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  • Mediation. Person or Process?

    “To practice the process of conflict resolution, we must completely abandon the goal of getting people to do what we want” - Marshall D Rosenberg Reflecting on a couple of recent mediation cases, I considered whether the process or the person was more important. I pondered over - what is it that makes an effective mediator? Is it sticking to the process no matter what or is it focusing on the what the clients need to enable them to engage in the mediation process? Of course, high quality, accredited mediation training is one of the main components of becoming an effective mediator, but does the key to the whole process lie with the ability to make a connection on an interpersonal level? Is establishing rapport more important to providing parties with an arena to find resolution if they so wish, rather than specific mediation tactics and techniques? To gain clients trust and confidence, the rapport we build must be genuine. The importance of relationship building is especially important in contentious situations and cannot be underestimated. Some measure of trust is essential before people are able to open up and move from their positions to reveal their interests. For clients to feel confident that mediation may bring resolution or agreement, they must feel their interests are truly understood. Only then can the mediator support them in identifying what needs to change in order that they feel able to reach a mutually acceptable solution. So, with this in mind, I reflected again on a recent case and a conversation with a colleague about a mediation we had worked on. I’d been out to visit a neighbour in their home to discuss their concerns about a dispute with the person who lived in the flat upstairs. No sooner had we knocked on the door than our client started to launch forth into a full description of their complaints about what had been going on. They barely drew breath, as they described their situation, how it had affected them and what ought to be done about it. We were about 30 minutes into the visit before they stopped and said “so what is it you wanted to say to me?”. We took the opportunity to acknowledge the concerns we had heard them express and started to explain how the mediation process worked. This was interspersed with comments and questions from our client, who explained that due to some personal difficulties, they found it hard to focus and listen until they had been able to say what they needed. They thanked us for allowing them to speak first and “get it out”. During our co-mediator debrief after our appointment with the client, we commented on how the visit hadn’t really stuck to the mediation process – we didn’t’ get to do any introductions or explanation at the outset of how the visit would work and our role as mediators. We had felt it more important to allow our client the opportunity to say what they needed, without interruption from us and look for an opportunity at a later stage to explain how the mediation would work. Was it the right thing to do? We felt for this client it was. We needed to allow them the opportunity to say what they needed rather than risk alienating them by interrupting at an early stage and making sure we stuck to process. Then there was a phone call with another mediator about another community mediation appointment they’d recently conducted – “I’ve been out on a case today, knocked on the door and when the client answered they told me I couldn’t come in as their partner was too ill. They said we’ll have to sit in your car”. I listened as my colleague described their initial shock at the unusual request, made an assessment regarding safety and then said “okay, no problem I’m parked just outside, lets sit in the car and you can tell me what’s been happening”. We talked about how we can still be surprised, even after working as mediators for over 16 years and we explored what could have happened had my colleague said no. We concluded that each case brings its own set of unique circumstances and that the mediation process is there to provide structure for us. However, it’s really important that as mediators we remember this is a person-centred process with a focus on how we build rapport, develop trust and engage our clients. Sometimes this needs to be done with a little creativity and willingness to be flexible about how we have those conversations in order to allow people to access the opportunity to reach resolution. “In my early professional years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?” - Carl R. Rogers

  • Top 10 tips to help you prepare for mediation

    We are often asked what people can do to prepare for mediation and get the most out of the process. Here are our top ten tips: Think about your priorities, aims and what is important to you. Be prepared to explain what things are making you anxious about the future and identify anything that you believe will improve the situation for both of you. Identify the questions that you believe need answering e.g. where will we both live? how am I going to pay the bills? Try to think about what a successful future outcome would like in 6 months’ time or 2 years’ time. What might feel a reasonable solution to you, and what might feel a reasonable solution to the other person. Be willing to compromise. If you have financial issues to discuss start to understand what you spend your money on so that you can work out a budget going forward. If you have children’s arrangements to discuss, think about how your child may be feeling and how arrangements impact them. How will your child/children have a voice in the process? Is Child Inclusive Mediation something that would be helpful? Be prepared to have ideas and plans challenged and be prepared to listen to the other points of view. Look forward rather than focusing on what has happened in the past. Move the mediation forward at a pace you feel is realistic and you feel comfortable with. Do not be rushed. Take a break if needed. Speak up if you are not following discussions or do not understand something that has been said. Remember a solution will never be forced on you so do not be concerned that discussing an option will force you to accept it. Discussing and understanding options is not always easy, but each step helps you towards achieving a solution. ‍

  • Conflict Coaching - How Can That Work?

