From Kindness: Making a Difference in People's Lives: Formulas, stories, and insights
By Zelig Pliskin
When there is peace, there is harmony. There is cooperation and people do things to benefit others. Peace eliminates the harm and damage caused by its opposite: quarrels, fighting, anger, resentment, hatred, revenge, grudge-bearing. Creating peace adds to people’s lives and saves everyone involved from the pain and destruction of feuds and quarrels.
Being a peace-maker is an art. And it is fraught with danger, so one must be very careful how one goes about the whole process. Many years ago, there was a great leader who had a special method for making peace. When he heard that two people were quarreling, he would approach one and tell him that the other person was saying positive things about him. He would then approach the second person and tell him that the first person was saying positive things about him. The next time they met, their body language said, "I like this person." This created a positive loop and the two people would once again become friendly with each other.
We like people who like us and speak well of us. When you want to make peace between people, skillfully have each one say something positive about the other.
"What has this person done for you that you have been grateful for?"
"What positive qualities do you see in this person?"
"If you weren’t angry at this person, what positive statements do you think you could make?"
Describe how they both will benefit by getting along well with each other. Past grievances often have to be worked out. But not always. At times, two people will be willing to begin their relationship all over again. They can be shown that it’s best to begin again right now.
When there is a need to speak about the past, caution everyone to avoid speaking in a tone of voice and with content that will be inflammatory. They should speak to be understood, not to attack. Have each one listen quietly to the other. This can be extremely difficult. But by not counterattacking and by not being defensive, the speaker has the relief of being heard and understood, even if they don’t agree.
By speaking about the situation peacefully, both parties might recognize that they misunderstood the actual positions of the other. They might not have realized the pain the other one experienced. They might have thought that the other person is purposely trying to say and do things to cause them pain. Now they will each see that the other person was just trying to do what he thought was best for himself, and didn’t really want to cause harm and damage.
Whenever possible find an agreement frame. That is, find points on which they agree and have common interests.
"What do you both agree on?"
"If possible, you both would gain from getting along well with each other, wouldn’t you?"
"If you worked together instead of against each other, that would make life easier for you, wouldn’t it?"
If you are serving as a mediator, be careful not to take sides. Often, each party will want you to agree that they are right and the other side is wrong. If you are an authority and a judge, this could be appropriate. But when you are serving as a mediator, be careful not to become a party to the dispute. Instead of finding a peaceful settlement, you will then expand the quarrel. The side that feels you are against them will now need to look for other people to bolster their position. The quarrel will grow instead of resolving itself peacefully.
You will be most successful when you can perceive both people in a positive light. When you can create a positive atmosphere in the room by radiating good will to everyone involved, both parties will be able to express themselves in a peaceful setting. Your presence will enable them to understand and be understood in ways that they would not have been able to do if you weren’t there.
But be very careful not to make the situation worse. You might be close friends to both parties and they both want to win you over. You might say something that one can use as ammunition against the other. They might be better off finding someone with much experience in serving as a peace mediator who is an objective outsider.
If you do everything you can and tempers still flare, realize there might be deep emotional issues that have been around for many years. The resentment has added up and now it explodes. You might have to speak to each one separately to enable them to calm down before they can speak to each other. There might be hidden issues that one or both are not telling you. You think that you know the entire picture, but important pieces of data that you aren’t aware of would change the way that you are looking at the situation.
Know your limits. Know when you should step out of a situation. Know when your involvement will cause havoc with your emotions and drag you into a situation with which you didn’t need to be involved. At times the only way someone will know these limits is to have been involved in trying to help out in a quarrel that blew up in their face. When you know what you can’t do, you will have more time and energy to be involved in what you can do.
One of my students told me the following:
I was once involved in a complex situation where a professional lawyer with many years experience was brought in as a consultant to the case. He sat back and listened carefully to get as comprehensive a picture as possible
In the middle of the presentation he was repeatedly getting asked, "What do you think so far?"
He replied, "Thus far I’m still trying to get a more complete picture. I don’t have any comments yet."
Only when the picture became very clear did he make his comments and state his opinion. Because of his extensive experience he knew that things are not always as they seem. Two sides in a quarrel each will have a different picture and it takes patience to get the entire picture.