How to Handle Conflict: A Mediation Expert Explains

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“Human beings in our society can no longer even talk to each other,” says expert mediator and negotiator Hesha Abrams. Entrepreneur. “People think, ‘If you think or think differently than me, well, you’re just an idiot, and I’ll try to explain it, argue, call out your ignorance.’ Which doesn’t work. It’s so stupid and it’s literally destroying. our society “.

Courtesy of Smith Publicity

Abrams has seen more than his fair share of conflicts throughout his 35-year career. But when the now expert mediator began in business litigation, mediation was used primarily in divorce and union cases, not in civil litigation, let alone criminal. Abrams saw the potential of the tool to resolve disputes beyond this restricted area.

So he went to Dallas federal judge Joe Fish to prove his theory. He gave her five cases to begin with, and Abrams solved them all. “I did everything wrong,” he laughs, “but I still solved all five of them. So both the judge and I said, ‘Okay, there’s something great here.’ life”.

“We all think humans are driven to want to win. And that’s not true.”

Abrams has tested his skills in numerous high-profile, high-risk conflicts: from software disputes between confidential parties, to trade secret cases over the prescription of a famous and popular product, to emotional battles and policies to teach the Bible in Texas Public Schools. Earlier this month, he published his first book, Keeping Calm: The Secret to Resolving Conflicts and Turning Off Tensionwhich offers advice on reading situations and simple problem-solving strategies.

“We all think humans are driven to want to win,” Abrams says. “And that’s not true: 90% of us are driven not to lose. Big difference. I wrote this book because I’ve been in the trenches of human conflict for 35 years, which means anger, rage, self-justice, stubbornness, arrogance, and so on. . stupidity, for “.

Abrams ’mediation tactics have come a long way since his early days in Dallas. Part of this comes from his intensive study of human behavior. Although economist Adam Smith introduced the idea that people act rationally and in their own interest, new research, especially that of Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman, suggests the opposite, because we are too susceptible to emotions and emotions. cognitive biases.

Hitting an opponent with data, facts and logic in full discussion is useless, says Abrams, because the amygdala, the center of negativity and fear of the brain, is activated in the face of conflict and closes the prefrontal cortex, which controls the reasoning. and problem solving. In addition, Abrams describes the ocular inclusion and hearing exclusion that accompanies stressful situations: tunnel vision and inability to hear what is being said.

“Your world gets very small when you’re in stress or conflict,” Abrams explains. “A mediator, coach or advisor helps broaden the vision and says, ‘I can see someone else’s perspective.'”

Related: Understanding the other person’s perspective will radically increase your success

“It acts like a rabbit’s paw or a talisman to get my amygdala to calm the devil so he can think.”

The formula for any conflict is simple, says Abrams: it comes down to impotence. You are trying to make someone think or believe something they do not want to think or believe, or vice versa. This feeling of being out of control triggers the amygdala, he continues, and this leads to misbehavior because most people are not equipped with the tools to deal with conflict effectively.

“That’s why I give people tools,” Abrams explains. “It occurred to me with this little mantra,‘ Keep calm. ’If you say to someone,‘ Take a deep breath, ’it doesn’t work, because what it says is,‘ You’re out of control. I’ll tell you what to do. “All it does is increase the feeling of helplessness, which causes the amygdala to shoot up more.”

Abrams trusts the same mantra whenever he feels activated. “It acts like the leg of a rabbit or a talisman so that my amygdala calms the devil so he can think,” he says. “And then I think, I am not powerless here. I have tools. What tool will I use? How will I choose to react to this situation? And it’s different for each person. “

Keeping calm it is divided into five parts and 20 chapters, each of which details one of Abrams’ tools, along with stories to illustrate it. Abrams stresses that all tools are accessible and easy to use, but people should feel free to choose what they are comfortable with depending on the situation.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Smith Publicity

Abrams says he included “deactivating tension” in the title because where there is conflict, there is tension that has been generated, whether or not both parties are aware of it. The key is to address this tension head-on to avoid worsening a bad situation. Use the spilled spaghetti sauce analogy to get your point across.

“If you dry it directly on the sponge, it comes out right away,” Abrams explains. “You let it rest overnight and you’re scratching it with the spatula. You let it rest for a year, it’s old, dirty and flowery. Cleaning the spaghetti sauce when it’s wet is much easier. But we tend not to. do it, then we’ll have to deal with it when it’s bigger and uglier. “

Related: Here’s the real cost of ignoring your problems

“Talking to a daisy, wanting it to be a rose, is nonsense.”

According to Abrams, the most difficult cases occur when those involved have nothing to lose. “I don’t care if it’s a small or big thing; if you have nothing to lose, you have no risk,” he says. “And then you can be more arrogant, self-righteous and stubborn, and less pragmatic. The legal system has a way of hitting you, and it’s like you’re stretching yourself. Some people just have to be beaten long before” We’re willing to do what they could have done before. “

That’s why a case where a roommate’s cat on the carpet can be harder to resolve than a high-profile case among Fortune 100 companies, Abrams says. It all comes down to conflicting individuals and what their real motivations are.

“A lot of what I do is diagnosis,” Abrams explains, “because if you’re in conflict, why would he treat you the same as your neighbor or partner? You’re a different person. I’d talk to an introvert. Differently than I do. I would talk to an extrovert. I would talk to someone who is a thinker otherwise I would talk to someone who is a perceiver. ” She compares the process to that of a blood transfusion: the right blood type will save someone’s life, but the wrong one can be fatal.

Abrams emphasizes that we are all products of our education, whether we like it or not, and this has a significant impact on how we respond to conflicts. “People can go through a lot of therapies and become better versions of themselves, but if you’re a rose, a daisy, or a daffodil, you’re not changing: you’re a rose, a daisy, or a daffodil,” he says. “You can be a better version of yourself with personal growth, therapy and learning, but you’ll be who you are. So talking to a daisy, wanting it to be a rose, is nonsense.” Talk to the daisy as if it were a daisy, says Abrams, and you are in control.

Women and men do not treat conflicts in the same way, Abrams adds, because they are socialized differently. “Women have traditionally not been free to express intense feelings other than crying,” Abrams explains. “Anger is usually not acceptable; a woman may be seen as aggressive rather than assertive, while a man may be seen in a completely different way. A woman may be seen as sharper than passionate.”

The first step to overcoming it is to stop worrying about what other people think, easier said than done, Abrams admits, because women have been conditioned to adapt and for people. He also points out that women have not traditionally had power, which is another challenge when it comes to feeling in control.

Related: 11 secrets to staying productive and in control

“I know how to solve problems really, what really works.”

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to foster meaningful dialogue and resolution in our divided nation today. Abrams has witnessed the deterioration of communication over the years: “Our society was a bit more civilized, where the things you thought were not said. Well, with the advent of social media, people can now say all sorts of nasty, petty, horrible things, and there are no consequences. “

But perhaps better than anyone, Abrams also knows that we have an arsenal of tools for resolving conflicts at our disposal, if only we prepare to use them, because he has been doing so for decades.

“I know how to solve problems really, not what should work, or what I want to work on, or what would be good if it worked philosophically, what really works,” Abrams says.

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