MED NAVIDAD 

NAVIDADES en pie de guerra: ¿cómo evitar los conflictos familiares?

Por Yolanda Munoz-CEDECO

 

“Noche de paz, noche de amor…” La letra de este popular villancico navideño que refleja el sentido de la Navidad se esfuma en muchos hogares donde sucede precisamente lo contrario: los conflictos familiares latentes durante todo el año se descorchan de forma incontrolable, como el tapón de una botella que sale disparado hacia el techo, y pueden convertirse en el detonante de una ruptura familiar. De la misma forma que más de un 80% de las separaciones y divorcios se producen después del verano, son muchas las parejas que rompen o los familiares que dejan de hablarse después de las fiestas navideñas. Pero, ¿quiénes son los principales protagonistas de estos desencuentros navideños y por qué?

 

Familiares a punto de estallar

 

Un conflicto surge ante la falta de acuerdo, sobre todo cuando hay algo que negociar. Este desacuerdo se puede vivir en cualquier núcleo familiar, en familias que en apariencia no tienen ningún problema y parecen llevarse bien y en familias desestructuradas, donde existen más conflictos de intereses y se tiene que negociar acerca de las visitas de los hijos a los padres, etc. Por otro lado, las abuelas o madres de familia que suelen organizar los banquetes de Navidad encajan peor que sus descendientes pasen alguno de los días señalados en casa de la familia política. Pero los conflictos no dependen tanto del parentesco o posición que se ocupe en la familia como de que sus miembros tengan una personalidad caracterizada por la inflexibilidad y la rigidez en el cumplimiento de las tradiciones y normas establecidas.

 

Los motivos del conflicto

 

Los conflictos familiares que se disparan en Navidad son latentes si están adormecidos todo el año y se destapan en estas fiestas; profundos, cuando falla la comunicación; o propios de estas fechas, debido a la toma de decisiones que implican. Entre las situaciones que actúan como factor gatillo, se advierten las siguientes:

  • La falta de comunicación en la familia, bien por omisión, o bien porque la comunicación es inadecuada. Las familias que se rigen por un patrón de conducta “calla y cuece” y se “guardan” pequeños conflictos son más vulnerables a sufrir un estallido emocional incontrolable. Para evitarlo, se recomienda probar la comunicación asertiva, es decir, una comunicación eficaz en la que no se agrede al otro con una comunicación agresiva, ejerciendo el rol de verdugo, ni tampoco se utiliza una comunicación sumisa, desde el rol de víctima, haciéndose sentir culpable.
  • Una mala planificación del tiempo y la economía de las navidades, es decir, tomar decisiones sobre el calendario de fiestas, las compras, los platos que se van a preparar… y compaginarlo con el trabajo es una fuente indiscutible de estrés. Se estima que más del 80% de la población percibe síntomas de estrés, ansiedad, melancolía o depresión en Navidad. Para evitar estas tensiones añadidas, se aconseja planificar las fiestas con suficiente antelación.
  • Tener expectativas demasiado altas o irreales sobre cómo deben ser las fiestas, como pretender ofrecer una cena de lujo, cuando no se tiene dinero, o esperar que toque la lotería de Navidad, puede abocar a la frustración y actitudes reactivas negativas cuando no se cumplen estas expectativas. Para evitarlo, tanto en Navidad como en la vida, lo recomendable es marcarse metas y objetivos difíciles, para que motiven, pero reales y alcanzables, para que no generen frustración.

Afrontar los conflictos: antes, durante y después

 

Las navidades deberían servir para reforzar los lazos familiares y no para intentar resolver los conflictos familiares durante estos días, sino antes. Para ello, se puede acudir a un mediador, una figura profesional en auge que puede provenir de diferentes campos (mediación, psicología, coaching o servicios sociales) y que esta dialogue con el familiar más objetivo, comprensivo y ecuánime de la familia para hallar una solución a la discordia familiar que exista antes de las fiestas.

