Mediation: cartoons that contribute to communication



Assessment for suitability for mediation: initial private sessions

I commence each mediation by meeting with each participant separately. In these initial, private separate sessions, when I ask potential mediation participants what they would like from mediation, most people are quite clear on the outcome they would like. When I ask what outcome they expect,they are also clear on the outcome they expect. After some discussion, particularly in response to “What outcome do you think each of the other participants would like/expect from mediation?” participants are usually less clear on the outcomes they would like and also less clear on the outcome they expect. This respectful creation of doubt creates possibilities for later settlement.

My next question is along the lines of “What would you like from the process of mediation?” While there is an enormous range of responses, a significant proportion  condense to “I would like to be heard. I would like to know I’ve been heard.” and in response to its corollary “What do you think each of the other participants would like from the process of mediation?” I hear a range of responses, including “They would probably like to be heard too.” “They would probably like to know they’ve been heard.”

Mediation: ongoing private sessions

One of the most commented on, among many of the techniques that I use to provide opportunities for participants to be heard and to know that they have been heard, is my use of the book It’s not always black and white: a colourful book on life’s grey areas by Kate Knapp. Among the reading material in each of the breakout rooms, there is a copy of the book, with two removable stickers on the back cover.

Kate Knapp-blog7

Early on in the mediation, I encourage people to become familiar with the book while I am spending time with other participants in their breakout rooms. Later on in the mediation, in a private session, I ask participants to select two of the cartoons to explain to me, in a breakout session, an aspect of their experience of the mediation. Later again, I ask participants to select two cartoons to explain to the other participant(s) an aspect of their experience of the mediation. The aspects are s varied as the participants. For example, I sometimes ask participants to select two cartoons which highlight their hopes for the mediation. Other times, I ask participants to select cartoons which convey their concerns about the mediation. After a brief rehearsal of the aspect in question, participants plus It’s not always black and white return to the joint room.

Kate Knapp-blog2

Joint sessions

MH “There are four steps in the use of your cartoons. I will start by explaining the first two steps.”

“First I am going to ask you each to explain, in three or four sentences, to the other participant(s) one of the cartoons that highlights … your hopes for the mediation.

“Next, you will each be welcome to ask clarifying questions that relate directly to the explanation you were given with each cartoon.”

“So, Mary, please explain to Fred, in three or four sentences, one of the cartoons that you have selected that highlights … your hopes for the mediation.”

“Thank you Mary.”

“Fred, please explain to Mary, in three or four sentences, one of the cartoons that you have selected that highlights … your hopes for the mediation.”

“Thank you Fred.”

“Now, for step 3, I will ask you each to explain what one of the cartoons that was presented to you would have meant to you, in terms of … your hopes for the mediation… if you had been  explaining it.”

“Fred, please explain to Mary, in three or four sentences, what the cartoon that was presented to you by Mary would have meant to you in terms of … your hopes for the mediation… if you had been explaining it.”

“Thank you Fred.”

“Mary, please explain to Fred, in three or four sentences, what the cartoon that was presented to you by Fred would have meant to you in terms of … your hopes for the mediation… if you had been explaining it.”

“Thank you Mary.”

“Finally, I will ask you each to identify, privately, one aspect of …  your hopes for the mediation, that you will reflect on with a view to it initiating a change, small or large, to an aspect of your mediation.”

“Moving on to … [stage of the process]  keep that thought present.

Observations

By my observation, what is likely to be happening for Fred and for Mary during the sequence above, is that each is likely to be recognising something in themselves; acknowledging something in the other; connecting to some extent with the other; and in connecting, sensing that conclusion can be reached. Each holds considerable promise for improved communication.

Mediation: what do the people at the table say?

 

This is the second in an occasional series on my reflections about language as a medium of the mediation message.  Opening statements are my focus here.  I have listened to thousands of participants’ opening statements. Some time ago I’d have said I had listened to thousands of parties’ opening statements. In Mediation: who is at the table? I explain my rationale for discarding the term ‘parties’ in favour of ‘participants’.That was the beginning. So encultured had I become, it was only after ‘participants’ replaced ‘parties’ that I realised that there was still more change needed. I realised that by asking participants for an opening ‘statement‘ I have quite likely been unintentionally inflating participants’ expectations of having an opportunity to convince other participants of the merits of their case

Image

My thanks to Law Comix for drawing the apposite cartoon.

How do you see it?

  • Would you agree that participation in mediation is voluntary?
  • Would you agree that mediation is a peer-based approach?
  • Would you agree that mediation takes an integrative approach?
  • Would you agree that  mediation involves some uncertainty?
  • Would you agree that mediating involves reciprocity?
  • Do you make a Mediator’s Opening ‘Statement’ and ask participants to make Opening ‘Statements’?

My concern is that by asking for ‘statements’ I could be heard as requiring an enunciation of the facts and implying that these are the building blocks of the mediation. A ‘statement’ is generally  intended to be irrevocable. It places the person asking for the statement (me) and the speaker in  positions of authority relative to the listener(s). A ‘statement’ is tantamount to orders: it carries an implication of compliance, significantly limiting choice in the dispute to little more than capitulate or be ‘capitulated’.

I now ask participants to make opening ‘comments’ following my mediator’s opening ‘comments’. ‘Comments’ are personal observations which implicitly invite responses and discussion. As I see it, it’s that peer-related reciprocity that contributes to the essence of mediation.