This is the fifth and final instalment in my weekly blog series on the topic of transformational mediation
Please feel free to check out past blog entries to bring yourself up to date on my comments related to transformational mediation.
The question posed four weeks ago was: What do mediation, dog training, sailing, football and a symphony orchestra have in relation to transformative mediation and how I have added transformative elements into my mediation practice?
Here is this weeks update.
Ok, there are no dogs in the mediation room, nor is there an actual sailboat or professional football team, nor is there a symphonic orchestra ready to serenade us, (although anything is possible). There are however, similarities….. ALL are dependent, in some way, on relationships
In a symphonic orchestra, each musician has been practicing for many years and is an expert with their instrument. When the musicians come together there are sometimes problems between the musicians and, it becomes the conductors job to get the music in-sync and for the musicians to play in harmony. If just one musician is off beat or out of tune then the entire musical piece is “off”. The conductor has options. He can replace the ‘problem’ musician as there are always many people waiting for the opportunity to play in an orchestra or the conductor can work with the musicians, not to teach them how to play, but to get them to play collaboratively with the other musicians. The conductor works with the entire musical piece striving for harmony while assisting the musicians build a musical relationship amongst the entire orchestra.
In mediation, people often bring a specific conflict to the table and ask the mediator to fix it for them. Most mediators will point out to the parties that it is up to them to find the resolution. If they wanted someone else to fix their problems, there are other very effective venues for that, namely courts and tribunals where a judge or adjudicator will decide who is right and who is wrong.
Inherent in the mediation process when there is an ongoing relationship between the parties, the relationship needs working on as well, in order to solve the problem. In transformative mediation, the presented conflict is viewed as only part of the problem. The relationship is focused on so that the parties are able to better understand each other and find ways to work together in the future in a much more collaborative way.
It’s true that not all conflicting parties have direct relationships similar to those in workplace conflicts, between two or more co-workers. Some conflicting parties (civil and commercial as examples) might never work together again; in these cases they might have indirect relationships, through colleagues, friends etc. where reputations remain very important. If the conflict is dealt with in a courtroom and disparaging comments are made about the parties and each side is focused solely on winning then any remaining respect between the parties disintegrates and feelings of animosity take over. Too often, both parties end up losing by way of badmouthing the other post trial.
The moral here is the vast majority of conflicts or problems have deep-rooted issues that stem from the interpersonal relationships between the parties in conflict. In order to have long lasting resolution, the parties need to work on these issues and not simply the presenting problem.
Transformational Mediation, as mentioned, focuses on the relationship. By ‘fixing’ the relationship, the presenting conflict can easily be resolved and the parties leave the mediation respecting the other party; a very different resolution when compared to courts and tribunals.
When considering which mediation method to adopt, rather than having to choose one model, this writer recommends that different models of mediation fit with differing conflicts. For example, the linear mediation model might be quite appropriate for corporate, civil and commercial mediations, whilst a narrative/lateral model is chosen for family, community and justice circles. Whereas the transformative approach is best suited for the education, peace and justice, and workplace fields where there are ongoing relationships between the parties post conflict. (Alzate, 1999; Halligan & Araiz, 1999; Johnson & Johnson, 1999; Viana, 2012).
Whichever mediation model you choose, I assure you that, as a mediator, you will find the experiences exhilarating and transformational, not only for the parties but for yourself. The parties will have the added benefits of timeliness, cost effectiveness and the right to remain the primary decision maker in the resolution of their conflict.
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