Mediation is about having a different kind of conversation. If you are in conflict with someone, whether that is at work, with your partner, your neighbour or even the guy you commissioned to put in your new bathroom, the chances are it has become very difficult to talk. Chances are, it has become very easy for the conversation between you to get into all sorts of blame and misunderstanding. You might think that anything you say or do will be interpreted the wrong way. You might feel that you are under attack, unfairly criticised, misjudged, undervalued ….. and all that makes you determined to prove your point and show that you were right all along.
Imagine yourself with a bird’s eye view of the argument between you and your neighbour, partner or colleague. Look closely and it won’t take you long to spot that he or she is feeling exactly the same way. The risk with conflict is that it can draw any of us into a downward spiral which is all consuming, where there is no trust and where we lose any sight of what is happening for the other person. Mediation offers the chance to get out of the spiral, gain some understanding of each other’s point of view and move on.
How? It is about having a conversation that takes away the blame and misunderstanding and gets down to the real concerns underneath. It is not an easy conversation – if it was you probably wouldn’t be coming to mediation! You might uncover some fundamental differences about yourselves – but difference doesn’t have to be a problem as long as it is understood. A mediator is there to support your conversation by giving you the opportunity to tell the other person what is important to you, but also to hear what they have to say.
What can you expect from your mediator? A mediator will take time to listen to both of you and make sure that as a starting point, they understand your concerns and what is driving this conflict. She will help you get clear about what you want to say and encourage you to think about how to say it constructively so that the other person can hear it. In a joint meeting your mediator will be supporting you both to have that conversation in a blame free way before going on to think about the decisions you need to make together or what each of you need to do to improve the situation.
What not to expect: Your mediator is not an investigator. She is not there to prove one of you right or wrong or to make judgements about what has happened. Don’t expect a solution or advice from her either. Mediation works on the basis that it is you two that know what will work for you. If you take a dispute to court a judge will decide for you but mediation is a way of keeping control, together, over what happens next.To make mediation effective, be prepared to step up out of the spiral of negativity and blame. Be frank about what you want to say but be prepared to listen too. Mediation is not an easy option but this is a conversation that is worth the investment
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Lesley Allport Dispute Resolution