Active Listening

Stephen Thom

CRS Mediator, Los Angeles Office

[Full Interview]

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What do you think are the most effective techniques for encouraging one party to see the other party's perspective?


Well, I learned this from Jan Sunoo of FCMS. I like the one where you say, "Okay, before we actually go towards a solution to this issue, why don't you state what the other party's position is." Then the other party is asked to state the opposite parties position." So, you really force the summary of how the parties captured everything that had been said in regards to that issue before we go to closure and resolution on it. That's a good technique because it really puts them in the position to say, "Well this is exactly where I thought you were coming from," and visa versa. That's one good technique that is very useful in mediation. I use a lot of summary to pull out the common understanding and ask for reflection and discussion and clarification. That's a way to make sure we are on the same page and discussing the same issues and that we understand it in the same way. I do a lot of writing on easels to point out what points we've made up to now and does everybody understand that. Ask a lot of questions: Are there any differences in opinion? Is there anything more that needs to be said about this or are we ready to go to resolution? So, that works. A lot of it comes naturally through dialogue and the discussion by the parties. You know it happened and that they fully understand by their counters or by their stated thoughts: "I didn't see it that way, this is what happened to me," or "I didn't know you thought that way!" A lot of times you hear it in the dialogue itself and you don't need to do anymore. So, it's a combination of all those things.