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How to prepare for family mediation

Bringing the best version of yourself to mediation

A ,man doing research on his laptop
A man thinking and preparing for mediation

Family Mediation works best when all involved – mediators and participants – bring the best version of themselves to the mediation sessions. So, in this article, I shall share a few thoughts about how you can both bring the best version of you to mediation.

What is the best version of you?

A woman writing in a notepad
Taking time to prepare for your mediation meeting

1. The best version of you takes personal responsibility

Taking ownership of your feelings and not trying to blame others for them. It’s when you say ‘I become upset and angry when this or that happens’ rather than ‘You make me angry when you do this’. It’s when you then go on to say ‘I would like us to think together about solutions’ rather than ‘It’s your problem, so it’s up to you to change…’ Taking responsibility could also be about acknowledging your own mistakes… When we take personal responsibility, our statements usually start with ‘I…’ rather than ‘You…’

2. The best version of you Is open.

It involves stepping past your negative feelings about each other. It also involves recognising that they may have negative feelings about you, and being open to the possibility that you may need to change. It involves you both being open about your needs – the (sometimes different) things that you each value most and that are most important to you and it involves listening attentively to each other.

3. The best version of you Is creative.

The creative version of each of you will be:

  • Clear – making sure that you are understood by each other;

  • Curious – making sure that you understand each other; and

  • Collaborative - working together and looking for outcomes that work for each other as well as you;

  • It will offer ideas rather than ultimatums, and it will be flexible – not dismissing each other’s suggestions out of hand.

  • And finally the creative version of you will convey respect towards each other and create trust in each other.

What might stop you bringing the best version of you to mediation?

  • We have all evolved ‘keep me safe’ systems: you will be familiar with the fight or flight response when something important to us is threatened. You will also both probably have become suspicious of the other’s motives and uncomfortable about making yourself vulnerable – this is natural and almost universal – it’s there to protect us and help us to avoid risks of harm.

  • Simple fear might stop you bringing the best version of yourself to mediation. Past experiences may make you reluctant to allow yourself to be at all vulnerable. .

  • Sometimes, past hurts may make you defensive. You might expect each other to attack you and you want to build defences – but those defences block creativity.

Pause for a moment and realise that these things affect both of you - you will both probably be feeling under threat, suspicious, fearful and defensive.

Then remember that It’s part of the mediator’s task to:

  • keep you both safe

  • to help you both to be the best version of yourselves in your mediation sessions and

  • to help as you try to take personal responsibility and to be open and creative.

The Talking Revolution - Book Front Cover
The Talking Revolution: How Creative Conversation Can Change the World

Personal Responsibility, Openness and Creativity are described by Peter Osborn and Eddy Canfor-Dumas as the ‘Three Principles of Creative Conversation’ in their book: The Talking Revolution. If you would like to know more about the principles and practices of creative communication, you may wish to read the book or listen to the audio version.

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