Mediation, in regard to solving problems, has a strong emphasis on the future.  But in practice,  people will nearly always have to travel along a road that takes them from the past to the present, to gain an insight into how tomorrow can be different.

The origins of disputes are in the past.  Even though many people feel they don’t want to talk about the history of a conflict (‘it’s too painful’, ‘it can’t be changed, ‘it’s not relevant’) it’s these past events that have resulted in a dispute.  In my experience, a mediated discussion won’t move on until the important things about the past have been said.

Moving forward to the present, I’ll often ask people how they’re feeling, as the discussion moves along.  Their answer might not be positive, co-operative or even pleasant, but it’s important that they (and the other people in the discussion) get to hear how their experience of events has made them feel about the dispute, and everyone else involved.

Acknowledging these emotions, agreeing and disagreeing on what’s happened, and understanding what other people need to move forward, often opens the door to a future that didn’t seem possible when the mediation session began.

By Dave Warren

Photo by mostafa-meraji on Unsplash

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