I’ve previously mentioned that I commence each mediation by meeting with each participant separately. I encourage participants to be accompanied by a support person, whether a professional support person or a personal support person. Toward the end of the initial session I provide a sheet of Tips for reaching agreement, commenting along these lines:
MH: “This is a sheet that I provide to each person who may be participating in a mediation.
“Whether it is a relationship matter, a commercial matter, a workplace matter or a family matter, I provide the same sheet of tips.
“I’ll give you a few minutes now to glance through them to see if any leap out at you. They may take a bit of studying after this session.
“I will be/will have given the same sheet to each of the other people involved in your mediation.
“The idea is that quite likely by now, you each have heard or you each feel as if you have heard, everything the other participants have to say… and you are possibly concerned that the mediation will be just more of the same… ‘same old…same old’?
“To give it the best chance and to be future focused, your mediation needs at least some elements of a fresh start. There are a number of things you can do and that I can do to create a fresh start.
“One of those things that I find works well is to put some of these tips into practice.
“What I will ask you to do, is to choose two or three of these tips. You know yourself better than anyone does and you know the other participants (whom I name) much better than I do. You are well placed to make a wise selection of tips that can really influence the outcome of this mediation.
“I have two criteria for you to use to make your selection. You may have others.
“The first is to choose two or three tips which are things you normally wouldn’t do.
“The second is to choose two or three tips which are likely to encourage the other participants(named) to listen to you.
“When you’ve chosen the tips, it can be helpful if you can practice them a bit in day to day life leading up to the mediation.
“I will ask you which tips you are going to use in your mediation, privately, before your joint sessions commence. I’ll also check in with you in private sessions during your mediation about how the tips are working for you… and other aspects of the mediation as I mentioned earlier.
“It is my role to assist you to into practice the tips that you each choose and to assist you to put some of the others into practice too.
“I’ll give you an example of a recent mediation when one of the tips was particularly influential… (I provide a real, de-identified example)
Tip 23: Be generous at the end: Whose generosity?
It is my observation that the ‘Tips’ sheet works in a variety of ways. Participants are pleased to have some precise steps to take; pleased to be able to have an expectation of constructive dialogue; pleased to have an expectation of reaching agreement; pleased to know that other participants will be approaching the issues according to the tips; pleased that other participants’ understanding of their changed approach is likely to be perceived as a commitment to agreement; pleased that providing the sheet is a routine part of my practice; pleased that the tips that are chosen remain private.