Mediation Process: Keep moving forward

Mediation Services

Mediation Process: Keep moving forward.

Creating hope for a resolution is an important part of the mediation process.  It’s not uncommon for participants to focus on past events.  To frequently refer to issues of the past.  That’s not to say past issues and events are not important.  They are!  But what is of more importance is the ability to break free, stop looking backwards and to look forwards.  The resolution, or solution, is in the future.  It requires a mindset.

But the past events are important? Aren’t they?

Yes, events and issues from the past are important.  They brought you to the place you are now.  The real question is “What do I do with them”?  Really, there are only two things that can, and need to be done.

First; get all the issues and events of importance out onto the table.  Discuss them.  Question them. Understand their importance to the larger conflict.  Understanding the why certain things are important to certain people can give a clue to a potential resolution.

Second; accept and acknowledge. Accept that these events occurred. Accept that they had a negative impact.  Accept any personal responsibility.  Acknowledge how events affected yourself.  Acknowledge how events affect others.  Acknowledge that they are in the past, where they need to stay.  Acknowledge that you have the ability to overcome.

I spend a good deal of time during mediation helping participants deal with this.  To help them overcome these obstacles and to create an environment for positive conversation.

So how can I get past all this?

Asking good questions an often help.  But they need to be good questions.  I find that phrasing questions that encourage positive answers that focus on positive changes and actions are effective.  Too often participants get caught up in the “downward” spiral of negative thoughts, comments and questions that result in negative answers.

It is difficult but can be done.  Questions that are “accusing” or “blaming” by nature are not helpful.  “How could you have…….?”  By it’s very wording, this question can encourage a defensive response.  It is focused on past events.  Flip it into the positive.  “Help me understand when……?”  Much more positive.  The phrase does not blame or accuse.  You are seeking to understand.  This would encourage the other person to share something.  The first step to forward thinking.

Try it.  Listen to yourself.  Are you asking negative, blaming or accusing type questions?  Do your questions encourage a negative reply?  Do your conversations tend to result in “going round in circles”?

Flipping from the negative to the positive is not easy to do.  Remember, positive questions based in trying to understand the other person’s point of view will result in a much more positive and informative conversation.

Positive and informative conversations will help you to move forward.  Forward to a workable and mutually agreeable solution.

Family Mediation Services: Conflict can create a positive.

Family Mediation Services
Conflict happens, fortunately we can choose how it affects us.

Family Mediation Services: Helping to find the light.

Family Mediation Services is a process that helps people in conflict to create a resolution based in shared ownership and responsibility.  Family Mediation is different from most other types of mediation.  Family Mediation involves emotion.  People are placed into conflict with others who care about them.  Or at least at some point in time, cared about them.  It’s not like a mediation involving a business contract or service contract.

Conflict styles

Generally, there are four negative ways people can approach conflict.  First people can deny or avoid the conflict.  While this may “smooth the waters” a little bit.  It does little or nothing to resolve the conflict.  In fact, it makes it worse by not addressing the real issue(s).  Second, people can use anger in order to blame, accuse or intimidate the other person.  They win, the other looses.  Again, the basic issue(s) is not really resolved.  It’s just that the other person has been defeated.  Third, similar to anger, some people can use power to address issues.  Much like anger, in this case there is a definite “winner and loser”.  While the people have been neatly categorized, the issue(s) are not addressed. Four, some people may choose to manipulate, appearing to be part of the situation, but in fact taking advantage of the situation.

All four of these styles to nothing to create a resolution.  In fact, each of these styles will extend and expand the conflict.  So, what to do?  I believe that fundamental strategy can be used successfully to address each of these styles.

A Positive Approach to Conflict Styles

Firstly, a couple fundamental beliefs about conflict and conflict resolution.

Successful resolutions are not about “getting a win”.  It may not even be about getting a “win/win”.  I prefer to look at it as a “gain”.  I do this because to me, a “win” implies an end, a finish.  While a “gain” implies a success, with room to grow and to change.  That flexibility is critical to any conflict.  Situations change, therefore, so should our resolutions.  Which brings me to a second fundamental belief.

Successful resolutions need to have a mutual benefit.  Conflicts are a result of shared disagreement, each with responsibility.  Resolutions need to have the same shared ownership and desire.  So, before working on solutions – work on establishing a mutual desire to resolve.  The process of coming to a resolution is more important the the actual resolution.

With that in mind; What are the best ways to resolve conflict(s)?  What are the best ways to address conflict styles? When entering into a mediation it is important to have an open-mind, positive intentions and an honest point of view.  An open-mind to listen to other people’s story.  A positive intention to actively work towards a mutual solution.  An honest attitude to work towards creating an environment of trust and respect.

