Showing posts with label coaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coaching. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Setting the mood... in the mediation room

Setting the mood... in the mediation room - Understanding tone in conflict resolution.

Words cannot express quite a lot of feelings, whereas a noise or tone or drone or sound, an accordion falling down a staircase, can somehow capture an emotion much better.
John Lydon 

Introduction - All about the bass

Just like “Tone is everything in TV” (Ryan Murphy), tone is everything in conflict coaching, mediation and facilitation. Mediators and parties in conflict need to be aware of their emotions during mediation. Without emotional self-awareness, parties may inadvertently become even more upset in a process as a result of the emotions of someone else. Worse, is that a mediator, coach or facilitator might mimic a parties emotions without realizing it, reinforcing negative interactions and conflict escalation and allowing the parties to challenge their boundaries. Setting the tone in mediation impacts the parties, the mediator and can make or break a high-quality mediation process. Indeed, it's all about the bass.

Theory - setting the mood in mediation: 

Managing boundaries to impact the tone

Emotional contagion theory posits that the emotional state of someone can impact others around them.[i] This means that the sad feelings of a party in mediation might lead to feelings of sadness in another, even if the other person had already managed those emotions. Fortunately, a positive and hopeful attitude toward the situation, or a feeling of calm might infect others. Have you heard someone with infectious laughter? This might be an example of a more positive emotional contagion. 

The same theory also applies to the mediator, whose emotional tone might be used to influence parties in a positive way, or unintentionally in a negative way, reinforcing destructive conflict. If the mediator is unaware of this impact, they might also come across with a more heavy emotional demeanor, diminishing the likelihood of a more future-focused and hopeful attitude and tone. This is an example of poor maintenance of boundaries.

Changing how we communicate to impact the tone in mediation

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Communications accommodation theory posits that people subconsciously meet the patterns of others around them.[ii] This can be used  as a tool for mediators, coaches and facilitators to help in the resolution of a conflict. Say a divorce mediator models positive communication that encourages conflict resolution, the parties might be aided in fixing their relationship. The same goes for helping parties feel comfortable:

“If a disputant has a slow rate of speech or uses dramatic gestures, the mediator might regulate his or her own rate of speech or size of gesture to be similar to the disputant – creating feelings of kinship and comfort for the disputant.”[iii]

Unfortunately, if a mediator lacks self-awareness, this can have a negative impact on parties. In divorce mediation, if the mediator becomes agitated by one of the parties, they might unintentionally start to communicate more abruptly. This can serve to further escalate a difficult situation. In workplace mediation, rushed communication with parties might only increase their feelings of stress and discomfort, making conflict resolution more challenging.

In communications accommodation theory, there are 3 common patterns in someone’s communication behaviour, which include;


Convergence occurs when someone adapts to another person's communication behaviours, such as mimicking eye contact, tone, pace of speaking and more.[iv] Convergence can be both positive or negative. If it is perceived as genuine behaviour, then it might be thought of a positive.[v] As mentioned above, convergence can be negative if it leads to conflict escalation.


The tone did take on a negativity that I didn't like and when you make the decision to go the other way as we did it very directly had an impact, you can see it with the tracking.
Scott McCallum
Divergence “occurs when communicators purposefully accentuate a difference in communication patterns in an effort to separate their own identity.”[vi] Sometimes divergence is used purposefully to increase someone's power in relation to someone else. Mediators might do this unintentionally when they use jargon with clients who have no training in conflict resolution.[vii]  Parties might also use divergent communication with each other in a mediation session, in order to gain power over the other. This happens in destructive relationships.


Overaccommodation takes place when someone overcompensates or overadapts to another person's communication style. You’ve seen this in movies when someone speaks in an exaggeratedly slow and loud tone, and the other responds with frustration as they would have heard the message clearly. Overacommocation can be perceived as insulting, and might lead to conflict escalation. This might be common in divorce mediation cases, where parties may use overaccomodation to trigger one another.

