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How to Be Your Own Mediator: Lower Your Boiling Point

A mediator in a conflict can see people's temperatures rising and make choices to lower them immediately.
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I have a right to my anger, and I don't want anybody telling me I shouldn't be, that it's not nice to be, and that something's wrong with me because I get angry. -- Maxine Waters

Detect earlier signs of frustration before exploding.

You might have heard the recommendation of disagree without being disagreeable. Ideally you strive to attain differences with another person without being rude or difficult. Smoothness softens the substance of what you want to say. Artfully communicate; respectfully handling sensitive topics while simultaneously constructively sharing your differing viewpoint. However such control is not always possible.

When you go past your boiling point, volume and tone can appropriately and righteously convey your anger. Being disagreeable is human and shows the underlying emotion. Some may follow the letter of the law too closely and overly repress the negative emotion. Power and status differences create great pressure to agree. Superficial politeness and avoidance thus create a subtle barrier to working things out.

The disagree without being disagreeable advice can mistakenly lead to expecting differences to be discussed without emotion. This approach can lead one to downplay or repress one's own emotions. This politeness expectation creates tension. Driving every problem to be settled emotionlessly is unrealistic. Conflict happens.

I have noticed that one of benefits of having a mediator is that the mediator can see people's temperatures rising and make choices to lower them immediately. Being the third party I see both parties' faces as they are talking and I can more easily notice the reactions and emotional states. I will then stop the conversation and ask one or all parties for feedback. I can jump in and break the cycle of a tit for tat, where one party's reaction triggers the other and it spirals downward from there.

Sometimes, not sharing the magnitude of your problems early enough is the barrier. Have you ever found yourself blowing up at another person, because it was more than you could bear? Being polite and civil are often necessary and admirable. If those qualities are overdone and mask extreme anger, you can bet on a meltdown. Detect earlier signs of frustration before arriving at the point of no return. Lower your boiling point rather than waiting until you cannot take it anymore.

My next post will focus on how to raise issues that have been swept under the rug and ignored.

To learn more about the importance of communication skills particularly in negotiation and conflict resolution, read about the solutions, results and publications Grande Lum has created at Accordence, Inc. For further discussion, contact Grande at

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