The vocabulary of mediation and negotiation

I recently attended the “Untangling the knots” three-day conflict resolution course with SCCR, and one of the most useful aspects (other than the content!) was learning how other practitioners approached their helping conversations, and the understated effect of carefully deployed words and phrases.

I thought others might find the following article useful, as it too discusses the ways in which effective language can “open doors”, and I would be interested to hear about any other subtle tips around the use of language.

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Thanks for taking the time to post this Jamie.
Apart from your own phrase “helping conversations”, which I like (thanks for that), the words and phrases that we use can make all the difference.
I now routinely use ‘willing’ when initially speaking with people….and it works!
As Liz also suggests, using ‘speak’ rather than ‘talk’ can sound more positive and inclusive to people. I sometimes speak about ‘having a conversation’ or ‘having a discussion’, rather than describing mediation or facilitation.
At the recent SCCR 3 day conflict resolution skills course, we spoke about using the word ‘feeling’. Sometimes being asked how you are ‘feeling’ about something can sit uncomfortably. ‘What are you thinking?’ is a bit more direct but can sit more comfortably for some.
What other words or phrases do people use that seem to make a difference?

I also attended the recent Untangling the Knots course. It was helpful to have the opportunity to practice using some of the tools during the three days, particularly around the language we use, and how to phrase questions that are less likely to shut people down.

Keeping your ‘lens’ in curious mode (sometimes not easy) to help understand and shift focus can be beneficial to all parties.

Jamie, I too read the article in the Guardian, and found it fitted well with the conversations we had on the course. It highlights the power of words to increase or decrease conflict, and increases the likelihood of cooperation. I too use ‘willing’ and ‘speak’. It sounds kinder!

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Thanks for the contributions all, what an interesting discussion!

In my experience this is exactly what makes communication - particularly where there is conflict so tricky. The tiny adjustments we can make to our language can really help to shift perspectives or indeed escalate a situation too.

I’ve been to a couple of Stokoe’s workshops over the years and one of the most helpful things for me was to make the shift from describing what mediation is to how it works and what I will do as a mediator.

I also use phrases such as “willing” and “speak”. I heard folk on the course use the question "i’m wondering … " quite a bit and I find this a useful one when you are aiming for that curious approach.

The language we chose to use is really important, but in my experience the magic happens when we use our skills to help our participants/ clients/ customers to speak with each other in a way that shifts a very negative interaction into something positive.

Are there any other key phrases or techniques that people use that they have found helpful?

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