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Interview: Annette Behrendt about cooperative communication in conflicts.

Updated: Apr 27


Annette Behrend

PROCONSENS.AT : Ms. Behrendt, today we will talk about the topic of mediation. How do you personally promote open and transparent communication to avoid misunderstandings?


Annette Behrendt: A cornerstone of successful mediation is the disclosure of hidden motives, positions and considerations - and thus the disclosure of sources of conflict. Because in mediation we are interested in long-term and stable solutions. This means that if there are issues and important sources of conflict, they must be uncovered. However, many parties are already in very deadlocked situations when they decide to go to mediation. The main aim is to establish a basis of trust in me as a mediator, in the process and in the added value that it can bring. In this way, the different parties can slowly get involved and trust each other again.


PROCONSENS.AT : What exactly does that look like now?


Annette Behrendt: In this context, communication rules and guidelines are often established that, although very individual, are always characterized by respect. If the parties can communicate with each other at least once for two hours, this often has an impact on their other interactions. In addition, addressing positions and problems directly but humorously often helps with the transition to the next step.

 


Annette Behrendt

PROCONSENS.AT : How do you support the development of solutions in difficult situations? The parties involved are in confrontational positions.


Annette Behrendt: Successful cooperation starts with flowing communication. Especially in conflicts, we hear less what the other person says and more what we mean by what he/she says. As a mediator, I often act as a translator and amplifier of what has been said. We also call this cooperative communication. Especially when we are in emotional reactions, we internally devalue what is said or done by the other party. This is an ancient instinct because we act defensively in emotional situations. At this point, mediators help to pay more attention to what is really in the room. As soon as it becomes possible for the parties to pay attention and believe what has been said again, a big step has been taken.


PROCONSENS.AT : That sounds pretty simple now. Does the bill always work out?


Annette Behrendt: In theory it sounds quite simple - in practice the step that the parties really listen to each other again is the mammoth task in mediation. Sometimes other techniques are needed to..... Sometimes other techniques are needed to lure the parties out of their pattern of dispute. Elements of surprise and absurd interventions are often helpful in really getting out of the argument pattern.

 

PROCONSENS.AT : What differences do you see in the approach to mediation for private individuals compared to mediation in a corporate context?


Annette Behrendt: The direct comparison shows that private mediations often take place more clearly between individual people who then bring their supporters with them, while in companies conflicts very quickly spread to teams and bring with them a much greater complexity. That's why a completely different approach is often necessary in companies. Appearing with mediation colleagues, as we do at Proconsens, is helpful here, as we can look at the problem together from different perspectives.

At this point I would also like to address another difference in communication between the two contexts: in private conflicts it is much more natural that strong emotions come into play. The aim here is to capture insults, anger and fear and to track down the underlying causes.

In contrast, professional conflicts are conducted with a different emotionality. In addition, a complex dramaturgy made up of different people and systems lies over the conflict. This requires a completely different approach than in private contexts.

 


Annette Behrendt

PROCONSENS.AT :   How can companies implement mediation as a proactive tool to prevent conflict and promote a healthy communication culture?


Annette Behrendt: The fire brigade is often only called when the house is already ablaze and there is really nothing left to save. This image can be easily transferred to mediation. In the classic case, mediation is unfortunately often only seen as a solution to conflict when almost nothing is possible. PROCONSENS.AT :    So what would you recommend?

Annette Behrendt: Progressive companies now use mediation for smaller conflicts and crises in order to avoid wildfires. Or they train employees specifically who can then help directly and proactively, individually or in cooperation with mediators, when conflicts arise. This allows you to learn a new way of dealing with conflicts. Because conflicts in themselves are a very valuable asset - behind them there are often questions, new perspectives or really important problems that need attention. If a new way of dealing with conflict is learned, significantly more productive results can be achieved in all areas. PROCONSENS.AT :    Ms. Behrendt. Thank you for these comments. Finally, may I ask you to give our readers a tip? Annette Behrendt: A successful culture of debate is relevant and important for human relationships and human interaction. Let us also transfer this to our professional relationships.

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