Mediation is an often an art as much as a science. No two mediators are the same, just as no two people are. Mediators come from different backgrounds, different geographies, different educational backgrounds, different ethnic influences and so on. And all that makes a big difference in their approach to mediation. Some are direct problem solvers and more “solution developers.”Others are more listeners and “solution enablers.” The best mediators have the ability to be both, and can vary their approach depending on the situation or the type of dispute.
Alternative Law is a practical problem solving process that is most effective using mediation and as a side benefit, it is sometimes therapeutic for the individuals involved in the process. Mediators allow people the forum to communicate not only facts around the topic of dispute but also their personal grievances and feelings. They get a chance to communicate about what both about they want out of the relationship and what they do not want or dislike about it.
This simple act of stating what they want openly, clearly, safely, calmly in front of a third party, often results in incredibly creative brainstorming around potential solutions that emerge, sometimes to the astonishment of all parties involved. In many cases that we work with, we are amazed by the change that is enabled from mediation – the transition from extreme hostility to civil partners after only a few sessions. Clients often mention how they thought such a transformation or such a best ideas win solution would be impossible. The fact is that information and an effective mediation or alternative law process is what made this possible.
As human beings, we assume. Making judgments and harboring preconceived notions in our minds is part of our how our minds are wired. This enables us to make decisions and make sense of the world around us, which is essential for our well being. However, it can also cloud our understanding of other people’s points of view. Sometimes so dramatically, that we fail to see even the obvious. Many times whether we like it or not, in order to move on, we need to try to understand the other person’s position and perspective.
When we get a chance to hear those points of view in a safe non argumentative environment, those blocks and assumptions are significantly reduced, may disappear and answers to questions will begin to emerge. The act of watching someone talking to a mediator about their point of view is so much less challenging. It may even be more reliable, convincing and credible than it is to confront or talk to the individual directly.
Note that this behavior is also commonly seen in video seminars. Educational trainers know that we are far more likely to understand an idea when a trainer doesn’t always talk directly to you or at you, about the issues, but instead talks to another interviewer or person about their merits, strengths and limitations. Mediation uses a similar technique to enable people to better understand each others ideas, sometimes another person’s ideas– or their side of the story and sometimes their own, to let the best ideas win.