A Fort Collins Mediator’s Recommendation
If stay-at-home orders have put a strain on your home life, you are not alone. Tensions at home brought on by enforced proximity combined with financial stress and increased anxieties due to the Covid-19 pandemic are resulting in some very distressing figures. However, there are mediation techniques for conflict resolution that you can use at home, today, to help ease that stress. As a couples and family mediator in Fort Collins, Colorado, I have seen the following 5 easy tips can be employed easily by anyone to immediately reduce tensions at home.
Stress, loss of income and isolation all can exacerbate the risk of violence at home. Even in relatively healthy marriages where physical or emotional abuse has never been an issue, in unparalleled circumstances such as we find ourselves in today, tensions can flare and push people to a breaking point. Forecasts predict a spike in the divorce rate, even as family lawyers are coping with the same decline in business that other attorneys are reporting. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that despite the demand, pandemic-related circumstances such as court closures and general financial insecurity make it difficult for clients to take action to pursue divorce at this time — and that may be a good thing as life won’t always be this stressful and relations between a couple may improve.
Here are some mediation techniques for conflict resolution you can do today, right now, to reduce homebound stress between you and your loved ones. Consider using these simple skills to reduce tension and ease communication with the people who matter most.
5 Mediation Techniques for Conflict Resolution
1. The Mirroring Technique: In a calm, reassuring voice, try repeating the last three words of what someone has just said. The intention behind this should be “Please, help me understand.” This can create trust and signals respect and concern for the other person.
2. Slow it down: Take a deep breath. You don’t have to resolve a conflict this very minute. To create a reasonable outcome for you both you don’t have to change the other person’s mind.
3. Beware the F-Word (not the one you expect): If someone says “that’s not fair” ask them how it is not fair rather than try to argue. Or use the word “fair” proactively to create a more collaborative environment. Try saying something like: “I want to make sure you feel you are being treated fairly. Please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair and we’ll address it.”
4. Begin questions with: “how,” “what” or “tell me about” rather than “why” as “why” can make people feel defensive.
5. Reflective listening: When someone tells you something they want you to understand, respond with “it sounds like (you are really feeling hurt)….” or “it feels like…”, or “it looks like…” (Chris Voss calls this ‘tactical empathy’). Listening carefully and allowing the other party to feel heard goes a long way in soothing emotional upset.
Currently, there are so many unknowns in our future. It’s just possible that many of us will spend the rest of our lives coming to terms with the implications of this pandemic on our relationships, our society, and our psyche. One thing we can predict with certainty is that when our family courts fully reopen they will be extremely busy. The courts are expecting a tsunami of new cases once they open back up. Therapists, attorneys, and social work services will be needed more than ever.
If you fear you may be facing divorce (or if conflict in the home has simply reached unmanageable levels), it may be a very good idea to consider alternative processes for conflict resolution. Most courts will give deference to cases that have already undergone attempts at mediation over those that have not.
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If you are interested in learning more about how to use mediation techniques to reduce conflict at home, or anywhere, let me know!
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Fort Collins, CO
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