Catharsis and the Attentive Ear
In order for mediations to succeed, the people involved often need a safe place to vent. If the matter settles, they will never have another place to tell their story and this may be their only chance. So it is often very important to allow a time for catharsis. Only afterwards will the person be ready to listen, learn and understand his or her opponent, to manage his or her own emotions, to find common ground, and to resolve the matter in a fashion tolerable to both.
For this to happen, the mediator must listen with an attentive ear. With active listening skills, the mediator can repeat, acknowledge and confirm to the speaker his or her understanding of the person’s plight. With patience, the mediator can thereupon earn the trust of the distressed disputant. Thereafter, the mediator may be able to re-frame the party’s sentiments into a more productive communication for use in the mediation.
Attorneys involved can help their clients by allowing time for this catharsis to occur. Although some see this as unproductive time, many completely understand the need for the client’s catharsis and the mediator’s attentive ear which will facilitate it. Attorneys and their clients can discuss this ingredient beforehand while preparing for the mediation, to make the most of the opportunity in mediation when it occurs.