Three Main Things
Of course there are a number of things that people need in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) situations, but there are three main things that people are looking for:
- To Be Heard
- To Have Choices
- To Have Reasons
Let’s have a look at all three of these things and examine why they are so important to conflict resolution, mediations, arbitrations, disputes, and more.
To Be Heard
“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” –Judge Judy
People universally want to be heard. They want to be able to explain their side of the issue and to feel like whoever is mediating a dispute actually is listening (see our article on Authentic Listening). If they don’t feel like they’re being heard, they’re less likely to accept whatever the outcome of the dispute is.
To Have Choices
Just about anyone will tell you that giving people a choice — even if it’s just the illusion of choice — will encourage them to do what you want them to do. Take for example a child who doesn’t want to eat his vegetables. If you simply tell him, “Eat your broccoli!” then he probably isn’t going to eat it and he will sit defiantly at the table for hours on end, refusing to eat the broccoli.
On the other hand, if you give the child a choice, he’ll probably be more receptive to eating his greens. “Do you want broccoli or peas?” Whichever the child chooses, he’s still going to eat his vegetables, but now since he feels that he has power he’s much less likely to fight you on it.
The same goes for people during a dispute, as much as most of us would hate to admit it. Take an employee who is sometimes late because of a train crossing during her morning commute. “I can’t help it if the train is crossing right when I’m headed to work!” While this is true, having her show up late over and over isn’t ideal, either.
Instead of telling her, “Show up on time or you’re fired!” try instead, “I understand that you don’t control the train schedule. So, if you show up at 9 AM, you can leave at 5 PM. If you show up at 8:30 AM, you’ll have to leave at 5:30 PM.” Now, she has a choice. She can show up on time and leave on time or she can show up late and leave late. Chances are that she’ll find an alternative route to take that doesn’t include a train crossing.
To Have Reasons
The thought process behind having reasons is simple: people want to understand why something is as it is. Did your parents ever tell you “because I said so” in response to some question? How did that make you feel? You probably thought that was a pretty ridiculous explanation of whatever you were asking about (while your parents were just trying to get you out of their hair).
However, the same point still stands: people want to know why something is the way it is. Adults don’t take kindly to the “because I said so” defense and understandably want explanations for why something is the way it is. If you can’t explain why something is done the way it is in your company, it probably doesn’t make much sense.
Here are some common “because I said so” answers in life and business that fail to hold water:
- “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” So what? Just because something has been done one way for a long time doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better, more cost-efficient way it can be done now. If we kept doing things the way they’ve always been done, we wouldn’t make any progress as a society and we’d still be using stone tools.
- “It’s company policy.” And? Policies, laws, and regulations change all the time. Policies that don’t make sense should be changed. Laws change too, hence the reason we have amendments to the Constitution (27, to be exact).
- “The boss said to do it this way.” Okay? People are fallible, bosses included, and there may be a better way to do something than the way the boss said to do it.
If you can’t explain why something is the way it is with actual fact-based reasoning, chances are that you’re using the “because I said so” defense. This is going to frustrate and perhaps even infuriate people in a dispute. Give people legitimate and verifiable reasons as to why something is the way it is if you want to avoid future issues.