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Interview: Christiana Scholz about the ability to deal with conflict and the mediation process

Updated: Apr 27

Interview on the topic of conflict management

PROCONSENS.AT : Ms. Scholz, how do you define the mediation process? What role do you play as a mediator in this process?

Christiana Scholz: I see mediation as a supported process of conflict resolution in which several people are involved. The essential prerequisites are that the parties to the conflict take part in the mediation voluntarily and have a genuine interest in resolving the conflict. After mediation, everyone affected should feel better. You should have defined a path that everyone can follow and accept without continuing to feel negative emotions towards the other person or people. The situation should be perceived as relaxed after the mediation process. In many cases, mediation can help avoid costly and nerve-wracking court proceedings.

PROCONSENS.AT : What does that actually look like?


Christiana Scholz: The mediator must always be impartial in a mediation process. This not only includes paying attention to previously defined communication rules and balanced speaking times, but also asking targeted questions and repeating what has been said in different words in order to create mutual understanding. In order to use a wide variety of communication, moderation and coaching methods effectively, as a mediator you need a lot of empathy, a highly developed ability to observe, courage to sometimes try out new methods and, above all, curiosity - and by that I mean genuine interest in the people with all their stories, emotions, perspectives, values, etc. At the same time, you also have to manage to bundle the results, make them more concrete and give the conflict parties a framework so that they can jointly develop solutions that are acceptable to both sides.


PROCONSENS.AT : What techniques or methods do you use to improve communication between the parties to the conflict and lead to a common solution?

Christiana Scholz: The most important technique in mediation is formulating open questions. It is important that the parties to the conflict talk about their perspectives and their related emotions and wishes. The second most important technique is paraphrasing. In doing so, I reproduce the text I have heard in my words and gradually incorporate the vocabulary of the other party to the conflict so that a mutual understanding is built up. Little by little, the people's values are worked out and commonalities are sought that can be built upon in the further process. Sometimes it also helps to put yourself in the other person's shoes in the form of a role play. This often results in the greatest “AHA experiences” and thus the beginning of an understanding of the needs, fears, etc. of the other person. From this moment onwards, it is usually very possible to approach each other and the first suggestions for solutions can be collected. Of course, it is important to moderate the process throughout. The use of moderation cards and a pin board is recommended for visualization.


PROCONSENS.AT : What specific challenges do you see in mediation in corporate contexts compared to other mediation environments?

Christina Scholz: In my experience, the term “conflict” is not often used in a corporate context. The term has negative connotations. Who likes to admit that he/she has a conflict or that there is a conflict in his or her team? In organizations, the order for a “mediation act” usually comes in the form of: “…our processes need to be revised…”, “…we need communication training…”, “…we would like to improve teamwork…”, “…we must optimize the distribution of tasks and the interfaces within the department…” and so on. Rarely does an affected manager turn to the HR department or directly to a mediator with a specific request to resolve a conflict through mediation. However, it usually becomes apparent during the clarification of the order that there are a few disagreements within the team or between departments. Sometimes this topic can then be addressed in the measure and a picture of the severity of the conflict emerges. I can then give specific recommendations in this regard. In any case, you should always expect that a conflict will become “heated”, especially as part of a team development measure. It is particularly important to master methods to “capture” the conflict. The difference between mediation in corporate contexts and private mediation situations is the specific order. In the private sector, the parties to the dispute have actively decided to seek mediation, which makes it easier for the mediator in this regard, provided both parties participate in the mediation voluntarily and the conflict has not yet become too entrenched. In a corporate context, conflicts are often not clearly recognized or addressed, rather well concealed or “argued away”.


PROCONSENS.AT : To what extent do you work with HR departments to develop a holistic conflict resolution strategy in companies?

Christiana Scholz: In my experience, no two conflicts are the same, which means you cannot develop holistic conflict resolution strategies in a company. Everyone has a different story, different needs and when it comes to communication, we all know that misunderstandings are common. This means that every conflict and its disputing parties must always be viewed individually. The respective conflict resolution strategy should also be developed accordingly. Close cooperation with the HR department is very important here. As soon as this has been developed, I need a certain freedom of action and trust in my role as a mediator. In the course of the mediation process, I will naturally also receive information that is sensitive and must be treated confidentially. At the same time, I have to tactfully provide the HR department with a good overview of what is happening.

PROCONSENS.AT : Ms. Scholz, finally, do you have any tips for those in charge?


Christiana Scholz: If it becomes apparent in an organization that there is no or a poor culture of conflict, it certainly makes sense to establish a general conflict resolution strategy in the company. Signs of a non-existent or poor conflict culture are:

  • Different opinions cannot or may not be articulated or are not heard.

  • Conflicts are not discussed and there is a chronic “looking the other way” in this regard.

  • No compromises are being found and there is more and more lone fighting.


In order to be able to deal with conflicts competently, you need “conflict ability”. Developing this in the company is my first recommendation if there is no appropriate conflict culture. If the workforce is developed consistently and as broadly as possible in terms of conflict competence, a constructive conflict culture will gradually develop, which will automatically produce individual conflict resolution strategies if necessary.

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