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Mediating Sexual Conflict

Mediating Sexual Conflict

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Published by Rory Ridley Duff
A guide to management thinking during alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
A guide to management thinking during alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

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Published by: Rory Ridley Duff on May 06, 2008
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10/07/2012

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Mediating Sexual Conflict
 
by:
Rory Ridley-Duff
 
(roryridleyduff@Writing.Com)
 
For a person attempting to understand a conflict, the question that could start every investigation is "howis the accuser hurting?" or "why does the accuser feel a need to make an accusation?" It may be wisenot to widen the scope of a dispute until the circumstances of the accusation are understood. To accuse,there must either be a moral principle at stake, an interest that has to be defended, or an anger thanseeks an outlet. Initially before shifting focus to the accused, establish the balance between these three.If possible, search back through events with the accuser to trace any source of emotional hurtremembering that it may come from somewhere else in the accuser's life and is not necessarily theoutcome of their relationship with the accused (Harris and Harris, 1986). If you cannot shed any light,start to involve the accused. Initially, you are still trying to understand the reason for the accusation fromthe point of view of the accuser, not the accused. If you bring the parties together, let the parties beemotional as it provides information. Avoid taking sides: the objective is not blame. The objective is tostimulate dialogue so that you, and they, can understand the source of emotional hurt and shed light onthe hidden dynamics of the conflict.If you find yourself displaying emotions, consider how the outcome of the dispute affects your owninterests. Does your emotionality betray a desire for a closer relationship with one party? Is one partyparticularly important to achieving your own personal (or organisational) goals and objectives? Talk tosomeone outside the dispute about your own emotions to shed some light on them. No-one is completelyimpartial and you may still be the best person to mediate.If it is a gender dispute, remember that most men want close relationships with women more than withother men, and women want close relationships with men more than other women (except for lesbianand gay women and men). "The other" is often perceived as the source of emotional hurt but this doesnot necessarily mean it is true. Hurt is a reflection of our own desire, our own sense of loss. We hurtmost when we cannot fulfil our desires (and the bigger the gap between our desires and reality, thegreater our hurt). Find out, if possible, what event changed the relationship. What did each party say tothe other? Could it be an outcome of changes outside work?If somebody is deeply distressed, establish if it comes from a sense of loss, remembering always there isa 60% chance in the case of a woman, and possibly also in the case of men, that they will not divulgetheir sexual feelings (McDowell, 1985; India Today, 2003). Talk carefully. On a one-to-one basis, askthem to describe the relationship from the beginning. This will give you a sense of how the relationshipevolved and changed.Support people through loss. If no loss is found, find out why people feel violated. Does the person needprotection? If not, then mediate as soon as possible. If yes, then seek professional advice.Both women and men hurt - it is not women's or men's problem alone and is best resolved together. Menfear showing their feelings, not always because they are ashamed, but because experience has taughtthem that expressing feelings will lose them the respect of the woman (or women) they currently want tolove them, or their male friends and colleagues. Women and men teach men this by calling them"losers", "wimps" or "sissies" whenever they show feelings that reveal their vulnerability. Men andwomen, on the other hand, teach women to be submissive' by rushing to comfort them when theybecome distressed. The more beautiful the woman, the quicker people will seek to help. Bear in mindthat these responses are fairly automatic internalised during childhood/adolescence (in much the sameway as Pavlov and his dogs). They are continually reinforced during courtship and through films, TVprogrammes, magazines, books and stories (Farrell, 1986).They can also be unlearnt (see Berne, 1963; Holland, 1999). Gendered responses are not a goodindicator of who is being truthful and who is truly hurting. Women may cry to avoid having to talk. Men
 
may cry, but are more likely due to cultural conditioning to become angry as a way to get (or deflect)attention. Both crying and anger may be genuine or affected responses. They may be honest or a"performance" to win hearts and minds.When we know that women are no more likely to be physically harmed in personal relationships thanmen (Fiebert, 2005), our attitude to both men and women changes. When we know that men's feelingsare hurt as much as women's (Pease and Pease, 2004), but they do not show this, our attitude changesagain. When we understand that women are more creative and convincing liars (because they cannotresort so readily to physical force to win their fights), and that men are less good at hiding their lies(because they are punished more readily and frequently for lying during childhood) our attitude changeseven more (O'Connell, 1998; Pease and Pease, 2003). We start to understand that men need as muchprotection from tale telling as women need from physical violence or rape (Farrell, 2000).Women who understand men are no more inherently violent than themselves will no longer feel a needfor special protection. Although they will continue to fear violence from men more than from women, theywill begin to understand this is the response of any person who desires to be with them, but cannot beso. Men who start to understand that women are as violent as themselves will no longer feel such a needto give them special protection. If they do, they will come to understand this as a product of their desireto be a hero to the women who watch them, and part of their own need to win approval from them.
The Case for Mediation
 Mediation offers a solution that is consistent with the values and goals of both democracy and genderequality. It affords protection to all parties regardless of status, ethnicity or gender. Critics of mediation(or "restorative justice" as it is called in criminology) worry that mediation simply gives the perpetratoranother opportunity to intimidate the victim. At the start of a dispute, however, it is not clear who isperpetrator and who is victim. The apparent victim may be the perpetrator - it is the mediation processthat helps to determine this (Roche, 2003).Mediation is hard work: it may involve participants coming to terms with deeply held prejudices, or faceup to the full impact of their behaviour on others. But it also gives them a chance to explain their intentand for others to learn why they responded in a particular way. The process may not be quick or easy.The alternative, however, is a workplace culture and society generally that pays lip service to fairnessand equality but takes refuge in defensive approaches to conflict.To support change, build the process of mediation into employment and trading contracts so thatinvestors and entrepreneurs, employers and employees, customers and suppliers, face penalties underthe law for authoritarian approaches to conflict resolution. These laws are the ones we can create forourselves, for our own organisations. They are not imposed by government statute. Consequently, noacts of parliament need to be passed for these laws to come into effect: they can be brought about bychanges in management understanding and practice.This way, existing laws will stop favouring the party who unilaterally withdraws and start favouring thosecommitted to reconciliation. The laws will start to reward compassion and tolerance. Individualbusinesses taking initiatives to switch to mediation as a tool of social control will be entrenchingdemocratic values without ever having to involve a politician! What greater incentive do you need?
If reprinting this article, please include the following citation:
Based on Ridley-Duff, R. J. (2007)
Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy: Alternative Perspectives on Organisation Behaviour 
, Bracknell: Men's Hour Books, pp. 228-232.
References
 Berne, E. (1964)
Games People Play 
, Penguin.Farrell, W. (1986)
Why Men Are The Way They Are 
, London, Bantam Books, Chapters 2 - 6.Farrell, W. (2000)
Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say 
, New York, Tarcher/Putnam.Fiebert, M. (2007)
References Examining Assaults by Women on their Spouses or Male Partners: An Annotated Bibliography 
, California State University. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm

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