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Volume 20 Issue 4
November/December 2014

Our Daily Food – Choice or Chance?

Everything is About to Change

Beyond Right and Wrong: Using Mediation to Transform Conflict

Adventures in Lucid Dreaming

The Secret to Good Health and True Happiness

Geothermal and Solar as Heat Sources

We’Moon 2015: Wild Card


Beyond Right and Wrong: Using Mediation to Transform Conflict
by Darla Tenold
Darla Tenold

I’ve noticed the term “conscious uncoupling” in the media recently. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used it to describe their divorce process. Based on many media reports, they are committed to taking personal responsibility for their relationship, working together to ensure the separation has the least impact possible on their children, and remaining good friends. How does one go about remaining good friends when conflict arises in important relationships? Sometimes we are able to resolve relationship conflicts on our own. But when people begin having the same disagreements over and over, even to the point that they stop talking about them, resentment continues to build and can lead to separation. Mediation can have a significant impact on your ability to stay together peacefully or, if you’ve chosen to separate, “consciously uncouple.”

Someone asked me recently if I enjoy listening to peoples’ problems and arguments all the time. I do, because what I see is people talking about the things that mean the most to them; that their children thrive and that they are supported to have meaningful relationships with them, that their motives and intentions are seen and understood, that their needs are held with care and taken into account in resolutions. When people are in conflict, they cannot help but talk about what is most important to them, so much so that sometimes they even shout and use more and more provocative words to try to get these messages across. The difficulty is that shouting or using judgmental and blaming words makes it even harder for the other person to hear the critical message you are trying to convey. One of the most important jobs of a mediator is to help create an environment where it is possible to begin understanding the needs and interests underlying differing positions, blame and judgement. This understanding is crucial to the creation of inclusive and sustainable agreements.

Conflict, when managed well, is an opportunity for increased understanding that leads to creative and inclusive solutions. This kind of healthy outcome is difficult to achieve in an adversarial legal system where the focus is on convincing others that your position is right and the other is wrong. Even if disagreements have not ended up in court, attempts to resolve them can mirror the adversarial model. Hanging on to the idea that someone is right and someone is wrong gets in the way of learning from differences and can easily lead to increased conflict, resentment, and ill-will. To get beyond right and wrong, people often need help to express their needs and listen to the other differently, to focus on what is important to everyone involved and create solutions that work for everyone.

It is never too early or too late to start transforming conflict. Through mediation you can learn new communication and conflict resolution skills and gain new perspectives that provide the basis for effective future relationships with each other, extended family, and new partners. You can create agreements that take into account all needs, including children’s, promote collaboration, and that are, therefore, sustainable. And, yes, even good friendship is possible.

Darla Tenold is a lawyer and mediator working in Saskatoon who appreciates the power of communication and mutual understanding to generate creative and sustainable solutions for people in conflict. For more information visit www.darlatenold.ca and also see the colour display ad on page 10 of the 20.4 November/December issue of the WHOLifE Journal.


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