All good negotiation, whether in mediation or not, involves engaging the other parties in meaningful dialogue. In our in house courses for senior executives on the theme of constructive communication, a number of common themes have emerged:

– how easy it is to make assumptions about people and events and to draw our own inferences from these – and how easy it is for the assumptions and inferences to be incorrect;

– that there are at least two sides to nearly all stories and that we need to be skilful in finding out the real concerns, needs and issues of others who may see things differently, including those whose behaviour we may think abnormal and whom we may think are acting irrationally;

– how infrequently we really listen to what someone else is saying and how often we miss the real gems in a conversation or dialogue;

– that to get our point across we have a tendency to assert our position: how much more we can achieve by asking carefully formulated and focused questions, drawing others out and helping them to see our point of view.

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