By Irene Grindell

I have been training mediators for 20 years, I thought you might be interested in learning about some of my tricks that seem to really help when you start mediating.

I use lots of tried and tested models and one or two I came up with myself such as the Responsibility Ball. My top 3 are:

  1. Note taking that supports you the mediator, the party and the process. Most trainers encourage their delegates to capture what the party shares so they can summarise and bring clarity to the situation.

The PIN model is my bible, Position, Interest and Needs at the bottom of the triangle from Fisher and Ury. When we meet the party for the first time, we ask them to tell us about their situation which is in actual fact, their position, normally dogmatic, full of judgements and plenty of blame. In my experience, parties can be quite resistant at this point and we have to use our wonderful skills of listening, empathising, gentle curious questioning and building trust between ourselves and our party. Once we have summarised their position, we then want to draw an imaginary line between the position and their interest, which is normally the thing they actually want, such as their colleague moved out of the team or even fired sometimes. You have to explore what they say they want and its always useful to elicit information from them about the impact that the conflict has had on them (you can use this later as leverage if they get stuck). So in your notes you have now 3 clear headings, their Position, their Interest and the impact of the conflict and finally what they need from the mediation. What do they Need to get from the mediation?

This is your fourth and most crucial heading as this is what reframes the conflict from the past into clarity about their future needs. Once you have that golden nugget, you can help them to plan out what actions they might have to take to get their needs met. They can generate Options and you can reality test to your hearts content.

  2. The PAC Model from Transactional Analysis

I love TA, it gets straight to the heart of the matter in a heartbeat. You can see which ego state your parties are stuck in. I use the model in its simplest form, when people are communicating with each other they can slip into roles which tend to be almost hot wired into our brains. When one person behaves/talks like a parent the other tends to respond from child, and vice versa. People can get stuck into these patterns without any awareness- until they see the model. Learning to communicate from ADULT state is an essential for all mediators and then you are the role model for your parties, however it is an ongoing learning process that can take some time to master.

Always be overt and honest when using TA, explain the model and ask the party if they can identify their own behaviour. Don’t challenge them if they can’t take ownership as self-awareness is the key here. One of the first EQ components is self-awareness, we can’t regulate our behaviour if we don’t recognise what we are doing. TA speaks in familiar language, Parent, Adult, Child. Although the language is simple, the theory is profound and powerful. I have seen people have those wonderful transformation moments and actually take responsibility whilst looking at the model. They don’t feel blamed or judged as you have normalised the behaviour and they can now make sense of it and therefore feel motivated to move from their previously stuck position. You can now start reframing the conflict from the past, into exploring what they need going forward.

Once people stop going around in circles and get out of their own way, they have a new perspective and so can now see a way out.

TA rests upon certain philosophical assumptions.
  ✓ People are OK
  ✓ Everyone has the capacity to think
  ✓ People decide their own destiny and these decisions can be changed

My Imagination Ball

A child’s toy that I use to help mediators grasp the concept of responsibility or ownership. If we can imagine that the ball belongs to the party, the issue

is theirs. The party however will want the mediator to take

ownership of the ball and fix their problem. I stand the new mediators round me in a circle and one by one throw the ball to each of them in turn using a well heard quip such as “How are you going to fix this?” its normal for the mediator to panic a little as they want to help and start feeling that burden of holding the responsibility for the party. This little exercise helps mediators to bring it to life, to grasp the “problem” and then find a way to hand back the ball to the party with empathy and understanding but making the boundaries clear. We cannot fix their problem. Our role is to help them get a new perspective and with clarity and new energy explore options they would not have considered previously. We can help them to have a safe joint session putting their needs forward and accepting some ownership for the dispute. A strong mediator feels confident handing back the “ball” as they understand that people are equipped to fix their problems given a safe platform and a facilitated process. By throwing the ball back to me in the training room, the new mediators let go of holding ownership for the problem and find it much easier when they get mediating

live situations.

And finally a little gem that works a treat is likening mediating to a fried egg. The yolk in the middle is the process. It’s the principles, the framework and the method. The white however is what you bring, your character, your wisdom, your unique

you-ness. Don’t try to be like your trainer or someone else from your course, just be you, congruent, honest and kind. If you can’t be kind, be compassionate and if you can’t be either your yolk will get you through but isn’t it nice to have all the egg?

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