One Step Ahead
Why Dynamic Mediation™
- The building blocks of the Dynamic Mediation™ approach that make it different, and yet so effective
Explore the Dynamic Mediation™ Approach
Dynamic Mediation™ builds different methodologies and time-tested models into the mediation process, while benefiting from proven tools already in use in other mediation approaches.
Cybernetics & Systems Thinking
The process aims at helping people identify their resources and potentials, envision their preferred future, build pathways to reach their goals, and utilize their resources to realize their vision.
Methodologies and Models Used to Create Dynamic Mediation™
System Dynamics Approach
Conflict Management Techniques
Learning Organizations Principles
Change Management Methodologies
Behaviour Change Wheel Methodology
Proven Mediation Approaches and Styles
Defining The Preferred Future
The change will not lead to a satisfactory end, unless parties define, well in advance, what success looks like. It is crucial for all stakeholders to clearly define what they want to achieve out of the dispute resolution (or conflict management) process. Therefore, one primary responsibility of the conflict management (or dispute resolution) practitioner is to make sure that all parties involved have clear understandings of their respective desired future.
This clarity of vision—of what is desirable—might not occur right at the beginning for all stakeholders; people might change their vision (i.e., what they want, their desired future) as they learn more about each other and know more about the possibilities. Moreover, some parties of conflict might not even believe they have the option or authority to form a desired future, even if only in their imaginations—even as a fantasy.
Those who believe all is lost will seem as if they have stopped reaching out, and when confronted with the task to picture their desired future, they may freeze with indecision. However, the sheer presence of parties and their continued efforts to find a way to resolve their dispute are, in fact, clear signs for the practitioner that they are still reaching out. They (the parties) also need to see and understand this. Regardless of the burning thirst and raging heat, they need to look down and see they are still walking, hoping to find an oasis.
In the Transformational System Design for Dispute Resolution model, the designer is not the only one exploring, understanding, and learning about the conflict and stakeholders. In an effective process, everyone involved (i.e. stakeholders) will be learning more about the other people involved in the process. However, the reality of life introduces yet another impediment: people being defensive about their ideas, and often closed to learning.
Human beings are formed through years of evolution to be adept at ensuring and securing their survival: to defend their existence and their identity. On this note, it’s worth reminding ourselves that beliefs are not mere logical concoctions; they link directly to emotions and shape behaviours; they are fundamental building blocks of our ever-evolving identity. People’s beliefs, values, and opinions are indeed parts of their identity, which they tend to passionately defend against anything perceived as offensive or aggressive.
Protecting one’s identity, the self-preservation instinct prompts people in conflict situations to defend their positions and try to prove theirs are the right ones, leading to a win-lose mindset. This behaviour will be inflated in cases of perceived aggression, whereas any acceptance will be regarded as a retreat.
Without an external threat, the human mind is open to learning constructively. People will start listening rather than hearing, observing rather than seeing, and learning more about each other’s points of view.
Without learning, a true conflict management process is impossible to achieve. There has been no comprehension and no mutual understanding. Any agreement will be temporary until another opportunity comes, for either party, to bring back the conflict. In this way, an agreement will be regarded as imposed, a settlement of disputes with which neither party is satisfied, a compromise for which all parties have backed down to some degree, not because of any deep understanding, but for the sake of the other party’s withdrawal. Consensus becomes a give-and-take process, a place which belongs to neither party—a no man’s land.
Conflict is a discomforting difference and therefore has this tendency to provoke emotions and manipulate feelings. It also branches out and propagates; conflict begets conflict.
It is natural for people in conflict situations to experience distressing feelings and sweltering negative emotions. If unchecked, these sentiments will find their way out, permeating into conversations between parties, fanning the flames, and aggravating the conflict between them.
A problem-solving (i.e. a problem-focused) practitioner will focus on exploring and probing for problems, pain points, challenges, and issues between parties, trying to pinpoint the root-causes, devising a plan of action to address problems and overcome challenges.
A transformation-focused practitioner, on the other hand, focuses on facilitating a process for the parties to discover their own resources and strengths, identifying times when they experienced a more satisfying relationship or times when they were able to overcome a challenge, and thereby highlighting their resources and success stories.
The solution will emerge out of those success stories since those are the ones that have already worked; they make sense; they are not prescribed external advice.
It is highly probable, for each individual, to find a time in which the problem they are experiencing now had not been present:
- A couple, going through some marital disputes, will surely be able to remember a time where they first glanced upon each other with adoration.
- A parent, having some challenges with his teenager, can look back and reflect on times when his child was well-behaved and respectful.
- An employee, having some disputes with her manager, can surely remember the time she received the job offer, after many interview sessions, having been successful amongst many applicants.
Focusing on finding solutions and success stories has a transformational effect on the language the practitioner is utilizing. Questions will have positive connotations, and conversations incorporate constructive suppositions, hence the term Presuppositional Language.
O’Hanlon and Weiner-Davis provide a recommendation for an SFBT therapist: “Instead of, ‘Did you ever do anything that worked?’ ask, ‘What have you done in the past that worked?’ … The latter [question] suggests that inevitably there have been successful past solutions” (O’Hanlon & Weiner-Davis, 2003, p. 80).
In the Transformational System Design for Dispute Resolution model, the practitioner truly believes that parties will be able to achieve success on their own; therefore, the presuppositional language is genuine and honest.
One key element of the Transformational System Design for Dispute Resolution model is to ensure progress and maintain the forward momentum of all stakeholders. The problem, for which the parties are seeking help to resolve, might seem—in the beginning—immense and insurmountable. Therefore, recognizing every step forward and all achievements plays a significant role in reinforcing a message of hope and progress for stakeholders.
Asking a stakeholder to evaluate their progress so far, the response will be any of three possibilities, all of which the dispute system designer should take into consideration in their design:
- The situation has improved,
- There is no difference. The situation has not changed, or
- The situation has worsened.
The first will present an excellent opportunity for the practitioner to ask more about how the stakeholder had managed to create such a success and what their experience was going one step further.
The second and the last possible responses can be managed through a positive reframing of the situation by the practitioner asking questions such as:
- “How did you manage to prevent the situation from worsening?”;
- “How did you manage to prevent the situation from worsening even further?”;
- “How did you manage to cope with the distress and discomfort, and sustain your health?”; or if the situation permits,
- “How did you manage to remain positive, keep your hopes up, and come to this session again?”
Moreover, evaluation is an effective tool to anchor parties to reality and avoid extreme bargaining processes. Evaluating the current status versus the desired future will bring a pathway into view. It might not be the pathway, but at least it exposes the fact that the target cannot be achieved all at once, and thereby focuses the dialogue on the next step along the journey instead of sticking to a desired, far-away objective.
In response to an excessively ambitious objective, which may well be in complete disregard of others’ needs and wants, the evaluation can help the practitioner navigate these challenging waters by seeking more information to clarify the objective in more measurable terms while guiding the stakeholder to evaluate their current position against the desired ambitious target. Now, the next question can be, in one form or another, something similar to the following examples:
- “Now that you are at this point (e.g., at 3 on a scale of 1 to 10), what could be the next step that can move you one step further towards your objective?”;
- “Thinking about one next step towards your objective, what can you do now to help others help you through this next step?”; or
- “What might you need so you can successfully fulfill the next step?”