im right photoI’m not supposed to tell you this.  I’m giving away some (but not all) of the secret techniques used by Mediators.  You’ll probably want to thank me later.  For now, please read on.

Obviously, we all want to win our arguments.  We want to be told “you’re right,” and we want to feel self-important and smug for at least a moment afterwards.  Because we’re friends, I’m going to share my . . . wait for it . . .


  1. Let the other person go first. This is a good strategy for several reasons, not the least of which is that it allows you to be a good listener.  It wouldn’t hurt you to take a few notes while you’re listening to show the other person that you are seriously interested in what he/she has to say.
  2. Repeat back what you heard. This may sound silly and unnecessary, but believe me, it’s vital.  When you repeat what you just heard, the other person knows that you were listening and, therefore, will feel validated.  It’s also the time to make certain that the points were correctly stated, and that you completely understood them.
  3. Acknowledge the valid points you just heard.  Even if you think the entire point of view is ridiculous, find something to recognize.  If you’re struggling to find even one thing, try this:  “I know you feel strongly about this.”   It’s likely a true statement, and the other person will think you’re agreeing (even though you’re probably not).
  4. Remain calm.  When it’s your turn to speak, lower your voice and speak quietly, yet firmly.  The other person will listen even more carefully if you’re speaking softly (and carrying a big stick).  By the way, that old adage still rings true.
  5. Know your stuff. Make sure your points are succinct and correct.  Nothing will destroy your credibility faster than if you’re obviously wrong about something, so do your homework.
  6. Encourage the other person to agree with you.  Ask a benign question, such as “am I making sense?” or “I’m glad we’re finally talking about this, aren’t you?”   This strategy helps to reduce the adversarial positioning, and may subconsciously lead to a resolution.
  7. Find common ground.   I’m sure you can find something you two have in common.  It could be work-related, it could be blood-related — it could be anything that serves to illustrate that you’re more the same than you are different.

Hopefully you won’t memorize this entire list because if you do, you might not need a Mediator.  At first, try implementing two or three of these ideas next time you’re arguing with your colleague or your teenager.

Which of the above seven suggestions makes the most sense to you?