September 17, 2012
Conflict: Part of the Human Experience
We often think of mediation as an environment in which the mediator is a preternaturally peaceful person and the clients are kind to each other and bring excellent communication skills to the process. And, admittedly, there are occasional moments in mediation that fit that description.
But mediation is a human situation, and therefore the reality is generally more complicated. Since the first step of mediation is to assess whether mediation is a good choice for you and the other person in a family dispute—such as divorce or probate—it’s important to reflect on your needs, the larger situation, and the nature of mediation services. And as part of that assessment I encourage you to remember that mediation, being a human system, does not require the clients to be already getting along; it does not require that people be over and past having an emotional response to the situation which triggered the family dispute. Instead, mediation merely requires clients to be ready to follow the mediator’s lead in framing conversations and be willing to be transparent and honest about what is going on with them.
Sometimes we forget that most people have some conflict in their lives, so when we’re suffering in conflict with another, we judge ourselves, and our behavior, harshly. Sometimes we’re upset about the conflict just because we’re mad we’re in conflict at all. But think of it…have you ever been in conflict with a business owner whose policy you didn’t agree with? Or in conflict with your neighbor about something? Or in conflict with someone at work? Or in conflict with the government? Or in conflict with a teacher at your child’s school?
I often have to reassure my clients that they haven’t done something wrong because a conversation in mediation became messy and fraught with emotion. We’re all human, so these tough moments are all part of the quintessential human experience— there’s both joy and hard times.
So just because you don’t feel at your best or because you feel “in conflict,” if you want an environment in which that reality is recognized, respected, and worked toward being resolved, mediation may still be a good choice for you.