As stated by a respected philosopher, positive “conflict lies at the core of innovation.” Indeed, positive conflict is a component in literally all successful mediations. As any professional Team Leader knows, a critical ingredient to the success of a highly effective and well-functioning team in solving difficult operational or other business problems is the ability to generate, embrace and harness the power of positive conflict. In many respects the experienced mediator leads a de facto team. This de facto team is committed to focusing its energies on crafting, if possible, a creative and mutually satisfactory resolution. Many of the mediator’s rules, processes and activities are intended to establish such a settlement “team” for the short period of time necessary to achieve a mutually satisfactory resolution.
Positive conflict is the antithesis of a battle of wills, a fight over intransigent positions (as opposed to true interests), demonstrations of personal distaste and judgments, raw demonstrations of power, deception and factual legerdemain, etc. Positive conflict focuses on a candid and trusting discussion with the mediator during the caucus of the good faith difference in ideas, interests, and goals of the conflicting parties and the willingness to mutually explore a potential satisfactory resolution that achieves the client’s objectives. Let there be no mistake, positive conflict does not require any party to abandon its true interests or strategic objectives.
There are two thoughts that have been of assistance in laying the foundation for an effective team and harnessing the power of positive conflict.
“Do not find fault, find a remedy.” - Henry Ford
“If you wish to make a man your enemy, tell him simply, ‘You are wrong.’ This method works every time.” - Henry Link
Aggressive and effective lawyers who achieve great results for their clients at mediation look for ways to cultivate an effective short term “settlement team” and exploit positive conflict – they attack problems not people. They give significant thought and detailed attention to the verbal and non-verbal signals they give throughout the mediation that will cultivate positive conflict and the willingness to work as a team.