Ben Stich shares some mediation techniques to help you learn how to communicate better and resolve conflicts with your spouse.
When you are arguing with someone do you ever feel like the other person is speaking a foreign language? That they don’t make any sense? When this happens to me it is like listening to French over twenty years after studying it in high school — I recognize a few words but miss the larger meaning! When this happens to you I bet you give the other person a blank perplexed look, feeling confused and frustrated. And then you start arguing or angrily walk away, right?
Help Wanted: A Translator Is Needed For Marriage Help
I am sure you won’t be surprised that I see this dynamic among mediation clients all the time. A client once told me that her friend questioned the time she was putting in to her divorce mediation. She wanted to know if it was worth the travel, the money, and the time. My client answered with an emphatic, YES! Asked why, she explained that it was because she felt the mediator was her translator – without me none of her thoughts, feelings or ideas would be heard or understood by her husband.
So What Does This Have To Do With You???
This is not a sales pitch for mediation. It is a sales pitch for thinking differently when faced with a frustrating conversation.
In my experience, when someone sounds like they are speaking a foreign language it is not because what they are saying is inherently wrong or bad. It is the WAY they are saying it that is completely ineffective.
Let’s take my mediation couple as an example.
They would come in full of anger and indignation over an issue that took place earlier in the week. I would meet with one and hear their story. I would meet with the other and hear their story. And here’s what was uncanny: It was the same story!
Just told and interpreted in very different ways.
This particular case required many private sessions. When I would report back to one of them about progress on the problem du jour, they would look at me in surprise, and have a hard time believing that agreements had been forged.
What if you could do this on your own without the help of a mediator?
So Here’s the Trick Using Mediation Techniques
Two essential tools of the mediation trade will help you become your own translator.
1. Mediators validate what their client is saying. In other words, they make sure they truly understand what the person is saying before moving on and responding. Teachers call this checking for understanding. Counselors call it reflective listening. Call it what you want. But don’t respond until you really feel like you understand what the other person is saying.
2. Mediators seek to clarify information. Rather than reacting to what someone is saying, especially if it seems confusing, illogical or frustrating, follow step #1 and validate, and then ask more questions to gain clarification. This step is like being a detective — you are drilling for information so you can be confident that you understand what is being said.
3. If you are still confused, rinse and repeat.
Often, you can figure it out on your own with time and effort, and more than a pinch of patience. But it can be done. It’s hard to resolve conflict when you don’t have a clue what the other person is saying.
Figuring out how to translate is the first step.
In what other ways have you dealt with someone who is confusing and perplexing? Please share your ideas and reactions in the comments section!