Conflict hurts, and people respond to pain in three stages:
- “Denial” – In this stage, people deny they have a problem. They try to maintain the status quo. They are not ready to negotiate, and if they make an offer, they do it only to show how reasonable they are, and that others are to blame.
- “Anger” – When people finally admit they have a problem, they may explode with emotion. They are no longer in denial, but they are not ready to deal with the problem.
- “Acceptance” – Now the negotiator has something to work with. “Letting go and moving beyond is a form of grieving. The source…of the word ‘grieve’ is ‘to carry a heavy burden.’”
Identify which stage each party has reached. Move those who are in denial or angry through these early stages. To break down denial, ask open-ended questions to help them explore their
counterparts’ realities and the larger situation. When people are angry, acknowledge the validity of their feelings. Finally, when all parties have reached acceptance, mediation can begin.