misfit nut

This blog post is dedicated to my current basic mediation class.  I have realized over the past few weeks why I like to teach…it keeps me fresh and gives me the opportunity to remember why I love this work so much.

This morning I was listening to a story on “This American Life” on NPR.  Here is a link to the program This American Life.  The story that touched me this morning was Act One – ICH…BIN…EIN…MOPHEAD.  In the story Alex Blumberg searches for and finds a woman who was his babysitter when he was nine years of age.

Listening to the story made me think about the clients who come into my office and how what I see of them is a snapshot of their life, a snapshot of who they really are.  This realization reminds me why is it so important that mediators withhold judgement about parties they are working with as well as resist the urge to tell the parties what they “think” they should do to resolve their dispute.  We see and work with parties for a blip of time in their life, how could we ever have any idea of what is best for them?  Our job and obligation to the parties is to support and encourage them, not take over for them.

I pride myself in having the skills to assist parties in looking at issues and disputes from different frames of reference in an attempt to help them have an insight that will help to resolve the issue or dispute.  Taking over for them is not a mediators role, if they need someone to take over for them, the venues are available (attorney recommendations, court, special masters etc..)  Mediation is an alternative to the “taking over” that will happen if the parties are unable to resolve their own issue or dispute.

I will admit their are times I am tempted to say to the parties “look, the resolution is simple, you do this and you do that, issue/dispute resolved.”  Sometimes the parties even ask me “what should we do?”  “what would you do?”  In those moments I am tempted to tell them what I think….. but I remind myself, I am a blip in their life experience, what do I have to tell them?  All I have is my life experience and my experience is not their experience, so I know what would work for me is not guaranteed to work for them… my job is to help them discover their own solutions, not to influence their decisions/solutions.  I am only seeing and experiencing a snapshot, a blip, and that has to be respected and honored.