MEDIATION AND RECONCILIATION
I am not trying to ‘fix’ individuals. Instead, I look for patterns in the way people interact with one another. This puts the focus on the relationship systems that may be:
- fundamentally sound but experiencing some tension
- deteriorating and in need of support and care
- fractured and badly damaged.
I describe myself as a communication and relationship systems coach (working on the earlier stages of difficulty in relationships) and as a mediator (when a relationship has reached a point where a third party intervention is necessary).
I bring the ethos and principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to my work. It informs how I show up with my clients. It also provides a powerful framework within which clients can explore what they bring to a relationship system and the impact this has on others in that system.
I also bring my experience as an ORSC (Organisation and Relationship Systems Coaching) practitioner, which complements NVC and emphasises the systemic nature of what I do.
How I work
Where there are significant unresolved tensions in a relationship system, I first work separately with those involved. The purpose of this is not to ascertain who is right or wrong. Rather, it is to help each person to reach the point where they can express themselves honestly and authentically, without blame or criticism and in terms of ‘when …. happened, I experienced it as ….. I felt ….. and was wanting ……’.
When both parties come together, my role is to create a safe space in which they can express themselves in that way, and listen to each other without resorting to defensiveness or self-justification.
I check repeatedly how each party is hearing the other – and whether any new emotions are triggered. Being fully heard is powerful in its own right and is what enables people to move on to discussing how they would like things to be in the future – and what that will entail from each of them.
If you wonder how this works and where it leads to, the writer below describes his experience.
I realised that it was my interpretation, my judgements, my distrust, and my expectations that had clouded my view of the other person, I could no longer really see them at all, I saw just what I thought of them and I felt quite overwhelmed.
During the build up to the mediation, where Jo took time to speak privately with each party I still had tremendous fear and trepidation, I felt supported by Jo, her support, care and listening, and was engaged in the process, but I still had no belief that any useful outcome was possible.
During the mediation, as, one by one, small insights came to light, a misunderstanding here, a recognition of an assumption made there, and a realisation that I too had been active in generating the problem meant that I could start to remove the clouds that I had put up that had stood between us. It was as if, for the first time in a long time, I was actually seeing the other person without my own taints.
At the end of the mediation I was hugely relieved: not only had I begun to see how easily relationships can get strained, and in multiple and hitherto invisible ways, but I could also see my own part in it, how the meaning I made of things changed my attitude and actions and contributed to the problem.
When I began to remove the judgements and interpretations it was if I could see the person for the first time, hear their concerns and care, and this helped foster more trust to engage in other seemingly more risky elements of tension.
Eventually, when so much was cleared up I could actually see the other person for what intention and integrity she carried. That just wasn’t possible until I had cleared up my own mind and removed the blocks to seeing her.
The process, much more than clearing up an issue and starting with a new and fresh understanding, supported me in a greater understanding of myself how I can cloud the issue with my own judgements, beliefs, interpretations and how these lead to more limiting actions that actually leave fewer options for resolution for others. Incredible to recognise how inadvertently I was escalating the situation.
After the mediation finished and we could continue to work together I was amazed at how much energy was released, no longer worried spending time in worry or catastrophizing or thinking poorly of others. It was as if the energy of the storm was now the wind at my back supporting progress and ease.
Much later I was able to recognise the integrity of the other person for the first time. And to honour it and her intention. They were separate and different from mine, and I was able to see that it was different and know it was valid and a benefit. So useful to recognise how much of ‘my way’ I had projected on to the situation and so lovely to lift this veil and see her, for what she was courageously bringing, for the first time.
Repairing a damaged friendship
Two friends who had had a long and close relationship had a major falling out over what one of them did and said. The repercussions rumbled on painfully for several months until the ‘accused’ asked for help in repairing the relationship.
Individual sessions with each enabled them to think very deeply about their reactions to the rupture, what it meant to them and what they wanted each other to hear.
Eventually, they felt safe enough to meet each other, with me as a mediating presence. They were able to articulate without blame how they had each contributed to the other’s pain and to hear each other with compassion and understanding.
Getting a marital relationship back on track
A married couple had reached the point where separation was a strong possibility. The wife was deeply frustrated because she couldn’t get her husband to engage in talking about their relationship. She asked for a session with me in the hope that it would enable her to get her point across.
The opening exchanges were characterised by their familiar pattern of ‘attack and counter attack’ with ‘You don’t even…’ eliciting retaliation along the lines of ”Well, you never….’
But underneath each complaint was a deep well of disappointment, hurt and longing for a different quality of relationship. By slowing things down and exploring what they were trying to say to each other, the mood changed. The husband set aside his defences and spoke movingly and vulnerably, with tears in his eyes. There came a point where they both went very quiet, realising that they both wanted the same things.
‘I’ve never heard him speak that way before’ said his wife, in a soft tone of voice. ‘Thank you for putting us back on track’.
Healing a volatile working relationship
T was the owner of a small company producing learning materials. Her relationship with S, one of her sub-contractors, was very tense. S alternated between fury and despair at the way she experienced T as treating her.
S asked me to mediate a conversation between her and T.
After the mediation, S said:
‘Thank you Jo, for saving my sanity and helping me to see (my boss) as another person going through her own stuff, and helping me to like her again. I came out of the mediation with my dignity intact.’