December 19, 2014
One More Key to a Successful Mediation: Self-Reflection
One of the most important moments of people’s divorce process is when they assess their different process choices—courts, cooperative law, Collaborative Practice, mediation, do-it-yourself—and then assess their capacity to participate in each of those choices.
I’ve noticed over the years that my highly satisfied mediation clients all share the capacity for self-reflection. Self-reflection involves being able to identify your needs (procedural, emotional, or legal) and communicate them effectively. While this may sound simple, self-reflection is not a quality that our go-go-go society leaves a lot of room for during our bustling daily lives. Adding the complication and stress of divorcing can make self-reflection challenging and even painful. Some clients struggle when looking directly at their past financial choices and the pickle they’re in trying to figure out a way to support two homes, when supporting one was already a hardship. Other clients struggle sitting in the space of wishing that the past had been different. So self-reflection in the divorce process is not only about seeing your true circumstances—the good, the bad, and the ugly—but also about coming to peace with them enough to compromise and collegially negotiate as positive an end to your marriage as possible.
In a mediation process, your needs and where your boundaries for settlement lie can only be found from within, and what is a fair outcome must be defined by both people. Clients make the judgments and choices. In contrast, in the court process, you can voice what you’d like to have happen, but settlement is often designed by people’s attorneys or a judge, and what is a fair outcome is decided by others.
For some people, it might require huge personal work to exercise self-reflection and successfully navigate the extensive information gathering, learning, listening, and compromise required in mediation. If people are still furious, or in denial, or blaming themselves, or blaming others, what’s going on is a cramp in self-reflection. The product of self-reflection is a deep knowing of yourself, your needs, and almost always a softness towards your own past actions, and sometimes even a softness to the actions of others. Mediation is not a place to punish the other person or the mediator, or anyone else. The mediation process goes with the most ease and efficiency if people are ready to let go of the negative emotions of anger and blame, and are ready to create a future based on self-reflection and self-acceptance.