A Client Handout
2012 by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
If you are preparing for a mediation to solve any type of problem, it helps to know about 4 key skills that can help you during the mediation process. Most mediations involve a mediator who have been trained to stay neutral and help the participants make their own decisions. The mediator is in charge of the process and the participants are in charge of making proposals and making decisions about the issues at hand. Sometimes people try to persuade the mediator to take sides, but the mediator is supposed to be very careful to stay neutral and to help the parties make their own decisions. The following 4 skills can help.
Talking about unresolved issues can be emotionally upsetting. However, it is possible to manage your own emotions by anticipating upsetting moments and preparing for them. Don’t be surprised if you feel frustrated or angry upon hearing different points of view, hearing proposals you don’t like, and having to think of alternatives. Remember that most conflicts are resolved through this process of talking and listening and creating solutions. Prepare yourself to deal with any possible difficult moments.
How can you help yourself stay calm? One of the best techniques is to memorize short encouraging statements that you can tell yourself as you are going through the process, such as:
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
A big focus of mediation and other settlement methods is making proposals. It helps to prepare proposals for each issue you are trying to resolve or plan to raise in the mediation. That way you don’t get stuck in “all-or-nothing thinking” and can avoid just getting upset when your first proposal isn’t immediately accepted. Any concern about the past can be turned into a proposal about the future.
It can help to prepare two proposals on any issue that you or the other person is likely to raise, so that you don’t get stuck if your first proposal is not accepted right away. You can make a list of issues and then write two proposals for how you would like to see each one get resolved.
Responding to proposals is another area in which practice can help. In general, just respond with “Yes” “No” or “I’ll Think About It.” This saves arguing over the proposal itself, since what really matters is finding an agreement. Of course, you can ask questions about a proposal for greater understanding and to picture how it would look if you both agreed. But avoid challenging questions, like” “Why did you say that?” Or: “Do you realize that’s ridiculous?” If you disagree, just pause and calmly say “I won’t agree to that,” and focus on making a new proposal yourself.
Mediation is a structured process, to help people think of reasonable solutions to problems, even when they are upset. Therefore, there are several ground rules in most mediations. It helps to think about them in advance and remind yourself to follow them, including:
From time to time, ask yourself if you are using these skills Its easy to forget in the middle of discussing problems or upsetting issues. The mediator will try to help everyone in the mediation stay calm and focus on understanding problems and finding solutions. Just think about these four skills before the mediation and during the mediation, and you may do very well.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist and mediator. He is the author of several books and the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers and trainers on managing high-conflict disputes in several areas, including legal, workplace, healthcare, education and families. For more information go to: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.