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Building Blocks of Mediation, Communication, and Feedback

As I reflect on my 20 years in the mediation field things always seem to point to a few common denominators of why I am sitting at the table attempting to help others facilitate a meaningful and productive discussion.  The main denominator seems to be that about 95% of the issues stem from ineffective or no communication amongst those in conflict.

A holistic viewpoint I employ as a cornerstone for all participants of the mediation and communication process is to Make Each Dispute Important And Take Interest in Others Non-judgmentally = mediation.  It is also critical to make each communication and feedback encounter important.  One simple thought to ask yourselves is “Are you really listening . . . or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?”  

The success of a workplace or communication exchange seems to revolve around effective communication and how easily team members reach a common or shared understanding of concerns.  Within that communication continuum a crucial role for all of us is to master the art of listening to understand.  Listening is truly a sign of respect.  It can foster a more participative and collaborative dynamic allowing participants to really feel valued and where they don’t feel like a barrier is being created.  I have observed during mediation when all participants feel they are being heard it has led to more fruitful conversations without excessive barriers that often hinder the communication process.

It is important to be open to other people’s ideas and give your full attention to them and attempt to avoid distractions while communicating.  Be aware of your body language and pay attention to theirs as well.  To demonstrate you are listening effectively you can re-state or summarize what you believe you heard as this helps to seek clarification for understanding.  Ask yourself often if you are being open minded, are you being conscientious of avoiding interrupting others when they speak, and do you give your undivided attention to those you communicate with.  Before speaking do your best to be clear and concise with focus on key points of your message you want to deliver to help avoid uncertainty.

To give and to receive-Feedback that is…  This is another critical area in the communication realm.  Giving feedback can provide people an opportunity to navigate through differences so you can communicate and function more effectively.  When possible, the feedback should be useful, meaningful, occur sooner rather than later, and occur as often as necessary.  Also remember the method of communicative delivery you use can make or break that feedback process. 

Just as important is your ability to accept feedback in a non-judgmental way.  Acceptance to feedback can help you identifying your effect on other people.  Accept the feedback, give thought to it, and remember by merely accepting feedback does not mean you inevitably agree with that person or that you will change your actions, attitude, or behavior.  It simply means you will consider it and make a conscientious effort to understand the other person’s concerns.  To hone your acceptance of feedback consider listening carefully, be open-minded, take deep breaths and focus, seek clarification to make sure you understand what they are conveying, acknowledge their feedback, and thank them for sharing the feedback with you, and if/when possible after giving thought to their feedback get back together to further discuss things to close the feedback loop. Ultimately effective two-way communication is the key component to your overall success or failure in any endeavor.


Steven Goldman

Mr. Steven C. Goldman is currently a Department of Veterans Affairs Certified Mediator based in Saint Petersburg, Florida.   In this position, he mediates internal VA employee complaints of unlawful discrimination and harassment claims to include workplace and interpersonal issues as well as provides advice and ADR services to internal and… MORE >

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