A Lesson in Conflict Resolution

IMG_5737Sixth Form girls at Bolton School enjoyed an instructive PSE session on dealing with difficult situations and resolving disputes with former pupil Hannah Bradley (1999-2006) who is a Dispute Resolution Solicitor.

Hannah qualified as a solicitor in 2013 after studying at the University of Leeds and The University of Law. She spoke to the students about various methods for resolving disputes including negotiation (via letter, telephone or meeting), mediation, litigation, arbitration, adjudication and expert determination. When dealing with difficult situations, she said it is important not to “strike back” or respond reactively but to consider carefully each move you make and to work rationally, not emotionally. She told the girls to analyse the bigger picture and to focus on what you can control, rather than what you cannot; try not to focus on the difficult issues for too long, you can come back to these later.  Sixth Formers were told that you should know the strengths and weaknesses of your own argument whilst understanding the ‘pressure points’ of your opponent, be they financial, emotional or practical. They were told to always think creatively when looking for a solution and ask questions of your opponent to better understand their position rather than to antagonise. Hannah said you need to be able to listen carefully, to let things go and to look for a mutually satisfactory outcome, not a victory – try not to be too over ambitious. She told the girls to try and offer a solution that makes it easy for the opponent to say yes rather than no.

Having talked about several ‘negotiation zones’ – the aggressive zone, the assertive zone, the accommodating zone and the reasonable/acceptable conclusion zone – she then turned things over to the girls who were given a dispute to resolve. Sixth Formers acted on behalf of Director of ABC company, which had just paid £10,000 for new computer software which not only did not work but had damaged the computer system or for Company XYZ, who are being sued for damages. Other girls were given the role of mediators who had to help all parties reach an agreement.