Conflict Resolution Day is an educational event set up for the purpose of increasing awareness of the various peaceful, non-violent methods of resolution.
Conflict affects every single aspect of our lives, and without a doubt, it is something each and every one of us will experience. Resolution methods can be applied in different avenues of life and at different ages including in the workplace, at school, within the legal system and importantly amongst families.
Where there are differing opinions and when people feel they are not being heard conflict can arise. Conflict invariably is based upon some difference in an individual’s or group’s core values. If conflict is not managed effectively it can result in the breakdown of relationships and be detrimental to your emotional and physical well-being.
Conflict Resolution Day was created in 2005. The image is the ACR logo and is a symbol to celebrate growth in resolving conflict. At the beginning, start small but just like the tree, the initial seed you planted will continue to grow and blossom each year.
Approaches to Resolving Conflict
There are different ways you can approach resolving conflict including mediation, conciliation, negotiation, arbitration and facilitation.
The first step is generally negotiation between the parties.
It’s important to know when to ask for help and that is where mediation comes in. Mediation is essentially allowing the involvement of an impartial and unbiased third party to support both parties work through conflict, understand each others’ views and develop their own agreement. Mediation is voluntary, involves face-to-face discussions and provides both parties with an equal opportunity to talk and explain their perspective, something which may not have been possible during negotiations. The end goal of mediation is for both parties to reach a shared agreement.
Mediation is a very important aspect in Family Law and is beneficial in reaching agreements in respect of money, property and children and is often the last resort before commencing Court Proceedings which are costly, time consuming and can have negative impacts on the well-being of parties and especially children involved. All Applications in Family Law require evidence of a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM), an introductory meeting, having being undertaken before a Court will even consider advancing proceedings. There are, however, exceptions – for example, if you have been subject to domestic abuse and can provide the appropriate evidence to support your position.
Different forms of Conflict Resolution
- Arbitration is another route to resolving conflict. Arbitration is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It is an alternative option to staying out of Court and is essentially where an Arbitrator makes a decision based on your circumstances, instead of a judge. However, there is a tribunal process and the decision is legally binding. Whilst this is cheaper than Court it can still be expensive. It can be used to decide cases of alleged unfair dismissal and is often used for employment related disputes.
- Conciliation is where an independent conciliator facilitates communication between the parties with the aim of reaching a settlement or resolution. The process is voluntary and the agreement reached must be mutual. Involves evaluative methods and recommendations. ACAS provides a conciliation service for Employment Law Disputes. Conciliation is time and cost efficient.
- Facilitation is the act of making it easier for parties to accomplish a goal and consider interests and not positions. A mental health or legal professional with mediation training can assist co-parents in creating or implementing parenting plans, complying with court orders and resolving pre- and post-divorce parenting disputes. The purpose of facilitation is to reduce the negative impact of conflict between parents on children. Facilitators can interact with clients by telephone and e-mail rather than face-to-face sessions used in dispute resolution.
Conflict Resolution and Psychology
Conflict Resolution can look very different; depending upon the perspective from which it is viewed. Parties may negotiate and attempt to solve problems mutually, others may withdraw and avoid interaction and others fight and dominate their counterpart or yield and give in.
Conflict Resolution is so important; not effectively resolving disagreements and disputes, particularly between parents and in family scenarios, can have devastating impacts on children’s development. In the workplace, unresolved conflict can drain valuable time and energy. Every-day we watch on the news the devastating impact conflict has on society and individuals, leading to disastrous consequences including war and environmental disaster.
There has been an array of psychological research into conflict resolution which have had significant impact on the practices used in today’s society. For example, in 1954 social psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues published a study known as the Robbers Cave Experiment. Twenty-two boys, unknown to each other were separated into two subgroups. Over the coming days the two groups became hostile and competitive with one another. The physical act of dividing people and even the feeling of division can in itself induce conflict. However, on the boys being given a common goal they all banded together and more co-operative relationships were formed. This highlights how the presence of common goals reduces competitiveness and how conflict can be resolved through the development of shared goals and social identity.
Law can be a battlefield of conflict, but it can be resolved more amicably than many think. Often, particularly in child contact and arrangement matters, it’s important to take a step back from the situation. Remember that despite the tension and conflict between the parties the sole purpose and goal is to ensure that the welfare of any children involved is a priority and their needs are put first. If both parties remember that this is their shared goal, co-operation and understanding can grow in time.
Remember the famous words of Winston Churchill, ‘courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’
Hellen Williams of our family department is a member of Resolution. Resolution’s 6,500 members are family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. Solutions are encouraged that consider the needs of the whole family – and in particular the best interests of children.