Catherine Davidson on the opportunity in disagreement: a mediator’s perspective (#20)

Most of us have negative experiences with conflict. 

We think of heated conversations and unpleasant emotions. 

If you’re like me you probably prefer to avoid conflict if possible. 

Today we talk to Catherine Davidson about what mediation can teach us about conflict and negotiation. 

Catherine offers a different way to look at conflict.  Catherine believes there is a lot of joy in disagreement. The problem is not the conflict but our ability to navigate through it.  

Catherine is a leading commercial and workplace mediator who has mediated over 800 disputes. She is also a facilitator and conflict management consultant.  She is a member of several National and International Mediation Panels and she is a mediation and negotiation trainer in the public and private sectors throughout the Asia Pacific region including the Australian Disputes Centre, the Resolution Institute, and several law schools in India and China. On top of all that, she is a guest Lecturer in the Executive MBA and Advanced MBA programmes at the University of Technology Sydney. 

We hope you enjoy this insightful conversation with Catherine Davidson. 

You can connect with Catherine via LinkedIn or her website

You can listen to the episode on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher or Simplecast

Show Notes

2:06 – what is mediation?
5:00 – misaligned interests aren’t always the problem.
7:30 – what drives Catherine to do mediation.
9:50 – examples of mediation.
14:11 – getting sceptics to buy in.
17:28 – building rapport and trust.
18:30 – managing your own emotions.
21:44 – empathy vs ruinous empathy.
30:07 – negotiation and tactical empathy.
33:35 – what outcome do we want from conflict?
36:45 – conflict avoidance.
41:05 – proactive conflict management.
44:13 – how can we get beneath the surface to to real issues?
46:11 – Why? is a dangerous question to ask.
47:30 – importance of silence in communication.
51:34 – get in touch Catherine.

Links to references 

Book:  Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss 

Tactical empathy (find youtube 

Ruinous empathy 

Key Quotes 

“Mediation is an opportunity for dialogue between people who are having difficulty understanding each other”. 

“Mediation is about listening to what is underlying, the issues that each party brings to the dispute”. 

“One of the most productive things is to establish a dialogue where parties address common things”. 

“People come to mediation with different perspectives often, but sometimes they don’t…they are hurt”. 

“A big driver is helping people discover their perspective more deeply”. 

“In Australia, so many contracts have a dispute resolution provision”. 

“ alive and well to a number of parties with the mediation….understanding what is driving that …is part of the preparation” 

“Fear of the unknown in a significant barrier”. 

“I talked about what am I noticing in myself, what is driving it and how to I deal with it quickly”. 

“It’s not about me and the way I’m going to do my best job is by staying focused” 

“Have breaks in the process, have offline conversations to address what is happening in the room.” 

“Empathy is about making people feel felt“. 

“The feeling belongs to that person”. 

“Ruinous empathy is a fake empathy”. 

“All of these skills are day to day communications needs…most communication is some form of negotiation and being able to display empathy is a life skill” 

“Tactical empathy…it is tactical because there is a point in the negotiation…to demonstrate deep and attentive listening by summarising back what the person has said and doing it in a succinct and powerful way that demonstrates you are understanding their key demands.” 

“You’re right versus that’s right”. 

“Use the other persons words, quite often, so they are hearing back themselves”

“I think, there is a lot of joy in disagreement…at the end of this process you will think differently to what you do today”. 

“The outcome of the mediation is only as good as the capacity of the people involved”. 

“When you get people in a position where they understand what each other needs is an exciting part” 

“Sometimes People label disagreement as conflict”. 

“You don’t know what you don’t know”. 

“If one person in a group feels something it is very likely that someone else is noticing it too.” 

“Ask open questions, discover more, start with words like what, how, when and sometimes why” 

“Sometime when we use the word why, it has a negative connotation…it can have a critical tone to it.”

“The biggest thing about silence…I think it is respectful….I’m sitting with it, I’m listening to you…I’m thinking what to ask next…because what you said is important”. 

“The silence means I’m listening to you…I’m working hard to think how I can come back to you in a respectful and meaningful way”. 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.