Very little has been written to date about an intriguing and ‘new’ use of mediation in the family setting. Most people have heard about divorce mediation, which gives divorcing couples the opportunity to reach agreements about their property, parenting and support without having to go through a litigated (contested) divorce. The mediator, who is neutral, facilitates the conversations the couple needs to have, and helps them brainstorm options – enabling them to come up with better, win-win solutions for themselves and their children.
In my last blog article, I discussed the role of Active Listening in conflict resolution. The importance of Active Listening cannot be overstated. It is only when both people listen in this way that they can begin shifting from their hard positions to more constructive ground where they are able to meet their own needs as well as those of the other person.
The way you listen – or do not listen – to someone directly impacts the outcome of your conversation with that person, especially if your points of view are divergent. There are two levels of listening that take place when you are in conversation with another person.
There are two principal aspects to the role a mediator plays when helping couples resolve their issues during mediation. One relates to the substance and the other has to do with the process itself. Substance refers to the issues that must be addressed and resolved when a couple is separating or divorcing. Process relates to the ground rules that are established, and then how the conversations take place and move along, ultimately to resolution. Each is equally important, in its own right. Two earlier blog articles (Issues & Additional Issues in Divorce Mediations) described the specific issues that need to be discussed in divorce mediation.
Many issues come up in divorce mediation, but one of the most challenging for the mediator and the couple is when there appears to be a power imbalance. There are two areas where this issue comes up most frequently: one is with financial matters and the other is with intimidating and aggressive behavior by one by the parties.