Resolving a dispute quickly and well goes straight to the bottom line in credit management, so the good news is that we all have the ability to be brilliant at dispute resolution, it’s just a matter of gaining negotiation and mediation skills. Patrick Cavanagh will share his top tips with attendees at this year’s AICM National Conference.

Patrick Cavanagh, Commercial Negotiation facilitator at UQ Business School Executive Education, Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Queensland’s TC Beirne School of Law, and one of Australia’s leading commercial negotiators and mediators, has 30 years’ experience in teaching the practice of negotiation and mediation.

Cavanagh will share practical knowledge of how credit managers can use these key skills in dispute resolution at the AICM National Conference in October, and we caught up to find out what he wants attendees to take away from his session.

Build your people skills

Being a good negotiator, in Cavanagh’s opinion, essentially requires someone to have good people skills. At its core, negotiation is not about haggling; it’s about getting the information you need to resolve the situation.

So plan what you need from a conversation before it happens and work out how to bring the particular person you will be dealing with onside so that you get what you need.

“You’ve got to be good with people,” Cavanagh explains. “The way I deal with Uncle Fred at the family reunion isn’t the same way I speak with Aunty Mary; you have to have different skills for different people and recognise when to draw on them.”

Listen carefully

While you’re focused on speaking to people in a way that makes them comfortable so that you can gain the information you need, don’t overlook listening to what they are saying. The information they provide is the basis of successful negotiation.

“Listen carefully to what people say,” Cavanagh says. “Ask yourself, ‘how can I use this information to sort this particular problem out?’.”

Don’t dillydally

Do something with the information you have gained, and quickly. Cavanagh uses the example of HR to illustrate this point, but it applies equally to credit management.

HR managers, he says, can act quickly to resolve conflict in an organisation if they have the information they need sooner, rather than later, and can often avoid needing external – and costly – intervention.

“HR need to be a lot better at resolving conflict earlier, rather than passing the parcel to an external supplier that charges huge amounts of money,” Cavanagh explains. “They should be striving to put the fire out while it’s small, when it’s manageable.”

According to Cavanagh, every one of us is in the conflict business, even if it’s not spelt out in our CVs.


Patrick Cavanagh is Adjunct Professor of Law (Conflict and Interest)at UQ TC Beirne School of Law. Patrick is one of Australia’s leading commercial negotiators and mediators, and has facilitated the resolution of hundreds of commercial, property, tax, franchise, and partnership cases. He has also been instrumental in setting up and developing many alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organisations both in Australia and overseas.

Download the article