Reducing Tensions

Stephen Thom

CRS Mediator, Los Angeles Office

[Full Interview]

Do you have techniques you use for reducing tensions between the parties?

Sometimes they get hot and I have to watch the parties and see what level of tolerance one has of each group. I read the behaviors and decide whether to ask them to calm down. Sometimes I call for timeouts and ask for caucuses. There have been times where I've said, "Wait a minute, we need to review why we're here and what tone and ground rules we've agreed to abide by. If I sense some discomfort by some of the people, I'll say, "By the behavior of the individuals there seems to be a need to take some of that tone out of here," or "Could we take a time out?" At that time I can meet with individuals to draw out that person and speak to that person directly and say, "You know you're creating a level of hostility. Do we want to move forward in working towards a solution? We're not going to cut you out of getting your voice and what you want to accomplish, but the tone is going to possibly harden the other side, so it depends what you want to accomplish here. Think about that as you convey your issues. You could be passionate, but don't get to the point where you're so aggressive that it harms the process." I think those are the kinds of techniques that I have used.