Emotions are not to be feared in a dispute or conflict. It is expected. There are high stakes and each party believes they have something to lose.
Mediation as practiced globally, addresses the emotions in the room and provides a confidential process to allow parties a safe space to express themselves authentically. Not because mediation is therapy or counselling but because emotions from the parties tells the mediator that there are underlying concerns, fears and need that are being left unaddressed. These emotions are driving the negotiation process within the mediation and if not dealt with properly will lead to agreements that are not realistic for the parties to fulfill.
Mediators have within their skills toolkit methods to uncover the driving force behind the emotions. They are taught to know if that if they have the expertise to explore the emotions should do so in an impartial and effective way. Where mediators feel that the emotions are so high that in order for the parties to move forward they would need to attend therapy or counselling sessions, the mediator must suggest this to the parties and encourage them to work with therapists in parallel to attending mediation sessions.
Some of the benefits of these parallel services is give the parties coping mechanisms if they are on different levels of the emotional stages of grief or experiencing trauma brought on by the dispute or conflict. Parties will also gain confidence to speak up and express their concerns and ask for what they believe to be a valuable for themselves in a negotiation.
Mediators are trained to know that when varying emotional responses are exhibited within a mediation there is a power imbalance created that will lead to one party giving in too easily on concessions they know they cannot live up to or both parties never reaching agreement because anger and resentment is preventing them from listening to each other and collaborating.
While a party may think they are protecting themselves from opening up how they feel in a conversation with the other party ,this type of communication is damaging to the decision making process. Parties believe that the less they share the less risk there is of making a bad decision or being taken advantage of. However in mediation the more you share the more understanding you each have of why certain issues are more important to one than the other. The more information you give the more chances you have of generating options that are suitable to making realistic decisions. The mediator will know how to manage the process so as not to place any party in a vulnerable position once they decide to share their emptions and concerns.
People in a dispute always hear what each other says in different ways. Often in mediations we see a communication pattern known as reactive devaluation between parties. This is sometimes brought on when one party does not trust the information the other party is sharing or the sound of one party’s voice causes the other to shut down and stop listening. This breaks down opportunities to negotiate effectively. The mediator will work with the parties to improve their communication either with one-on-one mediation sessions or through a therapist/psychologist.
The mediator will always clarify the facts and issues with the parties before the negotiation begins in the mediation. It may seem that this process is taking too long because of these discussions, however once all that needs to be dealt with in mediation is placed on the “table” the mediator will know how to move the process along at a different pace.
Mediation gives the parties opportunities to improves their communication barriers and manage the emotional narrative that plays out between the parties. Parties are not encouraged to make decisions when it is clear that one or both of them have not thought through the consequences of such decisions, especially if there is going to be an on-going relationship in a family or work environment. Mediation preserves the relationship by improving the communication between parties. Even if the parties believe they will no longer be in a relationship, mediation will give them an opportunity to negotiate agreements from a prepared and informed level, leading to decisions they can live and understand.
Blog posts are for information purposes only and must not be taken as legal advice. Please contact us for further information on how we can assist you.