Mediation Services: Make “I” statements work for you.

Mediation Services
Make “I” statements work for you

Mediation Services: “I” Statements, not “You” Statements

The purpose of my mediation services is to help people find a way to resolve their issues.  Often I find that poor communication skills are issues.  How many times have you said statements like these?

“You don’t listen to a word I say.”

“I can’t do anything without you criticizing.”

“You don’t take any responsibility!”

Common enough phrases. Especially when emotions are running high.  What do all these statements share?  The focus of each statement is the other person – the word “you”.  By using the word “you”, the speaker sends a message of blaming, of accusing.  As a result, the receiver of these statements has little choice but to defend.  Emotions begin to increase.

As a result, the conversation is now focused on argument, on defend and attack.  NOT the real issue of concern.  Not only are these types of conversations pointless, they are exhausting and draining.  So what can be done?  Mediation services can help.

It’s not about “you” it’s about me (or I).

With conflicts it easy to spot emotions.  People can quite clearly express their anger, confusion, frustration etc.  But the important part that is missing from the conversation is “why” they are feeling this way.  What is causing this emotion?  If a person can not express why they are feeling a certain way – how can they expect others to understand? Without understanding, how can there be a reasonable resolution.  It is all connected.

What is an “I” statement

Before making an “I” statement there are tow important things to remember:

  1. Making an “I” statement involves taking a risk.  When expressing how you feel the expectation is that the other person will respond in a positive way.  I have found that the this happens in the vast majority of times.  Trust that this will happen for you as well.
  2. You need to know yourself.  You must be able to clearly identify your emotions as well as specific examples of what is causing these emotions.  Remember: you are not accusing the other person, you are explaining events.

Making the “I” statement.  Very simply, these are the four parts of an “I” statement.

  1. When (….objectively describe event) happens
  2. I feel (…..identify your emotion)
  3. I feel this way because (…..objectively describe why).
  4. I would rather (….describe another way of dealing with this event).

Take another look at these steps.  There is no blaming or accusing.  It encourages the positive rather than negative.  Emotions are identified but are not the focus.  Statements are objective not subjective.  It offers an invitation to find an option.

One last word about “I” statements.  Your emotions are yours.  They are valid.  This is how you feel.  That needs to be respected.

Dispute Mediation: Listening with Empathy

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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

Mediation Process: Listening Empathically

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EMPATHIC LISTENING: Part two – How can I listen with empathy during the mediation process?

Welcome, this is part two, of a three part series of blogs on Empathic Listening during the mediation process.  In the last blog I wrote in general terms to define what empathy is and why it is a valuable skill to the mediation process.  When conducting mediations, I find it a very useful tool.  It helps to keep the conversations civil, focused and purposeful.  We all want to find a helpful resolution to the conflict.

LISTENING or HEARING: What’s the difference?

Let’s start by finding out the difference between  “listening” and “hearing”.   How many times has a parent heard, “You’re not listening to me.”  In a workplace, how often do you hear, “They just don’t get it.”  During relationship conflicts, how frequently does someone say, “They don’t hear what I’m saying.”  What do these statement have in common?

What they have in common is that the person is “listening” but not “hearing”.  So, what’s the difference?

Clues that let you know you are hearing during the Mediation Process

When you are truly hearing someone, you will find that you are:

  •         curious about the other person
  •         setting aside your own opinions
  •         are paying attention to the other persons eyes, posture, gestures, and hands

Doing these allows you to be “in the moment” with your speaker.  You are in tune with everything that they want to tell you.  Not just their words, but their deepest values and beliefs, their inner emotions.  Things that are of utmost importance to them.  Things that they value.  This is Empathic Listening.


Just like any other skill; running, singing or anything else, listening with empathy requires learning skills and then practice.  Here are a couple skills that I have learned and practiced that can be effective in helping me really “hear” the other person(s).

1. Patience: Take your time, allow the other person to gather thoughts, to repeat themselves.  Let them guide the conversation.  Often, it is very difficult for people to reveal their true concerns.  Trust must be established.

2. Control your impulse to help:  Refrain from giving suggestions or opinions.  Remember, you need to be in the moment with the speaker.  That means you want to encourage them to speak.  They want to be heard: to tell their story.  Offering suggestions/opinions in not helpful.  Doing this will only push the speaker away from what really needs to be told

3. Be curious: Don’t be satisfies with what you may have just heard.  It is likely that the speaker has more to say.  Encourage more conversation.  Ask for more information, more detail, more explanation.  Remember you are after their inner most values and beliefs.  That takes conversation.

4. Silence can be good:  In my experience, most people do not reveal everything of importance very quickly.  Conflicts can be very confusing, there can be a lot going on.  It may take a bit of time for the speaker to organize thoughts, remember events or it can be just be difficult to reveal issues.  Be silent – time does not have to be filled completely with conversation.  Being quiet allows for the speaker to organize their thoughts, it can encourage the speaker to guide the conversation to what is important to them.


During the mediation process, asking a good question that encourages a full answer is critical to “hearing” the speaker.  Another skill that can be learned and developed through practice.  Remember, if you are going to be “in the moment” with the person, they need to talk, in order to talk and converse – you need to ask a good question.  Here are some good phrases that encourage conversation:

1. You sound confused (or any other emotion).

2. Help me understand.  When you said…….

3. I’m confused about….

4. You don’t have to answer this right now, but think about…..

5. So you think that…..

The most important point of these stems is that at no point has the word “I” been used.  The conversation is not about me….it’s about the other person.  By using the word “you”, the focus of the conversation is placed on the speaker.  Right where it should be.

The mediation process can be a successful option to litigation.  Skillful use of Empathic Listening can really help move the process towards resolution!

– Miles

For information contact me, today: (403) 952-8752.

 I am a mediator located in Medicine Hat, Alberta.