How can you work something out with someone who is difficult to work with? As a mediation and negotiation specialist I thought I would share with you some lessons I have learned and provide insights for you from articles to help you when you are in this type of situation. If you approach conflict in the right way and with the right attitude this can offer you a real edge towards making progress. Keep in mind there is no one right answer. There are, however, ideas that may prove immensely helpful. Starting with this article from psychology today and moving forward read on.  Here are ten tips to help you from an experienced mediator.

It is natural to want to minimize negative conflict. After completing a mediation between two public company board of directors the chair of one board called me a solution provider rather than a problem solver. I asked him what he meant. He told me that by asking a host of questions this caused them to look more broadly at the problem and from different angles that allowed the parties to come to a solution that neither party had foreseen coming into the mediation. These are things I tried that you may find helpful too.

1. Define the problem

What really is the problem rather than what may merely be symptoms. Plan for a specific time and place that is conducive towards de-escalation. Face the problem. Deal with the problem. Address the problem.

2. Work to resolve the problem

You are not out to win. Winning cannot be your attitude. Your attitude should be there to help. You do not want to win a battle and lose the war. Stay focused on the end game. What do you want? Closure? Peace? Respect? Be listened to? Understand both short term and long-term consequences. Approach the situation strategically. That is what is our strategy going to be. How are we going to approach this?

3. Keep an open minded

You likely have an idea of what the problem is and what you see as workable solutions as well as the solution you prefer before you entered into this conversation. You have a bias towards the solution. Recognize this and be open to other ideas. Consider that there are things you do not know. Be open to a better or different solution. Help the other party. Listen to them and reflect on what you heard them say.

4. Avoid the two stinky twins of BO and BS

That is avoid Blaming Others and Blaming Self. If you find yourself blaming anyone pause and ask why. Stay focused on the problem. Do not blame anyone. Be very conscious of blame. Know your triggers and when you find yourself starting to blame someone, step back, catch yourself, and remember what you are there for focusing on the problem that we can solve together.

5. Set up boundaries or ground rules at the beginning, then forgive

What can we agree are acceptable ways to proceed? For example, one person speaks at a time. No interruptions. Know your own limits and ask them theirs. Can we call a break at any time? Realize we all screw up. Be ready to forgive. This goes a long way towards realizing that we are all human and we all make mistakes. Forgiveness or apologies go a long way towards promoting understanding.

6. Tackle one problem at a time

In pre-mediation sessions as a mediator, I talk with each party ahead of time and build trust with them. I ask each party what they see as the issues. Party one may see issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 in that order. Party two may see issues 1, 4, 5, and 6. At least they both agree to begin with issue 1. By defining the issues, it is possible to work with the parties to prepare an agenda of what issues to discuss and in what order. In this case issues 1 and 4 are in common. Perhaps if these can be addressed issues 2, 3, 5, and 6 may be much easier to address.

7. Stay positive

Anticipate a positive result. Be optimistic. Avoid becoming pessimistic. This may seem simple, but we naturally become negative and defensive with things we do not know or understand until we know and understand them. Our initial inclination is to perceive the negative when in doubt. Guard against this and stay positive. The question you must ask yourself is how motivated are you to solve each problem?

8. Trust yourself

Trust yourself to stay calm, confident, and competent. Show compassion. Demonstrate empathy. Believe that working together we can produce a solution that will work for both of us. Keep the faith. Trust yourself to do the right thing, stay focused and work with the other party. Work to develop a positive professional relationship, listen actively, and then and only then help the other party to understand your perspective. Apply The Collaboration Effect.

9. Self-distancing and self-talk

Encourage yourself with positive self-encourage yourself. Give yourself a pep talk. Use self-distancing by referring to yourself with your name. For example, my name is Mike so I might say to myself, “Come on Mike you can do this.” Stay focused Mike,” “Do not let yourself become angry, Mike.” Or consider other phrases that might work for you.

10. Life is not fair

Keep in mind and accept that life is not fair. We all come with baggage that negatively impacts us. How we manage what life dishes out to us is not the same. What may seem fair to one person may not seem fair to another person. Recognizing this is simply part of the process can help each party realize that there is no nirvana associated with the process. There is a solution that may be positive for both or there may be a solution that both parties can live with going forward.

If you’re looking for some assistance related to collaboration or conflict resolution, or enhancing your Servant Manager skills, check out the links to these

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]