Using listening to improve the tone 

Tone is often the most important part of a conversation - and listening is so much more important than what you say.
Hoda Kotb

When I spoke, I was listened to; and I was at a loss to know how I had so easily acquired the art of commanding attention, and giving the tone to the conversation.
Adelbert von Chamisso

Be sure to visit our blog that describes active listening for more information on this critical aspect of improving the tone.

Using music and songs about conflict to improve the tone

As goofy as it sounds, I try to sing in the morning. It's hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone - particularly in my case, because I'm tone deaf, and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.
Gretchen Rubin

We are not telling you that you should play music during mediation. This can be distracting to the parties. However, music during breaks in the mediation might help parties relax – breaking the tension. Ask each party their favourite artist, and then play each of their favourite songs during a break. Be sure to check out our top 10 conflict songs in 2014 for some ideas of songs related to conflict.

Creating a supportive environment to improve the tone

The higher the moral tone, the more suspect the speaker.
Mason Cooley 
Mediators must manage the environment to reduce conflict escalation and improve the likelihood of conflict resolution. Here are some things to look out for, and things to encourage in a conflict coaching, mediation or facilitation session:

  • Be accepting of parties in all of their diversity, avoid judgement and be patient
  • Help each person express their ideas with confidence
  • Take self-leadership, rather than avoiding accountability
  • State your needs when confronting others, rather than speaking in generalizations
  • Avoid passive aggressive and aggressive behaviour
  • Show interest in ideas shared by other parties, even if they might not be feasible
  • Using active listening to help each person feel supported and heard
  • Help parties manage their anger effectively during mediation
  • Encouraging parties to take small steps to build trust

Using your opening statement to improve the tone 

If you don't set the tone for the day, the devil will set it for you.
Joel Osteen

In addition to the other important aspects of an opening statement, mediators should start their session with a positive, hopeful and forward-looking statement. They should coach parties to develop a similarly positive opening statement before the session. An opening statement that comes across as genuine, and is convergent with the other party’s identity, can help lead to conflict resolution


We are not won by arguments that we can analyze, but by tone and temper; by the manner, which is the man himself.
Louis D. Brandeis

In the field of conflict resolution, tone is everything. As they say in film, “All you can really do as director is sort of set a tone.” (Adam McKay). The same goes for coaches, mediators and facilitators. Mediators must ensure that they avoid emotional contagions, and that parties are not ‘infected’ by someone's negative emotional reactions, as these may lead to destructive conflict escalation

To effectively resolve conflict, mediators and parties must modify the way they communicate, so that parties mimic the communication patterns of each other, without making them feel uncomfortable or insulting one another. A mediator can also positively impact the tone by modeling healthy communication, facilitating a supportive environment and drafting (and helping parties draft) effective opening statements. With the right tone, parties can be inspired to listen to one another and find ways to resolve their conflicts.

[i] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37 citing Hatfield, Cacioppo, and Rapson (1993).

[ii] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37

[iii] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37.

[iv] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37.

[v] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37 citing West & Turner, 2000. Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. New York: McGraw Hill.)

[vi] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37.

[vii] Essential Skills for Mediators, page 37.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Conflict Coaching in Organizations

Organizational conflict coaching: Informal, independent, neutral conflict management and dispute resolution

“The Organizational Ombudsman is like a smoke-watcher, if we see signs of smoke we will investigate and, if there is a fire we will make recommendations on putting it out and preventing future fires in that area. No one expects fire, but if it does occur we need a trained eye to direct us to the source, quickly, expertly and safely”.
Dr David Miller. Organizational Ombudsman, The Global Fund. Geneva.
Conflict Coaching in Organizations

Introduction to Conflict Coaching in Organizations

We all deserve a positive work environment, a place where we can enjoy our work for a job well done. When handled constructively, conflict is a normal and useful part of life. In fact, conflict can be good for business and can increase innovation. However, if left unresolved people may not feel their workplace is positive. It will lead to low morale and you may even notice that productivity is lost. In extreme cases, people may have health problems associated with conflict. This is especially true in the case of workplace bullying.
Many organisations have a formal conflict management system in place, encouraging staff to use the process if they get into workplace conflict. As with many formal processes, staff can be reluctant to engage due to fear of  retaliation, loss of relationships or other consequences.
The work of the Organizational Ombudsman as a conflict coach  is a complementary addition to an existing formal system. The informal nature of the conflict coach fosters conflict management and resolution of disputes quickly whilst reducing the cost of conflict both in dollar terms and human cost. Conflict coaching can help parties manage conflict escalation and resolve conflict.

