When Communication Fails/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on February 14, 2011


There is an interesting account on mediate.com by a Mediator, Alex Yaroslavsky. His article is entitled “The Value of Language”. In this article, Mr. Yaroslavsky tells how a misunderstanding about the word “value” almost led to an aborted mediation,. However, the session was “saved” when the mediator asked why this term was considered inappropriate by the client’s attorney. This technique has great potential when discussions, negotiations, etc. are beginning to turn sour.

There is a radio psychologist by the name of Dr. Joy Browne who often cites the maxim: “Be curious not furious”. An angry or defensive response will often not save a failing discussion. However, people can become neutralized by a simple question: What did you find offensive in what I said to you? If nothing else such a question can open additional dialogue. It has the potential to lead a party to “stay” a bit longer with a conversation and temporarily put aside their anger or distress. Conversation is often hard to initiate. When it appears to be headed for an early termination, try the approach of “being curious not furious”. This is yet another method for keeping open the channels of communication and trying to attain “Win-Win”.