The Paradoxical Theory of Change says: That change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not.

Being a mediator means serving as a neutral facilitator for challenging conversations.

When I completed my first mediation training in 1990, I used the mediation mindset to change the tone and tenor of negotiations that I was performing in the litigation setting. As I was often working with families, I wanted to focus on what was important to them rather than what was important to a stranger in a black robe. The conversations turned from being strategic legal conversations to problem-solving sessions.

That is why mediation can be used in a variety of situations beyond a legal setting. Financial planners may use mediation to help a couple understand where each other is coming from, and to formulate a plan that makes sense and which they can both agree to, for their own reasons. Mediation can be used in employment and malpractice situations or commercial disputes to assist each party in getting their story heard – what happened, how it will impact them going forward, and what they want out of the situation.

In any conflict, I work first to help each party understand him or herself. Once each party has a good idea of where they are coming from themselves, I invite each to understand where the other is coming from. This is not to say the parties must agree with each other. Once this understanding is established, we begin to first brainstorm and then evaluate options based on what each party says is important to them, working back and forth toward an agreement.

An agreement happens when we reach a set of terms that each party can agree to based on their own story and what’s important to them, without having to agree on the other party’s story or what’s important to the other party.

When I work as a mediator with people in conflict, I work towards understanding each side without trying to move them close to each other in any way. By understanding their own situation through the help of the mediator, the parties are more likely to move toward a settlement of their own accord because they no longer have to fight just to be understood.

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