    Heard this before? It’s quite a normal response from people who have been referred to our Conflict Coaching service. We understand why people might feel like this, it’s a bit weird after all. How can you coach someone in conflict? This is about working with individuals to help them bring about positive change and empower them to take responsibility for their problem. Our facilitators work with individuals to help them find their own solutions that will work for them by encouraging them to develop their own plan and make small changes one step at a time. Added together these small changes build into long lasting solutions. Case Study The conflict We received a referral from a Housing Provider who had been contacted by a local resident complaining about one of their tenants. Initially Philippa had been complaining about their tenant’s children playing football in their garden and damaging her fence panels and plants. As the children grew older the ball games became less frequent, but this was then replaced by noise from the bedrooms adjoining her property. When she raised her concerns with the children’s parents, they were met with hostility and derision. The impact of the conflict All of this was having a negative impact on Philippa’s day to day living. The situation was negatively affecting her health and well-being, to the extent that she felt she had no control. She was afraid to use her garden and was extremely anxious and emotional. Phillipa felt as though she was at the mercy of her neighbours and couldn’t relax in the beautiful home she had created for herself and her family. She regularly delayed coming home from work because she was worried about what she would have to deal with when she returned. Resolving the conflict - the mediation process Our initial session with Philippa began with a brief introduction and explanation of the service on offer to her. We used scaling to establish the severity of the situation on her well-being and it became apparent that she was really struggling to cope. Further exploration of Philippa’s concerns helped us get a clearer picture of the problems she had faced over the years. She described how she felt about her current circumstances and the impact of the situation on her and her family. We listened attentively to what Phillipa told us, clarifying our understanding and summarising what we’d heard her say. At times, Philippa was tearful and emotional as she talked about her experiences with her neighbours. We empathised with how she had been affected and allowed her appropriate time and space to regain her composure. As this initial session progressed, we explored Philippa’s goals and what she would like to see change for the future. She explained that she wanted to feel relaxed at home and more positive about her situation with the next-door neighbours. More importantly, she wanted the situation not to affect her so negatively as it had done in the past; something that her adult children seemed able to do. After further probing, listening, questioning and reflecting back, we helped Philippa identify some practical tasks that she thought may help her in her endeavour in achieving her goals. As the first session drew to a close, she had identified a number of strategies which would assist her in making changes to her reactions and empower her to choose a response and therefore, maintain her power and control of the situation rather than allowing it to control her. Reflecting By the end of her first coaching session, there was a definite improvement in Philippa’s demeanour. She was visibly more relaxed in her posture and also more confident about what she could achieve. We drew the meeting to a close in the same way we had stared it, with a scaling question. On the same scale that we had used earlier we asked Phillipa to let us know how she was feeling now at the end of our first session. There was real progression in a more positive direction. She described feeling sceptical about the conflict coaching and couldn’t envisage how it could possibly help, but she found just talking things through really helpful and she felt empowered to managed the situation more effectively and was looking forward to her next session. We find that typically, this is how first conflict coaching sessions end. Initially, people are unsure of how it can help them, after all the problem lies with someone else’s behaviour right? At the end of the sessions they come to realise that the power to change their situation lies with them, and while the journey to achieve their goals may not be easy it is within their grasp. Conflict Coaching never ceases to amaze us, the transformation for those that take up this offer of support can be truly amazing. For more information visit our website - See Laura's Mediator profile

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