What situations at work could I sort out with coaching?

  • My supervisor is grumpy with me all the time. I don’t understand why.
  • The foreman seems to have favourites and I’m not one of them.
  • The person I work with goes too slow and ignores my plea to work harder.
  •  I think I’m being treated differently than other people because I’m from another country.
  • I’m feeling bullied by the others. There is so much gossip where I work.

What does workplace conflict coaching offer?

  •  Strengthen your ability and confidence to take steps to resolve issues.
  • Assist with negotiations between people
  • Listen and help you develop options to address issues and assess the consequences of these options.
  • Provide information and clarification on company procedures and practices.
  •  Identify other avenues of help outside the workplace.
  •  Give the organization valuable insight into the issues facing staff so they can address systemic problems. (via anonymous reporting with consent)

What is a typical workplace coaching session?

In well-resourced organizations, the office of the Ombudsman is available for personal visits and contact by phone. For example, in New Zealand where the use of conflict coaching is new, enlightened organizations offer a limited service relaying on set days when the coach will be on site. In this situation, the coach offers to be available by phone on other days and will agree to meet with staff privately away from the workplace. They might also be available through video conference in email, such as within Online Dispute Resolution.

Conversations between coach and client are a one-to-one process so the client can increase competence and confidence to manage their interpersonal conflict and dispute. It is a future-oriented and voluntary process that focuses on the client’s conflict management goals. Conflict coaching is not counseling or therapy. The coach will not provide advice or act as your agent, representative or lawyer. Usually there will be several sessions, the first used to reach agreement about the boundaries of coaching and the client.

Primary role and responsibilities of the coach include:

a)      Help the client identify conflict management goals and steps required to reach them.
b)     Co-create a relationship that supports and facilitates the client’s efforts to reach their goals.
c)     Assist the client, manage or resolve a dispute or prevent one from escalating unnecessarily.
d)     Help the client strengthen their knowledge, skills and abilities to engage more effectively in conflict.
e)     Manage the coaching process through a step-by-step process where appropriate.

The client agrees to:

a)      Communicate honestly with the coach.
b)     Be willing to co-create the relationship and identify the best way to collaborate to ensure progress.
c)     Be open to the coach’s observation and input.
d)     Provide feedback to the coach on their experience of the coaching process and the working relationship.
e)     Be accountable for doing the work required to reach their goals.
f)      Be solely responsible for their decisions and actions regarding their goals.

The coach will maintain complete confidentiality about the content of the coaching sessions unless:

a)      Disclosure of the information is authorized by the client in writing.
b)     The client reveals intent to harm others or themselves.
c)     The information is required on an anonymous basis for educational or statistical purposes (no identifiable names and information are used).
d)     Required by applicable laws.

About the Author - Conflict Coaching in Organizations

Wayne Marriott.Conflict coach; Mediator and Conciliator. Wayne is based in New Zealand. He offers services face to face in New Zealand and by phone everywhere.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Coaching Services and Conflict Resolution

Coaching Services and Conflict Resolution 

“Coaching is not about teaching the caterpillar how to fly, it’s about creating an opening for it to see the possibility.” – Paul Lefebvre

The fields of coaching and conflict coaching are developing rapidly across the world. As part of this collaboration, we would like to tell our readers more about Coaching Services, what’s involved and why you should try it to make changes in your life and resolve conflict.

Mediate2go: Coaching Services and Conflict Resolution

What is coaching?

Coaching is a process where a professional coach works with an individual on a one-on-one basis, helping them work towards a goal of their choosing. Coaching can help someone see things about themselves in a new light, in addition to the people around them.[1] Coaching is challenging, and encourages inner reflection and future orientation. Instead of staying stuck in the past, a coach can help individuals move forward in their lives – however that might look like. Interestingly, coaching is often about realizing insights and skills that someone already possessed, but have just not yet honed in. Coaching is not therapy, as the parties do not delve into deep emotional and psychological problems, nor is it mediation, as only one party is involved.

What are some situations that I should seek coaching for?

  • Difficulty dealing with a challenging workplace situation as a manager or employee;
  • Difficulty asserting yourself with those around you;
  • Difficulty giving and receiving feedback to and from others;
  • Desire to move on and/or escape from a situation, such as a toxic workplace to find a new job;
  • Difficulty feeling motivated at work;
  • Feeling stuck in a relationship;
  • Desire to fix a relationship;
  • Desire to change careers;
  • Desire to set boundaries with negative family members or friends;
  • Desire to improve oneself in a particular area, such as building confidence;

What does coaching offer?

“The coaching process is both transformational and experimental—a voyage of personal and professional discovery and growth.[2]

Coaching can do the following:

  • Help someone become self-aware and build skills to meet challenges; [3]
  • Help someone become flexible and highly adaptable to manage difficult decisions; [4]
  • Help someone improve problem solving skills;
  • Help someone prepare for and effectively resolve conflicts; [5]
  • Help someone identify challenges or motivational issues to better achieve their goals;
  • Help someone enhance their leadership skills and improve their management style;[6]
  • Help someone achieve success with advice and feedback;

 How do coaching and conflict resolution work hand-in-hand?

Conflict often becomes unhealthy, negative and escalatory if parties do not know how to identify issues and resolve conflict effectively. Conflict escalation complicates interactions to make things much harder to address. One might not be able to identify the real problems in the situation, and might even contribute further to tensions by not addressing these concerns effectively.

Coaching can help individuals address issues that might lead to conflict escalation. It might even help people prevent the conflict altogether, or simply provide them with tools to better address it. 

Examples of coaching helping parties resolve conflict

  • A manager does not have sufficient training and comfort in giving feedback to employees. During a performance evaluation, the manager gives feedback in a way the leaves the employee feeling unappreciated or insulted. The employee files a complaint with the organization. Coaching might help the manager learn how to provide and listen to feedback so the employee feels motivated and understood, leading to improved performance;
  • An employee seems to complain about colleagues to their manager on a daily basis, leading to increased frustration for the manager. The manager is concerned about gossip in the workplace and increased tensions between team members. The individual becomes angry on a regular basis and disruptive in team meetings. Coaching might help the employee learn how to set appropriate boundaries in the workplace, and how to better adapt to those around him or her, which may improve their integration in the team. In other words, the coach might help them become a self-leader;
  • An employee seems to have lost motivation to do their job. They no longer try as hard to solve problems in their role, leading to the frustration of colleagues who need to shoulder the burden. A coach could help the employee identify challenges in completing their tasks, and work with them to align their personal goals to those of the organization to improve motivation and thus performance;
  • A high level executive believes that the leadership team isn’t doing enough to achieve organizational goals. She starts to express anger disrespectfully at meetings and begins micro-managing those around her. People around start discussing ways to remove them from the team. A coach could help the executive learn how to address this person, or work with them directly. In this situation, the coach would indirectly help prevent unnecessary conflict in the organization.

What is a typical coaching session?

Coaching is customizable, based on the needs of the client and style of the coach. This is the general process, although your coach can explain the process they will use.

  1. Client contacts the coach, who describes the process and discusses fees;
  2. If the client agrees, they meet and discuss the process further, and the coach helps the client set a goal, or several goals, based on their needs;
  3. Client and coach work together to help find ways of achieving that goal, which might be over one or multiple sessions over many days or weeks. Various techniques might be used, such as brainstorming, goal-setting, homework, visioning and role-playing;
  4. After the goal has been achieved, or the coach and/or client otherwise agree, the process is ended.

European Mentoring and Coaching Council

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