In any mediation, a mediator has a number of tasks:
- Facilitating all discussions between those involved, whether in separate or joint meetings
- Keeping up a sense of momentum, even when it feels as though there is none and indeed the whole thing is going into reverse
- Exploring assumptions and asking awkward questions, where appropriate, so that those involved are as clear as they can be about e.g. what they want
- Coaching negotiations
- Managing and concluding the process
- Ensuring all documentation is in place
The negotiation element is always interesting, in part because I have to do my very best to remain neutral in a mediation. It is also the place where any number of mediations may falter if not fail.
Much of the theory and practice around negotiation has been framed by "Getting To Yes" by Roger Fisher and William Ury and the language of the book is now commonplace: separating people from the problem; focusing on interests rather than positions; generating options before settling on an agreement; and insisting the agreement be based on objective criteria.
"Never Split The Difference" by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz is very different in its approach, in part because it recognises the messiness and high emotion inherent in any negotiation.
The book is worth reading time and again for its insight, although the occasional blurb for Voss's consulting business is tiresome as are the efforts to incorporate brief scientific insights which support his approach.
It is insightful on how to be persuasive:
- Don’t be direct which is seen as being rude, no matter your intentions. It's the impact of behaviour which is always important in any negotiation. Your intentions are irrelevant
- Listen very carefully for what Voss describes as levers - things which people really, really want but may not be prepared to share or may not have quite recognised. If identified properly, they can transform a negotiation
- Pushing for a “yes” can make people defensive, whereas a "no" is more reassuring
- Be careful not to accept a "yes" as a commitment to action - it may be no such thing. Summarise positions to trigger a “That’s right”
- Acknowledge all the negative things they are thinking and so defuse them - if you have behaved like a fool, fess up
- Let people feel in control, ask questions and allow them to feel they are in charge
- Keep asking “How am I supposed to do that?” - allow them to solve your problems for you
This is a very good example of an approach which combines both "Getting To Yes" and "Never Split The Difference".
From here to there, with some negotiation along the way.