 

Cuando no es posible, y algún familiar pierde los papeles en Navidad, los expertos recomiendan no esconder esta realidad a los niños si la discusión se produce dentro de unos límites razonables, puesto que también son miembros de la familia, y apartarlos del escenario donde ocurra solo ante una agresión física o verbal. Asimismo, cuando se eleva demasiado el tono de voz, se aconseja a los padres decirles que “no es lo correcto, mamá o papá se ha equivocado”, puesto que los niños se rigen por el aprendizaje, basado en aprender conductas mediante la observación y, por lo tanto, adoptan los modelos de comportamiento de sus adultos.

 

Después de un conflicto en Navidad, ¿cómo afrontar la siguiente? Según los expertos, la huida no es el camino para la resolución de los conflictos, sino el afrontamiento, puesto que aquello de lo que se huye, por vergüenza o por miedo, persigue durante toda la vida y el problema se va agravando. Para evitarlo, se recomienda aprovechar el resto del año para hablarlo, cuando las emociones ya se hayan enfriado. Aun así, si el enfrentamiento es muy drástico algunos expertos desaconsejan reunirse las siguientes navidades, hasta que se solucione.

 

Consejos para disfrutar de la Navidad en familia

 

  1. Negociar hasta alcanzar un acuerdo sobre dónde, cómo y con quién pasar las fiestas.
  2. Una vez alcanzado el acuerdo, no darle vueltas a la decisión tomada y disfrutar de las fiestas.
  3. Resolver los conflictos familiares antes de la Navidad, si es preciso con ayuda profesional.
  4. Planificar con tiempo dónde celebrar cada día festivo y con qué familiares.
  5. Hacer una presupuesto ajustado de las navidades, sin pretender gastar más de lo que se tiene, sino pensando en que lo importante es reunirse.
  6. Guardar las formas, aunque se deba compartir mesa con un familiar que no agrade.
  7. Evitar abusar de la bebida, puesto que desinhibe y puede llevar a perder el control del comportamiento.

 

 

Ahhh y ojo, unos últimos consejos para evitar disgustos y enfrentamientos en la cena de Navidad:

  • No esperar que el jamón de tu cuñado sea de Jabugo Jabugo 
  • No esperar que los langostinos de tu suegro sean de Sanlúcar de Barrameda
  • No esperar que el turrón del duro se corté sin destrozarlo y hacerlo migas

 

 

 

ADR on Facebook

Using a Negotiation Approach to Resolve a Conflict: On Facebook, Dispute Resolution Goes Live

Conflict management skills from the social media king – how live dispute resolution is introducing a negotiation approach to conflict resolution at Facebook

BY KATIE SHONK 

Facebook recently faced widespread criticism for conducting a psychology experiment on about 700,000 of its users without their informed consent. In the study, Facebook researchers manipulated users’  moods by exposing them to more positive or more negative posts than usual.

Now CNNMoney reports that Facebook has been engaged  in a more benign and possibly beneficial psychological experiment.

The company has been under pressure to address the growing problem of “cyberbullying” among young people. It also has been looking for ways to help users address their conflicts and disputes themselves rather than enlisting the company as mediator.

So, for several years, the social network has been working with social scientists to bring traditional methods of dispute resolution to cyberspace. The site has begun to offer users tools to resolve disputes with one another over offensive or upsetting posts, including insults and photos.

Facebook has created message templates that allow users to explain what they object to about a particular posts. For example, they can select options such as “It’s embarrassing” or “It’s a bad photo of me,” according to CNNMoney. Users are also asked to state how the offensive post makes them feel – such as angry, sad, or afraid – and how strongly they experience the emotions they report.

Facebook says its new dispute resolution can be effective and convenient. However, some forms of online dispute resolution, such as e-mediation, have been found by researchers to lack the rapport and warmth of face-to-face talks. Online disputants miss out on important body language, facial expressions, and other in-person signals that can be so useful when communicating in person.

