Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an alternative way to resolve your issue, without legal action.
ADR can also help improve your communication skills, because it demonstrates to you how you can engage in a difficult conversation and get a successful outcome.
In alternative dispute resolution, you are directly involved, often talking for yourself, and taking responsibility for it and seeing it through to the end. This can be very rewarding, if you get a good outcome, because you’re actually in control.
When you do ADR, you don’t agree to anything unless you decide to. You’re not forced down any path. You’re not told how it is. You work out what the issues are, and you work out what the best outcomes could be to those issues yourself.
A lot of us don’t have great dispute resolution or conflict skills these days. We’re not really taught how to have hard conversations. We’re more used to either being avoidant of dealing with hard conversations, or even to fight.
So we can flare up, and we stop listening to the other party. We get caught up in some really strong emotions, and we fight and potentially make it worse.
Being involved in a dispute resolution process, particularly mediation, compels you to stay in the conversation, to express yourself, to listen to the other party expressing themselves, and to actually work through a process. Even if you get mad, you need to stay, so it helps you to experience sitting in a difficult conversation and staying in it. You learn that even though it’s uncomfortable, but it can be worth it.
Being in conflict does not mean that you’re being abused. Yes, it can be highly emotional, however it’s usually a very defined period and over a specific issue.
If you take away a lot of the emotions, which is a lot of what conflict can be about, the issues are quite often only two or three issues that actually have to be dealt with.
ADR gives you the chance to express some of the emotions around those issues, letting it out, being heard and understood, and looking to the future instead of the past.
ADR also gives you the experience of being safe in conflict. It’s uncomfortable, yes. But you learn that you can express yourself, you’re able to take breaks, and you can hear what the other person has to say, without anything horrible happening.
Once you’ve been through the ADR process with someone, particularly if you have to have an ongoing relationships with that person, you can see that there is a way of communicating with each other – particularly if it’s the other parent of your children, or a colleague at work.
Dispute resolution can often be mediation, and it can be as simple as a 90-minute conversation via Zoom. If you don’t resolve everything during that time, then do another 90-minutes session in a couple of weeks. You could also do a 3-hour mediation, or a full day.
Early-stage mediation is the ideal way to narrow the issues down, deflate some of the emotions, and get a whole lot of the situation sorted out.