I didn’t grow up learning how to manage conflict effectively. By the time I started my law career as a young adult, I had two ways of dealing with it. If I could convince myself it wasn’t important enough to address, or if I didn’t have the time or energy to get into it, I’d avoid it. If it was something really important to me, I’d confront, argue and try to convince the other person I was right. Neither was a good strategy for healthy relationships. In fact, some relationships and jobs ended as a result, often because I walked away rather than trying to resolve the conflict.
When I had the opportunity to take negotiation and mediation training as a young lawyer, everything changed. While the focus of the training was using the skills professionally to support others, I also began using them to address situations I wasn’t happy with at work and in my personal life. I noticed that all of those relationships changed. Communication was easier, working together was more effective and satisfying, I was calmer, and for the most part, I found the majority of conflict was prevented. When conflict did come up, I was less stressed about it because I felt confident I had the skills to get us to a place of mutual understanding.
I left my law practice and became a mediator and conflict coach. I started experimenting with going deeper with the skills I had been taught and I noticed it led to transformation I wasn’t expecting – for myself and my clients. Eventually, I developed steps that took the process from one that helped people to find solutions they could live with, to one that transformed relationships and prevented conflict; a process that left people truly satisfied and excited about moving forward in innovative ways they couldn’t have conceived otherwise. I’d go so far as to say it even transformed people’s sense of self.
Since then, I’ve trained thousands of people to use these transformative skills. Over the course of my twenty-two year career as a mediator and conflict trainer and coach, I have trained people who regularly lose sleep over everyday conflict to use a unique process that takes them from feeling anxious and uncomfortable to feeling confident in addressing conflict so that everyone feels valued and appreciated, heard and understood.
I use the process and skills in everything I do and it’s helped me create a lovely career and life for myself, one that’s as free of conflict as I want it to be (with just enough that I get that wonderful benefits of well-managed conflict: some really big and exciting innovations and deeper understanding and relationships.) My skills don’t serve me in a couple of my favorite spare-time activities: fiction writing and improv performing. Conflict is the vital seed of story and comedy and I have to work really hard to channel my inner teenager and shut off my everyday problem solving skills to let the conflict spin!