These are the tools that can be used to create a mutually acceptable resolution.


Mediation Services: Rising Above the Conflict

Mediation Services

Mediation Services: Rising Above

“Taking the high road”, “Stand on the balcony”, there are many other common metaphors.  With mediation services, all these expressions have the same meaning.  In order to resolve conflicts, don’t get dragged down into the game of blaming, accusing, threatening or other common tactics of conflict.  These only cause resentment and increase levels of anger.  They do nothing to help resolve the issue(s).  In fact, they only serve to deepen and lengthen the conflict.  Effective mediation services helps to “take the high road”, “stand on the balcony”; to “rise above”.

Rising Above: Tips to help

Know yourself:

During many conflicts that I have mediated, there often is one party who is aggressive.  These people try to intimidate, bully or try to bait the other person into arguments.  Frequently, these arguments are “minor” and self-serving.  Become aware.  Identify when your “buttons are being pushed”.  Refuse to become engaged.  Change the topic to issues that are important to making resolution.  Ask yourself: “Are we arguing about something important, or just arguing?”

Learn to “flip” it:

The opposite of blaming is sharing.  The opposite of accusing is ownership.  The opposite of fear is hope.  Blaming, accusing and fear encourage downward spirals.  They offer no solution; they only prolong the conflict.  When you find yourself in this cycle, try to do the opposite; flip it.  Make statements that show you take responsibility for part of the conflict.  Think in terms of owning a resolution; “How can I fix this?”.  Develop a mindset of hope; “There is a way out of this.” “This does not have to end badly.”

Take a break:

When conversations become emotional; take a break.  This can be done using three steps.  First, tell the other person(s) that things are becoming too emotional. They are not helpful or productive.  Second, clearly explain why you feel this way.  Let people know what things are being said.  Third, state that you wish to take a break.  Say how long a break you want and that you will come back.  You will be sending a message that the issue(s) are important and that you wish to continue the conversation.

Find a neutral friend:

During stressful times find someone that you can talk to.  But not just anyone.  Find someone who is willing to just listen. Not offer opinions.  Not offer advise.  Just listen.  Take some time to “vent”, to express your negative feelings.  This can go a long ways for you to clarify your thoughts.  To reduce emotions.  To come back to conversations with a clear mind focused on solutions; not arguments.

Focus on the end:

What type of resolution will satisfy both parties?  Where is the middle ground?  What type of resolution will be workable for both parties?  The present situation is not working.  There must be some alternative that will work.  You can not expect to get everything that satisfies you.  You can not expect to get nothing that satisfies you.  Where in the middle can you meet.  What is the worst alternative to the agreement?  What is the best alternative to the agreement.

Rising Above:

I compare resolving conflicts to a dance.  Neither person works independently; they work and move together.  The idea is that together a dance is created. That dance is ongoing.  It can change to suit the music.  In the end, however, both parties contribute to the final performance.  It may not be exactly what each person imagined, but it works.  Don’t get caught up in the “footwork”, rise above the floor to see the entire dance.

Workplace Mediation: Workplace conflict.

workplace conflicts




Workplace Mediation: Dealing with conflict.

Conflict in the workplace can come in many forms.  Workplace mediation can help.  Before going to workplace mediation there are things that you can do.  There may be a way to resolve workplace conflict on your own.

Personality differences, leadership issues and changes, or differences in personal work style are just a few sources of workplace conflict.  We all have experienced clashes of these types.  Sometimes the conflict is minor, sometime major.  Sometimes the response is mild, sometimes extreme.  How do/should a person respond?  We should respond.  Brushing conflicts under the carpet usually results in letting the conflict fester and grow.

Most workplaces have policy to guide employees through theses situations.  If you feel the need to proceed in this manner.  However, there are a couple things that you can do on your own to address issues.

Dealing with conflict: Take a look at yourself first.

When faces with conflict, it is always best to examine yourself first.  After all, you have control over yourself, your thoughts and your actions.  This control can go a long way in creating an effective strategy to resolve the conflict. Here are my thoughts:

To any conflict there are basically two general responses.  These two responses are commonly called “Halos and Horns”.

A “halo” response is one where your story puts you into the best possible light.  Telling your story in this manner attempts to give yourself credibility, or justification.  You are the “good” guy/employee.

A “horn” response is one where your story puts the other person in negative light.  These types of stories tend to blame and accuse.  Generally describing the other person(s) work as unfavorable.

