Are you deadlocked with someone over an important issue?
What type of conflict negotiation strategy would suit you best?
Consider the following example:
A client, Jim, came to see me for counselling the other day, complaining of high levels of stress. He is in a marriage with Sue, and they have three young children. He and his wife are partners in a number of businesses. He says that his wife wants to start her own business without any “interference” from him.
Jim and Sue have an extremely volatile relationship – Jim he is unsure as to whether or not he wants to remain married or get divorced.
I did a full assessment of Jim, and came to the conclusion that his relationship problems were causing the lion’s share of his stress and recommended that Sue get involved in the process.
What type of intervention do Jim and Sue need?
As Jim reports that Sue says she is open to being involved, couple counselling or mediation are possibilities (both couple counselling and mediation are not likely to work without buy-in from both parties).
Couple counselling would be my intervention of choice if the couple wished to work on their relationship whilst mediation would be a suitable strategy if the couple wished to concentrate on trying to resolve issues concerning their businesses. Mediation would also be indicated if the couple decided that their marriage was no longer viable and that they wished to divorce.
In order to mediate the business-related issues successfully, Jim and Sue could consider finding a conciliator – a mediator with an in-depth knowledge of the issues and domain under discussion – in this case business practices. (My partner, Ian Gillespie, was called on at a certain point in the process, therefore, as he has extensive business experience). A conciliator thus, because he or she has extensive knowledge in a particular area, may depart from a “pure” mediation approach by also providing information and advice.
Should, for arguements sake, this couple eventually decide to divorce, a facilitation clause in their consent paper would allow for a facilitator to be appointed post-divorce. The facilitator’s role would be to look after the best interests of the children (in line with the Children’s Act). Should the parents disagree on any matter relating to the care and contact of the children, the facilitator would step in and first attempt to resolve the conflict through mediation. However, if this proves to be unsuccessful, a facilitator has the power to make a decision about an issue, and have it enforced by means of a directive.
So whether you decide on couple counselling, mediation, conciliation or facilitation, I suggest that, for your peace of mind, that you make sure that the practitioner(s) you choose is/are professionally qualified and accredited with relevant professional organisations such as the Health Professions Council and the Family Mediation Association of the Cape (FAMAC).