Mediated Divorce: Am I listening? Am I being heard?


Mediated Divorce

Mediated Divorce: Making a successful mediation?

Several factors determine whether a mediated divorce is successful.  In my opinion there are two that are at the top of the list: listening and understanding.  Better listening leads to better understanding.  So, if you feel that you don’t understand; chances are you are not really listening.  You can’t have one without the other.  In a mediated divorce, listening and understanding is crucial.

Miscommunication: Telling your story or hearing their story?

This type of miscommunication is common to any type of conflict.  It is frustrating.  It is not helpful.  It increases the tension within the conflict.  Parties become more and more focused on not being understood.  But that is not the issue!  The issue is not understanding; not being understood.
Think about it.  Which would improve the conversation: focusing on telling your story, or, focusing on listening to the  other person’s story.  I think most people would agree that listening would encourage the conversation.  Take the time to first clearly understand the other parties “story”.  After that, expressing your “story” should become easier.

Effective listening: Some guiding principles.

So what can you do  to help become a better listener?  Here are some guiding principles.  Each one is fairly straight forward and reasonable.

  1. Stop Talking

Resist the urge to respond, to say the first thing that comes to mind.  Your purpose is to listen.  To give the other person time to fully explain.  It is their time to speak; your  time will come.

“If we were meant to talk more than listen; we would have been born with two tongues and one ear!” – Mark Twain

2. Try to put the other person at ease

The more relaxed the other person is; the more willing they will be to talk.  The goal is to invite the other party to “tell their story”.  What do they really want us to know?  You want to make the other person feel that you are “with them”.  That you are really trying to listen and to understand.

a. Look at them – eye to eye.  Maintaining eye contact helps to send the message that you want to listen.

b. Nod, use small gestures or quietly say things that tell the speaker that you are with them.  If you are “with” each other – the conversation will continue.

3. Be patient

Silence is a good thing!  Just because the other person has stopped talking does not mean they have stopped thinking.  There may well be more information to come.  Perhaps they are just organising their thoughts.  Using patience can be a sign of respect.  You are waiting… are wanting to hear more.  Let them!  If they  are finished they will tell you.

4. Listen for the big ideas

What is the person really trying to tell you?  What are their big concerns?  What are their hopes? fears? desires?  Go beyond the words.  Try to identify the big ideas.  That is where the productive conversations will occur.

5. Try to be impartial

Not easy to do in the heat of conflict.  But that’s ok, most people are partial.  But use this.  Every time you feel yourself being partial or thinking of something contrary.  Take it as a signal!  Remind yourself that you don’t want to me doing this.  Not yet.  Refocus on your purpose: to be impartial, to listen, to “be with the other person”.

A final thought

When in a conversation don’t be in a hurry.  Effective resolutions come after all the issues have been put on the table.  After everyone has “told their story”, everyone has listened to “the stories”.  Creating resolutions becomes much easier once everyone understands all the issues.  Understanding issues is a result of effective listening.

Put your time and effort into listening.  It will make finding resolutions that much easier.

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