I had the pleasure recently of mediating an agreement between a couple and the entire process was an absolute success. Not just in terms of ultimate outcome but in the way the participants communicated with each other. What is more, none of it was down to my skills as a mediator. Rather, it was down to their emotional maturity, reflective considerations and perceptive use of language.
On occasions being a mediator is like being a referee. Comments such as “this is how we got here” or “this is typical of you” or “there you go again, controlling the situation just like you always do” are common and focussed on the past. They don’t engender forward thinking solutions and lead to negative confrontation. It can take real effort to turn HMS conflict around and often large swathes of the time spent in mediation is on addressing past emotional baggage rather than problem solving the future issues. The past does not control the present or the future.
This one was different. Agreement was reached in two sessions and each participant showed the respect they both deserved and let them articulate why they sought a certain outcome – the best outcome is always in the eye of the beholder. Each of them actively listened to the other and took on board what they had to say. When someone feels heard there is no need for them to repeat themselves – when someone repeats something again and again their concerns have either not been acknowledged or they have not been listened to. One participant even said the golden words “I hear you. I understand and am sympathetic to that view. May I give you my perspective?” It doesn’t get better than that.
They also displayed excellent judgment in their use of the spoken word and body language. I use the word excellent because excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude. Too often the attitude is to go into mediation with “let’s see how much I can get away with” or “let’s push this home whatever the cost.”
I’m not naïve enough to think that these thoughts don’t linger somewhere but if the attitude is calibrated badly in mediation (or life) then, more often than not, you get nowhere.
I am hoping to follow this article up with a series of Q&A’s with the participants as I believe that their skills that they brought to the process should be shared widely to benefit anyone considering mediation. I would like to know how they educated themselves before the process or if not what was their mindset approaching the sessions. If you have any questions for them please do send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org