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Beyond Anger: The Surprising Power of Mediation

By Dr Marli Jooste (CSIP associate), and Caren Swanepoel, Managing Director of CSIP (Caren Swanepoel Industrial Psychologists).


In the realm of human interaction, conflicts inevitably arise, sparking emotions that range from mild annoyance to intense anger. Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, recognized this universal truth, noting that “Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy”. These words, spoken over two millennia ago, still resonate today, highlighting the complexity and challenge of resolving conflicts thoughtfully and constructively.

In the pursuit of resolving conflicts, Aristotle's words remind us of the virtue of moderation and the importance of choosing the right path forward. This notion of the 'right way' finds resonance in the practice of mediation, a process that seeks to guide conflicting parties toward a resolution that is fair, just, and sustainable. Mediation, like the ideal anger Aristotle describes, aims to address conflicts 'with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose.' By facilitating constructive dialogue and understanding, mediation embodies Aristotle's call for a balanced and virtuous approach to conflict resolution.

In the domain of mediation, skilled facilitators serve as guides, helping parties involved in conflict to express their grievances, concerns, and desires in a manner that fosters understanding and empathy. Through active listening and strategic intervention, mediators work to uncover underlying interests and values, steering conversations away from destructive patterns of blame and defensiveness. In doing so, they enable participants to engage in constructive dialogue aimed at finding common ground and forging mutually acceptable solutions.

In essence, mediation embodies Aristotle's vision of navigating conflict with wisdom and discernment, recognizing that true resolution requires more than just the cessation of hostilities—it demands a thoughtful and deliberate approach that addresses the root causes of discord while honouring the dignity and agency of all involved parties. By embracing the principles articulated by Aristotle, mediation offers a pathway towards reconciliation and harmony, proving that even in the heat of conflict, there exists the potential for transformative dialogue and understanding.

One might question then whether mediation is limited to unionized settings or intense conflict zones. On the contrary, mediation goes beyond mere conflict resolution but serves to be as efficient during crucial conversations or performance management within the workplace. Embarking on mediation in the workplace allows for third-party objectivity while simultaneously embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly stated that we boil at different degrees and therefore how we deal or cope with the same will be different too. The mediation process is flexible enough to allow for the latter differences and should not be considered a threat to human resources or legal practices.

Herewith a few key benefits of appointing an accredited mediator and/or utilising mediation in facilitating transformative dialogue within the workplace:

  • Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness: Mediation offers a quicker and more cost-effective alternative to litigation or arbitration. By resolving conflicts in a timely manner, mediation helps maintain productivity and morale within the workplace.

  • Tailored Solutions: Mediation allows parties to customize the process to their specific needs and concerns. This flexibility enables them to find creative solutions that may not be achievable through traditional legal channels, leading to more effective and satisfying outcomes.

  • Preservation of Relationships: Through its structured and empathetic approach, mediation helps individuals express their emotions and concerns constructively. This preserves relationships and promotes understanding, essential for maintaining a positive work environment.

  • Confidentiality: Mediation ensures that discussions and outcomes remain private. This confidentiality encourages participants to focus on resolving issues rather than engaging in personal attacks, leading to a more respectful and meaningful resolution process.

  • Ownership and Alignment: By involving parties in the resolution process and encouraging them to take ownership of the outcome, mediation helps individuals resolve conflicts in a manner that aligns with their values and goals. This leads to more sustainable agreements and promotes a positive organizational culture.

In conclusion, mediation serves as a beacon of hope in conflict resolution, offering a path towards a future where conflicts are seen as opportunities for growth and understanding. By embracing the principles of Aristotle and recognizing the transformative power of mediation, workplaces can cultivate a culture of wisdom, compassion, and integrity in resolving conflicts.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Lexinfo CC.


CSIP (Caren Swanepoel Industrial Psychologists)


Posted: 19 March 2024



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