How Speech Matters in Mediation

There is so much antagonism and hyperbole in public speech today in America, that sometimes it seems that everyone approaches conflict with a baseball bat behind their back--and each is ready to provoke and defend, rather than attempt to listen and repair.  The question is:  "how can a mediator get the parties to move away from criticism and condemnation and towards acceptance and repair"?

This week, I asked the parties to come together early on and to consciously avoid pointing fingers at one another and attributing malice, ill will or intentional misconduct to the other.  Instead, I asked them to approach one another as though this was an innocent mistake which they now had a chance to fix.  It worked like magic!  Simply by conceding that "maybe they were right, or at least did not mean to be wrong", the resentment and urge for retribution was walked back and both cases settled without  the usual "fight" or "anger".  By bringing the dialogue down to the simplest issue of "what exactly do each of you want now"?, the parties were able to preserve their dignity, reach a resolution and had no need to bring out their hidden baseball bats!

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Jan SchauComment
The Role of Humility in Mediation


The role of Humility in Mediation

May 5, 2017by Jan Schau

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Sometimes I have to step back and admit to myself that as the mediator, I am merely the guide to a voluntary conversation about whether and how a particular case may be settled. All too often, the headiness of coaching the parties and their wise counsel towards a settlement clouds my judgment and makes me confuse my true role. Sometimes, I have to admit, that I surprise myself with the kind of power that comes with the parties asking for my advice and trusting me with their truest interests and goals. Currently, I’m “managing” two multi-party mediations which did not settle at the initial hearing. Each of them are entrusting me to carry the torch, keep the flame alive, advise them on “next steps” and help them to predict the future. And I am glad to do it. And yet, ultimately I need to be ever mindful that, as the famous Polish Proverb states, “It’s not my circus, not my monkeys”. Whether the cases ultimately settle or not is up to the parties, not me. I have the power of suggestion, but, if I step back and genuinely do the work I ask the parties to do, I need to accept that I am powerless to make the parties do anything. It is their risk, their reward, their hidden interests, egos, pride that must be evaluated by them, and not me in choosing whether to settle or continue the fight. That is my poetic rant of this week. Agreed?

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Jan Schau