For these reasons, there is a risk that when Facebook users confront those who have offended them, some disputes could escalate rather than subside. Moreover, absent the presence of a trained mediator, Facebook users may lack the skills and experience needed to defuse tension and brainstorm solutions.

Still, given that hashing out online disputes in person is often impractical, as is having a professional mediator referee every dispute, Facebook should be commended for attempting to find new ways to bring proven dispute resolution practices to our increasingly contentious online world.

 

Strong Reactions in Edinburgh

Strong Reactions in Edinburgh

“Patients don’t expect doctors to be perfect. They do expect them to strive for perfection by opening up their work to scrutiny” Atul Gawande, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, 6/12/15.

A bit of a treat for me last week, when four of my favourite academics came to Edinburgh. They were keynotes at Mediate Scotland 2015, a two-day conference hosted by Queen Margaret University and the Scottish Mediation Network. All had a great deal to teach us.

From Tamara Relis we heard about the ‘parallel worlds’ of lawyers and their clients in Canadian medical negligence mediation, with lawyers focusing on monetary negotiation and case evaluation while parties sought communication, explanation, apology and the other side’s perspective (see Relis, Perceptions in Litigation and Mediation: Lawyers, Defendants, Plaintiffs, and Gendered Parties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

From Liz Stokoe we learned a crucial lesson: mediators don’t know what they do right (and sometimes wrong). Potential clients have little interest in mediation ‘philosophy’ (we are neutral, independent, confidential, etc) but respond enthusiastically to an invitation to meet real people. And yet mediators keep talking about the former. Why is this? Liz raised the challenging possibility that role-play based learning could reinforce unhelpful practices (see Stokoe, ‘Overcoming Barriers to Mediation in Intake Calls to Services: Research-Based Strategies
for Mediators’ (2013) 29Negotiation Journal (3) 289-314).

Ellen Waldman outlined her insightful taxonomy of mediators according to their approach to social norms, giving us ‘norm-generating’, ‘norm-educating’ and ‘norm-advocating’ styles (see Waldman, 1997. ‘Identifying the role of social norms in mediation: a multiple model approach’ 48 Hastings Law Journal 703–769; and http://kluwermediationblog.com/2013/08/12/has-the-evaluative-label-outlived-its-usefulness/ .

All were great and I encourage readers to investigate their work. For me, however, the conference’s most arresting moment occurred during Ken Kressel’s presentation on the ‘strategic style’ (see Kressel, 2007. ‘The Strategic Style in Mediation’ 24 Conflict Resolution Quarterly (3) 251-283). In both a keynote and workshop Ken showed us an example of an expert mediator. As this research has been in the public domain for decades, I can name her: Fran Butler was filmed conducting a 12-minute simulation of court-annexed divorce mediation in New Jersey. Ken asked us to analyse her work using the ‘Reflective Observer Role’ he has developed over 40 years of mediation research.*

I scribbled away, noting both verbal and physical moves. I honestly thought she was really good. Of course everyone is different and I might not have done everything she did. But having mediated separation and divorce for over twenty years I recognised most it and appreciated what I didn’t.

The way I saw it Fran had worked out within 5 or 10 seconds that the parties were poor at problem-solving (they shouted each other down and didn’t listen); she therefore adopted the role of problem-solver, leading the conversation along a path I assume she had hypothesised was useful. She spent 7 of the 12 minutes asking the mum to wait while she pursued a conversation with the dad regarding his lack of information about his children. She used probing questions and summarised what she was hearing. She then focused intently on the mum’s perspective for about a minute before returning to the dad. She made a few highly directive moves: a leading question (‘could you maybe ask the children?’); predicting the court’s lack of interest in providing a judgement on the issue of what one parent tells the other; and making a proposal on telephone contact. I also saw ‘classic’ mediator skill following the description of a rather nasty handover exchange. Instead of ignoring it, investigating it or seeking to establish fault she simply asked ‘how could that be done better?’ The clip ended with parents undertaking to try a modified pattern of contact in the coming weeks.

