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!

Jan SchauComment