I just had my last classroom course (I’m still doing an online one) for my certification in third party mediation at the Justice Institute of BC. The course has a jargony name, From Positions to Interests, but it really has to do with the guts of mediation.
Positions are what people mean when they say, “I want…” When they come up against someone else who gets in the way of their want, there’s conflict. The mediator’s role is to question both sides to get beneath their positions to what’s really motivating them…the beliefs, values, fears and other motivations.
The way these courses work is through role-plays. On the last day of the course, we get to role play for fellow students as we check to see how much theory sunk in. This was the first time in my roleplaying where, as a mediator, I didn’t get stuck. I felt great! Here’s how it played out.
The scenario I chose was where I was mediating between parents of an engaged couple who wanted them to arrange the wedding reception. The grooms family want the wedding reception to be lavish, like the one they threw their daughter the previous year. Big church wedding, and a catered reception at a big Vancouver church.
The bride’s parents are divorced and the mom has a very limited amount of cash. The 5 p.m. ceremony was going to be at a beach. So where will the reception be? The groom’s dad is suggesting the reception should be lavish, beautiful…and horrors, not tacky.
The bride’s mom has already checked out a community hall which rents for $150. She wants to make the wedding cake. Oh, back in Kaslo, where she’s from weddings feature pot-luck dinners.
You get the picture.
In the morning role-play, I couldn’t stop the two “parents” from sniping at each other. I got a fresh chance in the afternoon, so I took a different approach. I asked them to put a venue aside, but tell each other what they wanted to reception to look like. How would they want to remember it?
They agreed on many things. It was a chance for two families to cerebrate the union and get to know each other. Have a few drinks, dance and enjoy the occasion. Having them describe their joint wishes for a happy reception brought them together, and there was a willingness to collaborate once they agreed the important part of the reception was the good times to be had between those attending.
Could this event only be held at a lavish hotel? Sure, but the budget can’t support it. Could it be held at a community centre? Sure. But what about an outdoor place, like a park? Or…or…or?
They decided to have a partially catered meal (the groom’s family was chipping in) with a few traditional homemade dishes to satisfy the vegetarians on the bride’s side.
Turned out there were any number of agreeable solutions, once they decided what was really important.
Mediating in this way isn’t easy. I’ve learned when to stop asking questions, just reflect what I’m hearing in hopes the collaborative flow will continue.
Here are some questions to tackle in a conflict of your own…
What’s important to you about the issue?
What is it about your position that’s important to you?
If things don’t change, what will happen for you?
What do I need to understand about _______?
How was it you decided to ________________?
What matters most to you?
If you couldn’t have ___________, what would you stand to lose?
What is it you want me to understand I”m not getting?
What are your concerns, hopes, fears, desires, goals?
Tell me more about _______________?
Want to hear more? Get in touch. And if you have a conflict you need me to help with, let me know. I’m offering low-cost mediation until I go for my final exam in February.
250 920 6486