This episode explores the realities of making a good mediation. It’s simple: Be Honest, Be Empathetic, Be Human
One of the aspects of mediation that all mediators face is how to work through the parties’ conflict while staying neutral. The hardest part of remaining neutral is when you see the following:
- One party is dominant in the mediation, as they more than likely were in the marriage. And the other spouse is so used to being the submissive spouse that they still let the dominant spouse lead in making the decisions in settlement.
Learning Lesson for the submissive spouse: Use the fact that you have a divorce professional in front of you in order to use your voice and communicate what you really want in the settlement. Ask your mediator to speak with you separately so that you can share your feelings, fears, concerns to them without the other spouse interrupting or dominating you. Ask your mediator to carry your message or your requests to the other spouse for you so that your voice can be heard through the mediator. If your mediator practices a style of mediation in which they don’t speak separately to each spouse, then change mediators. No all mediators use the same form of mediation. Get a mediator who can support your needs.
If you are comfortable negotiating with your spouse, be as self-aware and honest as possible, with blame, and without a tone of voice that is condescending or argumentative. Just speak from the heart. Speak from mediators call the “I” position. Start sentences with “I would like to suggest/request/ do” the following…If you can stay focused on the negotiation, why you’re asking for whatever it is you’re requesting, without telling the other spouse what they are obligated to do, you’ll have a great chance of getting results that work for both of you.
- If there is child or spousal support as part of the settlement, and the higher wage earner states that they’ve decided to earn less money, generally using the reason that they’re tired, exhausted, or not willing to work more hours, thereby positioning their income lower for a lower child or spousal support payment.
Learning Lesson for the receiving spouse: Get legal advice immediately! Both parties need to know how the law works and how the court might rule if this situation was presented in a Hearing. Mediators typically do encourage parties to get legal advice before the mediations start, so that when one spouse starts to make statements that affect their obligations, the other spouse can, with the right understanding of the law, engage in a way that moves the mediation and negotiation forward. When a mediator suggests that more legal advice is needed, that’s generally a signal that one or both spouses need more legal education in order to have a more successful mediation.
- It only takes one spouse to be open and honest in their communication in mediation to create a better environment to negotiate. If one spouse can remain focused on the decisions going forward, not engage in arguing, respond to a dominant spouse by speaking from the heart, use active listening, ask questions of the other spouse to help them open up and change their communication from acrimonious to amicable.
Learning Lesson for effective communication: Bill Eddy, author, mediator, family law attorney and licensed social worker, is the king of communication skills that work with high conflict personalities. Any of his 30 books on communication with difficult people, and communication for divorce mediation will be enormously helpful in demonstrating a very specific approach to a successful communication, with strategies for moving negotiations forward.
Your mediator can help identify compromises that the parties can’t hear for themselves. This is part of their active listening role because when parties are stuck in impasse they can’t see a creative solution outside of what they have explored. But again, mediators choose different styles of mediation. If a mediator is needed to help brainstorm or help explore different ways or resolving an impasse, get another mediator whose style works better for you.
Lastly, mediators have to come to the mediation with an open mind. If a mediator thinks they know how to solve their clients’ dilemmas before they watch both parties speak to one another, they can’t actively listen, or listen with an open mind in order to be the most effective mediator possible. Many mediators would disagree with me about helping parties get beyond impasse by brainstorming ideas based on the conversation they heard between the parties. But my feeling is that people hire mediators to help them get results. When parties are at impasse, they need help thinking past their positions to other ways of achieving their goals. Mediators are often looked at as the instrument to unlock creative ideas for resolution.
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