disagreement festers just under the surface in your work environment. It bubbles to the surface whenever enabled, and always at the worst possible moment.

Mediating a conflict is challenging. Resolving conflict can be viewed as a form of collaborative, creative problem-solving. The objective is a good quality solution with disputants’ commitment to implementing the solution. It creates disputants’ perceptions that the solution and the process are fair. It uses disputants’ sense of empowerment to resolve the current and future conflicts with efficient use of time. Mindfulness of mediator in resolving the dispute displayed in mental, behavioral, and physical exercise is a powerful tool that can help us respond to conflict in a cooperative and non-reactive manner in a win-win situation.

3 thoughts on “A mediator’s mindfulness for dealing with conflict”

  1. Thank you for bringing out the mindfulness aspect of mediation. I sincerely believe that effective mediation is deeply rooted in the ability of the mediator to maintain a calm disposition. Clarity of thought, empathy and non-judgement are the prerequisites for an individual to be able to maintain an impartial stance when resolving a dispute. Unfortunately, these are qualities that are cannot, or rather are not, adequately measured when certifying individuals as professional mediators. As we take on this responsibility, we must be individuals that not only advocate for peace, but embody peace itself. Conflict resolution, in this sense, is a way of life. It is a practice we must cultivate in our everyday habits and not just our professional endeavors. I agree that one of the best ways to nurture this habit and grow as individuals who develop the ability to view any problem as constructive challenges is to practice meditation and mindfulness. This often goes hand-in-hand with physical exercise as well, as both are mutually reinforcing.

  2. Dear Mohammad,

    congratulations to this very meaningful articles. I truly can not add anything but the information that I found mindfulness to be a very important ruling force that needs to be implemented to mediation. This was the reason why I modified the WMO Online Training and renamed it to: Mindful Mediation and Conflict Management.

    Thank you for your time and point of view.

    Best regards, Daniel Erdmann

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