Ken invited comments. I assumed others would highlight skills, or perhaps question the intention behind some of the moves. Instead the first questioner said (something like) ‘I train mediators all over the UK. If I had been watching that mediation I would have stopped it and said “You are doing it wrong.”’ Looking around I could see others nodding in agreement. I was astonished.

Of course I can’t claim that my view is correct and others’ erroneous. Maybe Fran was doing it wrong. But an outside observer might wonder how people in the same profession could see things so differently. What exactly is mediation, if a veteran researcher can present an example of expertise and a veteran trainer can see it as worse than inept: wrong-headed, something to be stopped?

Ken did respond. First he pointed out that Fran had consistently achieved the best results in the project where he had studied her work over four years. So whatever Fran was doing appeared to work. Second he acknowledged that the ‘strategic style’ is by no means mainstream. He associates it with professions that have a strong tradition of seeking root causes, such as healthcare and counselling. And finally he made for me the most significant assertion: mediation is ‘highly context dependent’.

That rings bells. The first time I moved from family to workplace mediation it was as if I were ‘crashing the gears’. Nothing worked smoothly. I had to work extra hard for the first half dozen cases while I found my way, by trial and error, towards what was effective. The same happened with commercial mediation (for another day: in that context I have come to believe that mediators’ status and persona are as significant as their ‘moves’), within education, healthcare, professional complaints and so on. So to say that mediation is any one thing, or any one set of practices, is misleading. Mediators appear to vary quite a lot (for more on the differences between them, and between what they do and what they say they do, see Wall and Dunne, ‘State of the Art Mediation Research: A Current Review’ (2012) 28 Negotiation Journal, 217–244).

However, the idea of ownership is troubling. Who owns mediation? Who says something is right or wrong? Mediation pre-dated attempts to describe it; it is a living, evolving practice that Peter Adler has eloquently described as ‘protean’. It is supremely pragmatic. If what I have been taught doesn’t work, and I ditch it or modify it in favour of something that does, who am I betraying? My trainers or my clients? Who matters more?

It is also easy to confuse description and prescription. Mediation scholars and practitioners have been describing what they see and what they do for many years. Models have emerged. Some practice appears to work; some not. But prescribing is the teacher’s art, concerned with what should be done and what should not. I believe Ken and our other keynotes were concerned with the former, while some of the questioners were thinking of the latter. Ken showed us what occurred; the questioner said that it should not have occurred. Nearly three centuries earlier (in the same city) David Hume first identified the logical jolt in moving from ‘is’ to ‘ought’ statements.

One of the joys of this conference was that it gave us glimpse inside the black box that is the mediation room. Expert researchers, from disciplines including psychology, anthropology and law, shared what they have observed. Some of us didn’t like it; some did. My plea is for more of this. Other professions have learned the hard lesson that when scrutiny is imposed from outside the public doesn’t always like what it sees. We need to take every opportunity to open up our practice to discussion, to critique and to improvement. We need to listen to what others are telling us.

So I take my hat off to the Virtual Mediation Lab, where mediators conduct online simulations for all to see; and to all the mediators who permit serious researchers like Ken Kressel, Tamara Relis, Liz Stokoe and Ellen Waldman to observe and analyse their work. Let’s approach other people’s practice with wonder, marvelling that someone can get to the same destination by a different route.

* The Reflective Observer Role, Ken Kressel, PhD, Dept of Psychology, Rutgers-Newark

• Focus on understanding NOT evaluating or correcting

• Focus on “critical moments”: Mediator interventions that:
o were surprising or puzzling
o seemed effective
o seemed ineffective
o interested you in any other way

• Use the appreciative inquiry “3-step”:
o Ask a question: (e.g. what were you thinking when you did that?)
o Summarise the response
o Probe for more info (e.g. why did you decide to do that then, rather than this?

• Use “supportive confrontation” when indicated.