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The Role of Transformative Mediation in Condominium Conflict
In Transformative Mediation and Condominium Conflict, I explained that transformative mediation focuses upon shifting the interaction between parties in conflict and looks at improving their exchanges and communications. In the context of condominium community disputes, this approach can be quite helpful, particularly when people in dispute continue to live or work fairly close to one another.
As opposed to focusing strictly on settlement, mediation can encourage the consideration of the ongoing relationship of the parties, including how they will interact in the future. This provides value in the context of the condominium community, even in the event that the conflict is not resolved at mediation. As not all disputes are destined for settlement and the trial process takes time, an interaction plan formed in the course of mediation can alleviate stress for parties who remain in community with each other. There can be an agreement about respectful communication and interaction to avoid such concerns as those associated with the potential of running into the other side every time you check your mail or an elevator door opens.   Similarly, clarity surrounding how best to communicate and establishing response timeline expectations can be comforting.
It is not uncommon for someone involved in a conflict with a condominium corporation to feel unheard or to be unsure as to how to appropriately communicate. Conflict can escalate solely due to a lack of clarity as to the receptiveness of the other – particularly if assumptions are used to fill any gaps of understanding. By way of example, a condominium resident may feel that a delayed reply to a concern brought to the attention of property management is the result of the Board simply not caring, while the delay may be attributable to the schedule of Board Meetings or the Board seeking a legal opinion to ensure that the resident’s concern is adequately addressed.
I recently facilitated a mediation where a unit owner was very surprised to meet a director and learn that they had much in common. The Board member could relate to some of the challenges the owner had in complying with the rules. Putting a face to the Board and realizing that empathy can exist between disputants may not make the conflict disappear; however, it can certainly make it more comfortable to await a resolution or clarify future interactions to avoid unintentionally inflaming the situation. In many ways, transformative mediation focuses upon the “human side” of the conflict, something which can easily be neglected when one is at odds with a condominium corporation that seems faceless. The opportunity presented through interaction at mediation is not limited to a discussion of settlement options.
Regardless of whether a mediation concludes with a written settlement in place that puts an end to the dispute, parties can leave with a better understanding of one another, comfort surrounding future interactions and potentially a communication plan that can reduce stress and anxiety.

By Marc Bhalla - October 2013
Hons. B.A., Q. Med. - Mediator and Senior Clerk

Ext:  811
Email:  mbhalla@elia.org 
Toll-Free:  1-866-446-0811  

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All of the information contained in this article is of a general nature for informational purposes only, and is not intended to represent the definitive opinion of the firm of Elia Associates on any particular matter. Although every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this newsletter is accurate and up-to-date, the reader should not act upon it without obtaining appropriate professional advice and assistance.

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