What should I expect to happen?
What won’t happen?
Here, Andy Stanley talks through the process…
So, you’re going to sort this out for me, right?
Wrong. The first thing to be aware of is that the mediator doesn’t sort anything out. You do. Mediators create safe spaces for people in conflict to work out the issues between themselves. This is what makes mediation so special.
Sounds good, how do you do that?
We start mediation individually and confidentially. You and your colleague (child, neighbour, parent) whoever is in the conflict with you, is given a good ‘listening to’ by the mediator, who helps you to order your thoughts by allowing you the opportunity to offload to an empathetic and attentive listener. Once the mediator has heard everything that you have to say about the events that brought you to this point, he, or she will encourage you to think about what you would like to be different, what you would like to say to your colleague, and what your vision of success might be for the session. This is useful, because often people are unclear, even in their own minds, about the outcomes they would like to achieve.
Next, we bring everyone together for a constructive and respectful meeting. We begin by laying down some basic rules for behaviour, no abusive language, no interrupting, no mimicking, and certainly nothing physical. We then allow each of you to tell us again, what has happened, what’s happening and what you would like to happen. Of course, this time your colleague is there to listen, so it’s important that you are clear, open and honest.
Mediation focuses on the future, not on the past. It may be important, and quite cathartic, to explore the issues that brought you both to this point, but we can’t change the past, we can only deal with the future.
How am I supposed to tell all that to my colleague?
It’s difficult, of course it is, but only by being open and honest can you ever really hope to move forward. The mediator will give you an opportunity to explain to each other how you feel, how the conflict has impacted on you and how you would like it to be different. This can be a very emotional time and it’s not at all uncommon for both men and women to make use of a box of tissues at this point. However, the expression of these emotions can help to lead to some startling and hugely beneficial steps towards reconciliation. The mediator keeps everything moving freely and ensures that tempers and behaviours are kept under control and he, or she, regularly summarises and re-frames statements so that nothing gets misconstrued or mislaid.
What happens if things get out of control?
Usually mediators will have a spare room handy so that they can separate people if things get a bit too heated. The spare room allows both of you to have a bit of breathing space before you get back together again. A short pause, and a cup of tea, is usually enough to get things on track.
And how do we get from that to a resolution?
Through talking, listening and understanding each other. If you have a genuine desire to improve your relationship, if the solution to the problem lies within your power and if you’re willing to accept that you might need to make some changes, you stand an extremely good chance of success. We can’t promise that you’ll ever be going out for dinner together, but we can certainly ensure that you’ll have a positive, future-focused and adult conversation. The rest is up to you.