Mutualizing, Conflict Resolution & Critical Care
There I was on my weekend off at a dinner party talking with some people telling stories over a beer, when the best example of mutualizing to resolve a conflict was laid at my feet for the taking. Mutualizing is when you find a common interest shared by parties in conflict. Typically mutualization happens when both sides agree money or fair treatment are important to them. It can happen with or without the help of a third party. In the story I was told by my friend he played the part of an irate new dad. He rushed into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to see his new child and was stopped by a nurse. The nurse asked him a series of questions to confirm his identity.
The new dad, wanting to see his daughter, was puzzled at first. Why had the nurse stopped him? Why did he have to answer her questions? Why couldn’t he just see his daughter? As the questions confirming his identity and that of his daughter continued, my friend became angry with the nurse. He saw her as an obstacle to him seeing his daughter. My friend shared his feelings with the nurse in a… dramatic way.
The experienced nurse, unphased by the display of emotions mixed with a colourful variety of language, simply replied “have you seen those 60 minutes stories about children stolen from the hospital?”
My friend nodded in the affirmative.
“We don’t want to ever let that happen here”
My friend immediately saw the nurse was protecting his primary interest, his daughters safety, and he calmed down. He provided her with the information she needed and got to see his daughter. As he told the story he recalled how silly he immediately felt for giving the responsible nurse a difficult time.
The Power of Mutualizing in Conflict Resolution
Having the parties to a conflict identify mutual interests is a common technique in conflict resolution. It is taught in mediation and negotiation courses. The typical example involves a high level joining of interests: A wants to pay more, B wants to pay less and the mediator or the parties identify that both parties are interested in money. Money, paired with a nearly universal concept like fair treatment can then serve as a framework for agreemnt. While useful for establishing boundaries and discovering a potential framework for settlement, these high level discussions rarely solve the conflict alone. This story clearly illustrates that when one party lacks information on the motives of the other party mutualizing can stop conflict in its tracks. In this case it also demonstrates how a shared priority can defuse even the most primal emotions.
Mutualizing in Mediation
Mutualizing is one of the many tools in a mediator’s toolbox. Mediation styles can vary from mediator to mediator and mediation to mediation, however mutualizing can be used to advance any style of mediation when the parties share an interest. If you need help resolving your conflict contact Wakely Mediation for a no obligation consultation to see if mediation can help with your dispute.
In the End
Just in case you were worried about the baby in the NICU, she recovered fully and has grown into a healthy toddler.
Have you ever needed to use mutualizing or another negotiation technique to help you deal with a client complaint? tell us about it in the comments!
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