Both of these responses have weaknesses and can lead to enhancing the conflict – not resolving the conflict.  Both responses are adversarial.  This does not lead to resolution. The focus moves away from the actual issue of the conflict.  The focus now becomes a “me against them” type of mentality.  Conversations become more “he said, they said”.  Much time is now spent dealing with these issues, rather than the real issue.   So what can you do?

First, find your true story.  It should lay somewhere in the middle between “halo” and “horn”.  Be honest.  Your goal needs to be resolution.   To help, try this exercise.

Draw a line down the middle of a blank piece of paper.  On one side write down all the facts about the conflict.  For each fact, on the other side, write down what is really bothering you about this fact.  As you progress, you may need to re-write some of the facts and your responses.  That’s good!!  You are now moving towards the middle between “halo” and “horn”.

Divorce Mediation: Making decisions

Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation: Decision-making that suit you and others.

Divorce and separation is a stressful time.  Making important decisions can be difficult.  Divorce Mediation can help ease this.  In fact, the basic purpose of divorce mediation is to help people make sound decisions.

Have you ever made an “impulse purchase”?  Made a decision that really didn’t make any sense?  Of course you have; we all have.  Lots of research out there suggests a reason for this.  It seems that humans are more likely to make decisions based on their “emotions”, rather than “logic”.  This is based on neuroscience research into how the human brain works.  I won’t go into a lot of detail.  Research tells us that during the decision-making process, how we feel about things usually takes control before we can how we think about things can take over.  This probably goes back to our basic survival instinct.

Negative emotions, such as fear or anger are powerful.  But no more powerful than love or happiness.  The question is; how to best control these emotions so that correct decisions can be made.  Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Take a short break.  Don’t be pressured.  Very few decisions need immediate response.  Allow yourself walk away.  To think.  You can always come back.
  2. Focus on what you need….not what you want.  Ask yourself important questions.  Why do I want to make this decision?  What is the worst thing that could happen if don’t make this decision?  What’s the best thing?  Is there a better option?  Is this decision in the best interest for me, or for everyone?
  3. Identify your emotions. What are you feeling at this moment?  Making a decision to spite someone else is just as dangerous as making a decision to make yourself feel better.  Having emotions is natural.  We are suppose to have emotions.  But it is important to accept these emotions and be responsible for them.  Emotions are only part of the decision.  Emotions should not be the only reason.  There needs to be logical reasons as well.

Remember when facing important decisions, separate emotional thoughts so you can focus on logical thoughts. Once you have clarified your logical thoughts, then you can add your emotions.  If both your logical and emotional thoughts are in balance: then you have made the correct decision.



Parent/Child Relationship: Make that connection

A healthy parent/child relationship can be a parent’s greatest treasure. My daughter and I have always had a good relationship.  That’s not to say we’ve had disageements, or did not see eye to eye.  But we were always able to connect.  I believe this was because we always tried to do thing together.  This Father’s Day we did something a little “extra special.”

A couple years ago, as I neared retirement I decided that I would do something that I had wanted to do for a long time.  I decided to take lessons and learn the guitar.  I thought that playing guitar would give me that “something to do” during the day.  It did, and it does.  Another benefit quickly appeared.  Much to my surprise and excitement.

Early on my daughter took singing lessons.  She discovered that she had a voice and enjoyed singing.  So I thought; “I should do something with her.”  The idea grew.  With the help of my guitar teacher I learned “Songbird”, the old Fleetwood Mac song.

Practicing and preparing for our performance was a highlight.  We shared so many things.  We laughed. We shared ideas.  We talked.  We were connected mentally and emotionally.  We shared a common purpose.  It made me think and remember all those other times that we shared events.  I also remembered that most of these events did not happen by accident.  They were planned.  What did I learn about creating a healthy parent/child relationship?

  1. Look for opportunities.  Be aware.  Make finding events to share a priority.
  2. Be willing to move out of your comfort zone.  Being out of your (and your child’s) comfort zone can be scary.  But it can also create great learning.  A moment of shared accomplishment.
  3. It’s not about you.  By sharing activities with your child(ren), they will reveal themselves.  Their interests, abilities and personality.
  4. Celebrate.  Tell your child(ren) how you experienced the event.  Let them know how you felt.  Use the moment to look for other opportunities.  Encourage your child(ren) to suggest future events.

Sharing activities will create lifelong memories for both of you.  It will bring you together.  It will strengthen the relationship.  It can be a reminder when things go a “little south”.

Maybe we have Father’s Day backwards.  Rather than doing things for father; father should be doing things for their child(ren).  Just a thought.


Divorce Mediation: The needs of children

Divorce Mediation

Divorce Mediation; Helping your children get through it.

