The Mediation Times


The third party: why mediators add value

by Amanda on February 4, 2010

This article first appeared in a free magazine called Boss Bishop (Oct 09) produced in London by a commercial property agent specialising in restaurants and cafes. The magazine is designed to be something you read over coffee in one of the many cafes and restaurants around London and the content provokes thought and curiosity. It has poetry, jokes, illustrations and very short articles on interesting people and places. It is produced by a wonderful lady called Giny Spivak. In a world which is increasingly electronic, it is so good to find something in print which you want to hold because it is beautiful, and you want to read from cover to cover.

I came across the first edition and I had to hunt high and low to find this person who had conceived such a lovely magazine. Eventually I found her and told her how much I had enjoyed it. She asked me what I did and I told her. She had never heard of mediation before and this was how I described it.

Mediation is commonly associated with the legal process, yet it is a “human” process designed to resolve conflict which has become a dispute.

Far from negative, conflict is part of human nature, and it is the fuel for creativity and innovation. The feelings we have about a dispute come from personal interpretation, and a very particular way of perceiving “the experience”: our own way.

If we could accept that everyone’s beliefs and actions are in fact reasonable to them, then we are half way there. If we can go one step further and take the risk in allowing others to tell how and why they feel that way, then we might just learn something that will point us to another view. Just by listening.

It is human nature to state our position. We want our side of the story to be heard in order to feel validated. Often, that is all we need. Until something changes, there can be no resolution.

Change brings conflict and change is what resolves it. Change is inevitable and most of the time it will come about unannounced, unexpectedly. Other times, we can sense its approach, smoke signaling the end of a commitment, the arrival of an overdue finale.

We tend to ignore the signs in the hope that we are mistaken. Eventually, our disappointment overshadows the memories we had of all the good feelings we felt when we first engaged and committed to a contract or relationship. They are forgotten and replaced by new, less comfortable feelings of anger, fear and mistrust. If those feelings remain unacknowledged, eventually all becomes an unremitting cycle of complexity and confusion which we try to rationalise and in doing so we make it fit our feelings. It is simple: there is no conflict without emotion and emotions are complex.

One way to cease further pain and confusion is to hand the decision to a judge. That will be an imposed decision. In mediation, however, negotiation includes both parties telling their stories. Each party having the opportunity to be heard, to express their valid and personal view. By narrating their experience, creativity flows and anger, fear and mistrust are replaced with acceptance and willingness towards finding an agreement. Both parties need help to complete the process. All need to commit to the process.  As a mediator my job is to guide people towards agreement. The outcome is that both parties can win and sometimes the greatest prize is dignity.

I am the third party. The conduit for understanding that brings acceptance and ignites the reason to try and agree.

At its best mediation is an opportunity to be entirely human, productive and efficient through innate creativity. After all, creativity is the best of human nature


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