Here at Thornton Jones Solicitors this Family Mediation Week we are drilling down on a number of really important aspects of mediation and focusing on those aspects to ensure that when you do embark on family mediation, that you do so primed and ready to make the very best of the opportunity.
In this Blog we highlight the importance of listening effectively. Remembering that mediation is a process whereby both parties meet to discuss the issues with the common understanding that such issues can only be settled assuming all are prepared to table all issues, talk openly and honestly, be prepared to compromise, and of course to listen to the other persons point of view.
‘Your time to speak will come.
For now, just listen’
During a mediation session, each person has the opportunity to talk openly and freely, to raise their concerns, ask questions, and explore the options open to them. This process of speaking freely and in the presence of the other party and with the structure and coordination put in place with the mediator present can only be effective if the parties remain calm, are open to discussion, and are prepared listen and be patient.
Listening can help unravel deep seated issues that may not be explicit
You’ve chosen mediation as an approach to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome without the need to attend a court and at worst, let a judge decide on the outcome. To make the best of this opportunity, you must be prepared to listen keenly in order to truly understand what the issues are.
If the ‘surface’ issues are matters like “She never has the kids ready on time for me to pick up” or “He always buys them expense gifts when the children are with him” then these surface issues could be a mask for more deep-rooted issues or concerns that only through listening and subsequent conversation can be unearthed.
Such surface issues could be masking trust issues, respect issues or welfare issues for example. Only through listening and subsequent calm conversation can such issues be fully aired and understood and all in a calming and neutral environment with the support and coordination of the mediator.
Listen to engage with each other
There’s no such thing as one-sided mediation. By definition, mediation requires both parties to be equally engaged. When conflict during mediation occurs, it can be because of how one party feels about what the other party has done (or not done). One parent could be frustrated with the other parent for not helping to fund a school trip, whereas the accused parent may feel that they have suitably met their obligations by paying maintenance and funding other child related activities.
Being present and engaging is key to making mediation a success. Being patient and listening to the other side’s points (whether you are in agreement with them or otherwise) will earn you the respect you need to be heard yourself. Furthermore, you might find that by listening and engaging you learn now information that allows your judgement to be refined and as such, are more likely to both arrive at an amicable outcome.
Listen to reframe the questions
Occasionally during mediation, parties can express their feelings in negative, argumentative, and accusatory ways. The words chosen by individuals can be hurtful and de-rail the process. The mediator would in such instances reframe what’s been said into a more constructive, less direct and hurtful way, so that only the facts and not the emotion is heard.
If you are serious about making mediation work, then you should be prepared to allow the mediator to step in at this juncture and reframe, and not jump in with retaliation. Listening will allow time for the speaking party to finish and for the mediator to reframe.
Listen to empathise with the other party
To empathise doesn’t mean you must agree. Active listening and empathy means putting yourself in the other persons position and understanding why they might hold such views. Understanding their position can only be achieved through keenly listening and once you’ve listened, you will be in a more educated position to respond.
Showing you understand their position and empathise will gain respect and trust and the other party will be more inclined to reciprocate, giving you the air-time you need to speak freely and also be understood.
Listen because it’s a two-way dialogue
Mediation isn’t just a random chat and a quick fix to avoid costly and lengthy court processes. Mediation is a two-way constructive dialogue. It requires one person to listen whilst the other speaks and, respectfully, vice versa. Dialogues can only be effective when the parties involved appreciate the value of listening in such a situation. This isn’t a dialogue between friends at the pub over the result of a football match, this is a dialogue that has an undercurrent of unpleasant emotions, possibly anger and bitterness, and so giving the dialogue its due respect can only serve to benefit the process and positively influence the outcome.
With mediation being a joint effort, it’s clear that all parties must abide by the code and exercise many traits, one of which being to listen. Of course, this is likely an unprecedented time for most people approaching mediation as the way forward and it’s understandable that people may veer off the tracks. That’s where the trained and skilled mediator steps in to bring matters back on track, calm any tension, reiterate the purpose of mediation and to guide you to a successful compromised endpoint.
How do I get in touch?
Call us at any of our four offices to discuss your needs and to make an appointment.
Westbourne House,99 Lidgett Lane, Garforth, Leeds, LS25 1LJ
Tel: 0113 246 4423
25 Bank Street, Ossett, WF5 8PS
Tel: 01924 586466
Sherburn in Elmet
6 Finkle Hill, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, LS25 6EA
Tel: 01977 350500
Bank House, 1 Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2GF
Tel: 01924 290029
About Shelley Wales
Shelley is a Family Law Solicitor at Thornton Jones Solicitors. Shelley joined the Thornton Jones Family Law team in September 2018 after honing her skills in family law at Ramsdens solicitors where she spent 10 years. Shelley is a qualified Family Mediator and is working towards full accreditation. She specialises in dealing with the financial aspects of divorce and separation, and has a real interest in unravelling the finances of unmarried couples through the Trusts of Land and Trustees Act 1996. Shelley is a member of Resolution and is committed to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational way wherever possible.
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