The Devil’s in the Details

2 Sep

Just a little over a week ago, I was working with some students in the 40 hour beginning mediation class I co-taught. They were learning about ‘agreement writing’ at the end of a mediation … capturing what the parties had agreed to and putting it down into words.

The students had written the ‘areas of agreement’ on flipcharts for both of the parties to see in their role play. And now it was time to put the agreement on paper, so that both parties could sign it.

Devil-is-in-the-Details-300x300One of the major lessons learned in that exercise was that the ‘Devil is in the Details’  and how easy it is for things to mean different things to different people. Even at this stage of the process, when the parties thought they had already agreed!

As the person who was role playing the mediator quickly found out, there were still details that needed to be ironed out to commit the concepts to paper. And it took some time to work those out.

Which got me to thinking … as it often does … how can I use this experience to reduce conflict in my every daily life?

So, my thought was when I am ready to dash off thinking that there is a common understanding about something, whatever it is, it’s worth a few more minutes to make sure that there truly is a mutual understanding.

A simple run through of questions like who, what, when, where and maybe even why, can help to make sure that everyone has the same interpretation in mind.

If everyone is clear, this extra step won’t take long.

But if not, it will provide the opportunity to work through the different points of view … and avoid conflict down the road, when it’s way more challenging to deal with!


P.S. Happy Labor Day to all my readers. Hopefully, you have a day off too.


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2 Responses to “The Devil’s in the Details”

  1. Bob Quilitch September 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm #


    Typical discussion: you forgot to feed our dog. But you were supposed to feed him. No, I was supposed to on Monday and then it became your job. No. Yes. No….

    I teach meeting chairpersons (at work or at home) to end each meeting with a summary of decisions and tasks, looking for 100% agreement. Someting like,
    Today we decided that our summer vacation this year will be Disneyland. We also asked Jimmy to find out if we have leash laws in our neighborhood. Is that right? Did I leave out any other decision or task?

    Keep up the good work.


  2. The Olive Branch Blog September 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Hi Bob:

    That is a great idea for meeting recap – to see if everyone is on the same page. I like it! I appreciate your feedback.


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