Divorce Mediation can assist parents help their children through divorce.  Much has been written about how divorce can have a negative impact on children.  I suspect we can all agree on this. Maybe it’s not so much the divorce that’s important.  It’s what happens after the divorce!  What can co-parents do to help children deal with the situation?  Divorce Mediation may help.  I would like to offer some ideas.

Children of divorce; Where can we start?

I think we can start with some “truths” about children.  Is is very important to understand one thing before you read further.  These are “guidelines”.  They are not absolute “truths”.  These are starting points from where you begin your journey with your child(ren).  Each child is their own person they will have their own strengths and weakness.  So, where do we start?

  1. Each child is unique.
  2. They will be upset.
  3. Children can survive divorce.
  4. How parents handle the divorce is critical.

What is important here is to understand is the importance of parents and co-parenting.  Children will deal with divorce/separation in their own way.  Being upset is natural.  Your child may be upset for a period of time.  Perhaps more than a year.  Patience is important.  How well the child handles divorce will depend on how well parents handle their divorce.

Divorce and children; What have we learned.

There is much research that supports the notion that children can be resilient.  Here are some things to keep in mind if you are divorcing/separating and have children.

  1. During divorce, children will feel many things: anger, rejection, surprise, unhappiness.  They NEED to be listened to.  They NEED to be encouraged to express themselves. If not to you, then to a professional.
  2. Children can feel isolation if their needs are not tended to.  When parents are too busy in arguments
  3. Expect your children’s behavior to change……..for a period of time.
  4. Keep your children out of the “middle”.  Your conflict involves the other parent…….not your child(ren).
  5. Keep negative comments about the other spouse away from children.
  6. Discuss and explain to your child(ren) about changes in their lives.

My main message to parents, and for the child(ren) for that matter is this.  The family unit is still there.  There is a mother, father, brothers and sisters.  The family exists.  It just looks a little different than before.  Therefore, it needs to function a little differently.  However, some things remain the same.  Children need to feel loved, secure, attached to the family unit.  Even if the unit is separated, on an emotional level the family is still there.

Dispute Mediation: Listening with Empathy

listen 4

DISPUTE MEDIATION: Part Three – What are the benefits of Empathic Listening during the mediation process?

Welcome! This is the third and final blog series about Empathic Listening.  The previous two blogs gave a general overview of skills and then a brief application of those skills.  With this final blog, I will outline benefits of empathic listening.  Benefits for you during a dispute mediation. Benefits to enhance your relationships in general.  As the above quote suggests.  Most people during difficult conversations spend time thinking about how they will respond.  Instead, people should be listening to what the other person is trying to tell them.

Remember, listening with empathy means that you want to “check up” on what you are hearing.  You want to check that you are understanding what is actually being said.  You are checking to confirm the point of view of the other person.  You do this by: paraphrasing, re-stating, clarifying or just being curious about what the other person is saying.  To borrow from Steven Covey; you want to “listen with your heart.”  

Why should I listen with empathy?

I think the question here is: What’s in it for me?  What’s the benefit?  Without being self-centered – these are good questions.  There are lots of “pay-offs” for improving your listening skills.  Especially when you find yourself in conflict.

  • Reduced misunderstandings:  Misunderstanding often leads to more conflict.  Think about it.  How many times have you become angry because you felt misunderstood?  What happens to the communication level?
  • Increased respect:  It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable!  It requires both parties to listen for understanding…….not for blaming.  It is very difficult for people to talk openly when they feel under attack.  When under attack people will start to defend.  When attacking and defending……..what’s happening to the issue(s)?… the understanding?………to the communication?
  • Demonstrated trust: Rather than just going through the motions – listening with the intent to understand demonstrates a willingness to trust.  Trying to understand shows that you are willing to trust and to be trusted. It may be difficult at first…….but…….once a level of trusting and trustworthiness is established, communication will increase.

So, what’s my point?

So, what’s the point of this series?  Empathic listening can be a valuable skill for those involved in a dispute mediation.  It can be valuable and helpful tool to reach a resolution to disputes.  Developing the skill to listen with empathy can help improve any relationship; family, personal or professional.  It only take time, knowledge and commitment.

Remember; when people find themselves in conflict, the usual response is to blame or to defend.  Preferring to listen with the intent to respond.  Next time you are faced with a conflict try to listen to understand.  Listen to understand the other point of view.  Listen to hear their “story”.   It really is a question of respect.  When someone feels respected and listened to….what happens to the conflict may surprise you!


I am a mediator in Medicine Hat.  Please contact me at 403-952-8752, or at