On Mediation Day

Conflict resolution conversations (sometimes referred to as ‘mediations;’  I like to call them ‘conflict resolution conversations,’ because ‘mediation’ often evokes in our minds a legal process, and in the case of my work, I’m talking about resolving disconnecting conflict and re-connecting individuals) are special … even sacred.

Photo courtesy of CarbonNYC (David Goehring)
Photo courtesy of CarbonNYC (David Goehring)

Most often when people come in to have that conversation, they’re at the very edge of their comfort zone.  They’re unsure of what will happen, and that feels scary.

They’re coming because they want change even though they aren’t completely sure that they trust each other or the process.  They’re hanging onto some hope that it will all work out, because they want it to.

Before conflict resolution conversations I usually see each person individually for session(s) where we help distill what’s at the heart of the matter for each of them and to answer questions about what the process will be like.

On the day we sit down to talk together, I offer two guidelines. One.  Say what’s important to you.  Two.  Listen to what’s important to the other person.

Then we talk.  Sometimes I reflect back what I hear.  Sometimes I ask them to reflect back what they hear.  Sometimes I ask how they feel about what they are hearing.  Sometimes they talk, and I listen and hold the space.

As the trust deepens between them, they gradually go deeper and deeper into expressing what hurt.  What is in their heart.

Getting heard and feeling understood is like putting soothing ointment on a cut.  It feels good.  Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers says, “When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without taking responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good.”

Often they make requests of each other for the future – ways to meet their needs.

When they leave, they’re usually thanking me and thanking each other.  Bubbling over with gratitude.

With their connection even stronger than before.   As Barbara Bloom puts it, “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.”

Is there a relationship you have – with someone else or with yourself – that you’d like the suffering to be mended with gold?

In peace and love, Teresa

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