by Kathryn A.
I came to the Mediate Your Life Immersion Program to solidify my NVC skills. As a computer programmer, I couldn’t see how learning to mediate conflict might be relevant to my line of work. Then I had an on-the-job experience that showed me just how essential knowing how to deal with conflict could be.
When I was part-way through Ike and John’s program, I received a frantic phone call from a company that was looking for a developer in the specific software I work with. I accepted, happy to have the work because, due to my health, I had been unable to work for some time. A few hours into the project, I realized that my new colleagues were in the middle of a highly conflictual situation with their vendor.
One day, we had a phone call that started terribly. Grown men were literally yelling at each other, saying things like “You’re in breach of contract!” and “We have zero obligation to do any of this!” and “We’re not experiencing that problem—it’s entirely in your environment!” My heart started to race as I sat there silently, unsure of what to do or say.
That’s when the true synchronicity of the situation sank in. Remembering what I had learned in the Mediate Your Life program, I took the time to breathe, self-connect, and ask myself what I needed in that moment. I found that my needs were for calm, understanding, and collaboration.
After taking that moment for self-empathy, I interrupted the conversation at one point and carefully repeated a few of the things I was hearing from the vendor’s developer (who seemed highly triggered, defensive, and resistant). I simply tried to reflect what I heard from him; “It sounds like you want to make sure that if you’re showing us this code, that it’s ok for you to do so?” and “You’d like to make sure there’s authorization for this, and that we’re using your time wisely?” Each time I’d reflect, he would say, “Yeah, exactly.”
I then reflected what my client was saying in hopes that it would make his words easier for the vendor to hear. To my client, I said: “You’re hearing that certain user interactions need to run faster before your [own] clients will accept it, is that right?” and “Much of it is running well, but you’re really hoping we can work together to improve this one piece?” Again, the responses came back affirmative: “Yes, that’s it.”
I then did some non-NVC placating; “This is the most extensive application of this technology I’ve ever seen,” and “I can tell a lot of effort and skill when into this.” My intention was to show appreciation and hopefully meet everyone’s needs for trust, letting them know that I wasn’t there to criticize or find fault with anyone’s work.
Finally, I self-expressed: “I really want everyone to be comfortable with the information and code that’s being shared, and I’m here to help optimize this one piece. I can tell the program is well written, and I have a specific background in optimizing this application. I also don’t know the program itself at all, and so I’d love it if you could help me learn more. I’d like to take a few minutes and ask some general questions about how it’s set up. How would you feel about me doing that?”
From there, our exchange turned into a very civilized conversation. We got useful detail about how the program worked, with the vendor even offering things I didn’t know to ask for. Toward the end of the conversation, he also offered to do the very thing that, just minutes before, he had said was impossible.
This is not to say that everything was hunky-dory from then on. But it was amazing to me how the conversation shifted once I had created space for both sides to be heard and had expressed what I wanted. My client called me later and said, “That was amazing.” It was great to feel like I had effective tools to apply in a tough situation, and that applying them made a difference.
Turns out the mediation skills have come in handy for this nerdy programmer girl after all!
This is the first post in a new series called “Real Life Skills,” in which program participants talk about the impact of the trainings on their everyday lives. Our deep thanks to Kathryn A. for sharing her experience. If you have a story that you would like to contribute—either under your real name or anonymously— please contact series editor Julie Stiles (JulieStiles@wordsthatwork.us).