How to Make People Who Hate Each Other Talk to Each Other

Mediation skills bring adversaries together.
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Hatred is a poison destroying the harmony of families, businesses and communities. Hatred distorts clear vision and makes it impossible for adversaries to achieve common goals. It is challenging to bring people who hate each other together for reconciliation. Yet, it is possible. Thankfully, proven practices of conflict resolution exist to support those engaged in such efforts.

1 A Neutral Meeting Place

As you prepare to bring adversaries together, find a location that offers a calm and private setting for an honest conversation. Avoid meeting in the office or home of one of the parties in conflict. A neutral meeting place is essential for the success of mediating a difficult discussion. Barbara Madonik, president of Unicom Communication Consultants, Inc., highlights the importance of a safe and neutral location complete with windows for natural lighting. She also suggests using a round table which is "ideal" for a mediated discussion.

2 Establish Goals and Ground Rules

Michelle Maiese, researcher at the Conflict Research Consortium, emphasizes the importance of having parties agree to the parameters of the discussion before gathering. Everyone needs to affirm mutual goals and agree to protocol. Before starting the discussion, revisit basic ground rules. Guidelines such as "no interrupting and "no name-calling" are essential to the success of the meeting. Furthermore, according to Maiese, no party should dominate the proceedings and all need to agree to listen as sympathetically as possible.

3 Set a Positive Tone

As a facilitator, it is important not to shy away from the negative emotions adversaries can bring to the table. Acknowledge negativity, if it arises. However, don't dwell on this acknowledgement. Focus on the positive energy associated with the willingness to meet in the first place. Remind participants of their courage in engaging in conversation. Emphasize common ground and overlapping values. Nurture positivity in a discussion even as you acknowledge difficult feelings.

4 Emphasize Cooperation

According to the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution, a "cooperative, problem solving atmosphere" that "reduces hostility and facilitates rational discussion" is best for mediating a discussion between people who hate each other. Stay focused on the stated goal of the gathering. Remind participants of their mutual interest in cooperating to reach a previously agreed upon outcome. Your job is not to make opponents like each other. Rather, by skillfully selecting a neutral meeting place, establishing guidelines and setting a positive tone, you can mediate a successful conversation between opponents.

Amy Wright Glenn holds a Master of Arts in religion and education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Glenn taught in the religion and philosophy department at The Lawrenceville School for over a decade. She is a birth doula, hospital chaplai, and author of "Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula."