Mediation is About Listening, Not Talking

Mediation is About Listening, Not Talking

Last update: 03 May, 2018

Mediators are those who work to foster understanding between people. This might be siblings fighting over their inheritance, spouses in court over the custody of their children, or neighbors who hate each other. Mediators manage to get people who can’t be in the same room as each other to shake hands. The president of the Madrid Mediators Association, Ana Criado Inchauspe, says that the key to mediation work is listening, not talking. 

Specialists in mediation say that the best agreement is one in which both parties think the other has given in. Another key factor in reaching a good agreement is that it is long-lasting. Mediators are the supporting actors in a film. The interested parties are the protagonists. So, a mediator’s work consists of asking the right questions. A good set of questions helps both parties listen to each other, and encourages their true needs to surface.

Mediation also seems to be the key factor on the political stage. Political mediation uses essential characteristics of mediation. As a result, the role of the mediator is that of a negotiation facilitator. They are only there to facilitate reconciliation. As such, they must abstain from intervening with any proposals or personal opinions about the conflict at hand.

No one can do everything, but we can all do something.

Mediation – understanding achieved by comprehending needs

Mediating consists of discovering that the whole picture is much bigger than either party believes it to be at the beginning of negotiations. Each party usually brings their own, perfectly constructed argument to the table. They have talked about it with their circles, everything is cristal clear, and they have no doubts. Nevertheless, these arguments are usually built on feelings, not what is actually happening.

If the goal is for both parties to respect the agreement, they have to both accept it. The mediator is there to accompany them until they reach the agreement. There are particular questions that can be very effective. For example, asking about the future. “What would you like your relationship to look like in five years? What has to happen for that to occur?”

When both parties comprehend each other’s needs, we see the magic of understanding take hold. Suddenly they transform, open their eyes, and start to apologize. It can work this way in the most difficult situations. This strategy can even work in cases that involve violence. Mediation is not about talking. It is about listening to the other person’s needs.

The governing principles that guide mediation are: confidentiality, voluntary participation, open communication between both parties, and the impartiality of the intervening mediator. 

mediation solves problems

Contradicting positions have a lot to do with feelings

Emotions are what cause about 90% of conflicts. For example, the fear that giving in once means you have to do it forever. Or, fear of vulnerability from expressing your true needs. Lack of communication causes the other 10% of conflicts. This is true in confrontations and negotiations of every kind. Whether it is a marriage separation or a business dispute. What’s more, the most difficult conflicts are usually with the people you love the most. Family, friends, significant others, and people we trust. That’s because the emotions involved tend to be stronger and the conflict has been going on for a longer time.

Conflict is a natural human tendency. We are constantly immersed in different conflicts. Not just with other people, but also with ourselves. We are social creatures and we are continually relating to others. As a result of this continual interaction, we find that we have opposing interests, and conflict arises. It really isn’t so much about the interests actually conflicting, it’s more that the involved parties have that perception. In fact, the agreement that people reach with mediation is often collaborative.

As we said before, one of the most common causes of conflict is bad communicationCommunication is fundamental between two or more people. It can trigger conflict, or resolve it, depending on the strategies of those involved. In that sense, the role of mediator is also to monitor communication channels. They have to make sure they stay open and that they have positive objectives. The ultimate goal is to reach an agreement that leaves both parties satisfied to some degree.

Opposing positions arise when we construct everything based on what we feel, not what is actually happening

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.