Several times I have been asked why I work as a Mediator, well –it isn’t the money. It isn’t the kudos, many don’t seem to know what it is. Some think I meditate or similar. I can only say it is the magic, that moment which I and fellow mediators have often seen, when people in conflict have a change of heart. All the vitriol, upset, anger and misery is gone and they begin to rebuild a new relationship.
When we first visit each party it is often hard to reconcile the first story of the other party’s behaviour to the person you later meet. When I began working as a mediator I was often quite worried about meeting the second party after the first accounts were given. Most cases boil down to just one common factor. In this age of twitter, email, Face Book, mobile phones etc People can not communicate.
Mediators spend a lot of time learning how not to suggest solutions whilst encouraging our clients to state the facts as they see them, how the others actions have made them feel and to think of their own ideas of how to improve their lot.
The accounts of the situation given by each party are often very different. Face to face with their neighbour, employer, or other family member the stories will be very different from those originally given. They are often much milder, but as we try to address each issue ie noise, boundaries, parking, etc tempers can get frayed and it is our job to calm the participants, even call a break but above all to keep them communicating. No-one communicates sensibly whilst angry, afraid or upset.
If everything goes to plan each issue identified by the mediators is thrashed out in a managed discussion and an agreement is reached. If there are any actions to be undertaken by either party a time limitation is also agreed to give everyone clear boundaries and expectations. Sometimes we feel a rather unsatisfactory agreement is made but usually most leave a joint mediation having achieved some if not all they had hoped for. Neither party feels like a loser and both at least a bit happier. We usually include the issue of future communication in the agreements we write.
The magic moment is so hard to catch it can begin with a change in tone of voice, a weak joke, an admitted misunderstanding or just an agreement that it’s all gone too far and they want to change, but when it happens it makes all the mediators efforts worthwhile.
Everyone in WSM plays their part in achieving these magic moments – the Trustees raising funds and the service profile, Nick managing a very large team and sorting all the problems we can’t, the office by doing all the calls and recording required to arrange visits and checking that the agreements are working, the group meetings where we discuss cases and get new ideas or advice from each other and the role play and the training which is the key to a good service.
I was always told ‘Stick to the process and eventually it should work’ and it does!
How I don’t know – it’s magic!
Mary Davies F.C.M.
Coastal Group Co-ordinator.