I should make a disclosure: Before I studied law and became a licensed attorney, I was a well paid communication consultant (and still am!) putting to good work the three degrees I earned in that field, including a Ph.D.
Most communication experts believe misunderstandings can be remedied by focusing in the disputants’ messages to each other. Who said what to whom, and when, to what effect? What is it about their expectations and message strategies that got them into their current dismal state of relations? Not always, but often enough, we’ll uncover various defensive messages that overtook supportive ones.
People that should be focused on mutual problem solving come to define each other as being the problem, using various forms of name-calling and blaming to convey their disappointment. But continuing with the same dysfunctional back-and-forth, accusation and defense tactics won’t get them beyond a stalemate.
They need to change their Three T’s: Their texts, tones, and timing.
Instead of using defensive messages, they should try to substitute supportive ones.
Instead of “You screwed-up” and “You’re to blame!” they should opt for “Let’s see where this got off track” and “Let’s try this to put the matter to rest.”
Many people, especially in business, perceive that the remedy for poor communication isn’t a better style of communication. That’s too logical and rational. Instead, they see the answer in ESCALATING hostilities, by increasing the defensiveness level from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1.
They shift from having a communication problem to having a legal problem, which is like going from a crawl to hyper-drive, instantaneously.
That’s when the so-called arms dealers of disputes, lawyers, earn the biggest paydays, by supplying ammunition.
It is always a good idea to seek a lawyer’s opinion if you believe your rights have been compromised or trampled, and many will give you an initial consultation, free of charge. But you can save yourself substantial time, money, and hassles, if you seek to mediate your dispute, with or without a lawyer at hand.
Ask yourself, is this a communication problem or a legal problem? In my experience, legal and otherwise, I’m always impressed with the frequency of the former, and the rarity of the latter.