Time's Role In Mediation, Negotiation & Conflict Resolution

Time often plays a crucial role in mediations, negotiations, conflict coaching, and other conflict related situations.  Aside of the obvious billable rate per hour, there are various subtle yet important ways TIME factors into the work we do as professionals assisting those in the midst of a conflict or dispute.

Chronemics, the study of time, is a nonverbal communication element part of my PhD research (check out the Prezi) on mediators, and like many topics, is often best understood and explained through the use of metaphors.

Looking at time and the various metaphors that can be associated with it, for this post I will concentrate in the TIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor.  I actually posted the following on twitter recently and it generated some great responses:

 Jeff Thompson 
Negotiators, mediators & coaches- is conflict a journey? Does it get 'stuck'? Is 'moving forward' always good? 

and the responses:

tammycravitJan 14, 9:50pm via Echofon
@mediatorjeff I've experienced situations where stuck-ness & backward movement are necessary to the ultimate resolution of a conflict.

Jenny_RadcliffeJan 14, 1:51pm via Twitter for iPhone
@mediatorjeff - if only one side is moving it's not a#negotiation its a monologue! #conflict

jasondykJan 14, 2:15pm via UberSocial for BlackBerry
True! RT @Jenny_Radcliffe: @mediatorjeff - if only one side is moving it's not a #negotiation its a monologue!#conflict

clarkfreshmanJan 14, 4:47pm via Twitter for iPhone
@NonverbalPhD no forward is not good as metaphor for negotiation. Too often a rush to easy solutions, rather than optimal creative win win

KatriKJan 14, 12:43pm via TweetDeck
@mediatorjeff Maybe sometimes it's good to get stuck. It might mean, that there should be a break, time to think, time to silence?

Jenny_RadcliffeJan 14, 1:48pm via Twitter for iPhone
@NonverbalPhD depends on direction you're going-forward=negotiation backwards= litigation so says @Stuart_Diamond

This gets me thinking and to further reflect.  How do I (and you) view time? Examples can include the following statements being made:

"time is be wasted..."
"We have not moved far in the past hour..."
"Look at how far we have gotten in the past two hours"
"Should we move onto another topic for the moment?"

Jenny Radcliffe brings up the point that some view moving forward as positive, while backwards is negative (and litigation, ha! that's a whole other topic!) while Katri (@KatriK) states time being "stuck" and going neither forward or backward could positive.  

I often tend to use this approach to give a "reality check" and perhaps "stroke" the parties by saying something along the lines of "hey, let's stop for a second and look at where everyone was at the beginning of this, and where we have come at this point..."

Clark Freshman adds his wisdom by saying how often the TIME IS A JOURNEY and how too fast of a process can often be detrimental to the process of negotiations and mediations.  I say there are stages for a reason!

Finally, Tammy reminds me that sometimes you might have to go a backwards to go forwards towards a resolution.

Hopefully this brief post will allow you to reflect on how TIME IS A JOURNEY metaphor plays an important role during your work and realize the parties might approach it differently.  Also, it is also a subtle hat-tip and promotion of the value of twitter- using twitter is well worth time as it has helped me move forward on my path towards increasing my ability to help others involved in conflicts (wow, check out all those metaphors!).


Btw, anyone else think about about how TIME IS MONEY is another important metaphor played out in conflict resolution?

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