Even though all certified mediators have received similar trainings, we probably all mediate a bit differently.
Here is my usual approach:
Essentially, my job is to maintain a neutral position, hold all I hear in confidence, help those involved create a safe space and assist them to understand each other.
First I meet privately (by phone, Skype, or in person) with whomever contacted me to understand his or her view of the situation, who is involved, and whether the others are also open to mediation.
Ideally, all those involved are willing to take responsibility for the situation, and are open to meeting to discuss it together. However, this is not always the case.
Below are some examples that illustrate a range of actual resolutions:
One wife chose to counsel with me to support her to make behavior changes she wanted to make. Her husband was so positively affected by those changes, he acknowledged them and subsequently contacted me.
We do not have the power to change anyone’s behavior, except our own. When we change, our relationships can change because we may evoke different responses from the other person(s) involved. When a relationship is truly beneficial for each person involved, then one person committed to change is all that is needed.
Conversely, if a relationship does not change so that it supports all those involved; it may need to end.
Here are two examples with different endings:
1. A wife wanted to have a better relationship with her husband. Her husband’s position (which is understandable given his background and life experience) was that she needed to change and that would solve their problems. She and I counseled together for many months, and her changes caused her to realize that their marriage was not serving either of them.
I never counsel anyone to divorce. I assist my clients to create a deeper relationship with themselves and to make choices that are in alignment with their beliefs, values and their own deepest truth.
When divorce is inevitable my goal is for a peaceful resolution. I mention this because it is a reality that I have had to accept. I highly recommend counseling prior to marriage, since many people truly have no idea what living with another person “for the rest of their lives” really entails.
It is optimum for all parties involved to truly want to understand one another and to be willing to change any behaviors that may be harming the relationship. I suggest that my clients experiment to see if they actually feel better within themselves, when they make behavior changes to help their relationships. Sometimes I meet with them privately to support them to make those changes, and we resume mediation when all involved feel progress has been made.
The most successful mediations most often happen when all involved take responsibility for their own behavior, and shift their focus from what the other is “doing wrong.”
2. This example involves three business partners. In this case, we did not need to have individual counseling or coaching sessions. After I met privately with each person to understand all points of view, my work was solely focused on assisting them to understand each other’s point of view.
Once all the partners understood each other, it became clear that one of the partners really wanted to start her own business, which had a slightly different focus than their current business. She left peacefully to start her own business and the other two remained partners. That is an optimum resolution since everyone chose the outcome together.
Many of us hear, but do not Listen for Understanding, which is essential for resolving conflict.
This is probably the most important aspect of my work. Listening for Understanding does not mean that you need to agree. If all involved truly understand each other, the conflict or issue can be resolved.
My intention is that my clients to learn and practice basic communication and conflict resolution skills in the course of our time together; so that they do not need my services long term.
One of the rewarding experiences I have had was hearing from a client, whom I worked with ten years ago. He was not calling to schedule a session, but to share that he and his wife were still doing well together, and had had another child since we’d last met.
Depending on the situation, I may combine counseling, coaching, and mediation, as needed, in order to assist my clients to learn to use any relationship issues as catalysts for their personal growth, and to create relationships that are mutually supportive and truly serve each person involved.
Since each situation is unique, I recommend having an initial session to determine if we are a good fit for each other.