Courage in Mediation
With some regularity, I mediate disputes among family members. These are not family law cases, but usually real property and/or business disputes within families.
I can think of one recently where a parent was suing two adult children over the family business.
I can think of another, also recently, where an unmarried couple was trying to sort out the ownership of their family residence.
In each of these cases, I saw courage beyond measure among the participants.
In each, the family members asked if they could speak to one another, without their attorneys, but with me in attendance … to keep the peace I suppose.
The attorneys were more than brave to allow such a conversation to occur at all.
The family members showed the most courage in these private conversations — to be vulnerable, to open themselves to a heart to heart exchange, to develop meaning and understanding, and to learn more about one another and about themselves concerning the conflict.
These private caucuses sans lawyers are rare. They may or may not resolve the conflict then and there. But they can be amazingly productive when they occur.
In both of the above instances, as mediator I took a back seat to their conversation. I allowed the harsh tones to fill the room at first, the silence next, and the quiet quavering phrases finally, which revealed deeply felt emotions and the honesty within them. I saw the anguish, the resentment, and later the understanding or resolve that appeared on their faces.
In both instances, late in the conversation and only with their invitation to speak, I re-framed their statements to one another, only to clarify their points to one another. Once I made a suggestion that allowed each to save face and find an accord if they could.
They were brave to speak with one another, at all, privately and from the heart; their attorneys were braver to allow it; and it was courageous of everyone to allow me to eavesdrop and at the right time to help.
Finally, it was amazing to see the transformation that occurred in their communication which led to deeper understanding and revealed the possibility that these family members actually could find their own solutions to the problems facing them.