Skip to content

Imagery in Mediation II: The Driver’s Seat.

July 12, 2013

As I wrote in yesterday’s piece (see,

To help participants in mediation grasp difficult concepts, I like to use verbal imagery.

In my opening remarks, I often describe concrete examples of common occurrences to which the participants can relate, and I refer back to these examples later in the process, to keep them on track.

In this way, the participants can look to a particular mental picture, or be reminded of it, to anchor their focus on resolution.

Here is another image I use regularly, this one to illuminate the difficult concept of disengaging from past problems and finding a way to move on in life.

As we all know, by the time people come to mediation, the dispute that brought them there has been festering for them, becoming more monumental in their thoughts day and night, so all consuming that they practically talk of nothing else.

The litigation process itself magnifies those past problems – the lawyers are trained to see things chronologically and, in order to prepare their cases, to build on what happened, or should have happened, and when.

But to find resolution and to move on, disputants must disengage from the past and focus on the future.

It is a most difficult shift in perspective.

I ask people to imagine themselves in the driver’s seat of a car.  They have two places to look.

They can peer into the rear view mirror where all of the issues of the past can be seen.

Or they can look out the front windshield and see what is ahead of them.

If they continue to stare into the rear view mirror, they cannot and will not see where they are going, which could be disastrous, as in heading straight over a cliff (representing the risks, costs, and dangers of litigation).

Or they can look out the front windshield and find the safer path which avoids the cliff and leads to resolution, peace,  reconciliation, recompense,  forgiveness, or whatever it takes – financially and/or emotionally – to make the settlement.

As do most people caught up in the dispute, most participants in mediation return one or more times during the session(s)  to what they believe went wrong, and reignite their anger or other emotions that block progress.

That is when I remind them that they are again looking in the rear view mirror and not out ahead of them, which helps them shift focus back to the dispute resolution process and hopefully to settlement.


David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California.  For further information, please go to .


From → Mediation

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: