How to effectively problem-solve in mediation- The Top Down approach

Top.Down.The ‘Top-down approach’ to problem-solving, in mediation

This approach started to develop, in my mind and on paper, when I read; Conflicts- a better way to resolve them- Edward De Bono.

Mediation is an outcome focused process so, logically, begin with the ‘desired outcome’ in mind.

If the desired outcome, in process terms, is an agreement in mediation, a key question becomes, ‘what needs to happen to achieve an agreement in mediation? And, in what order?’

Having said this, effective problem solving is both a linear and non-linear (lateral) exercise so, although I set out my 7 stages below, the process of problem solving in mediation might involve moving backwards and forwards between these stages, depending on which stages require more work, at any particular stage of the process.

To start with, the problem-solvers need to be clear about what they wish to achieve and they may need from the mediator, to clarify this. Often the best that can be expected, at the start of the process anyway, is a clarity about the important aspects of the outcome they are each hoping to achieve.

In other words, the things of most importance to each of them, their values and interests (‘the ingredients of the cake they are about to start baking together, without pre-judging what the baked cake will look or taste like’).

So, beginning with the final exchange of things of value, creating the agreement/outcome that is and feels fair enough to each person ;

1.     There needs to be an exchange of things of value (reciprocity of interests/needs- emotional, psycho, practical) so that the mediated outcome feels and is good enough/fair enough for each person, from their different perspectives and in law (where this is an important aspect of the outcome).

2.     In order to identify the things of value which each person needs, each person must be willing and able to explore different perspectives, ideas, opinions, positions ( both positive and negative drivers), at a psychological, emotional and practical level.

3.     In order to be feel willing and be able to explore different perspectives people need to be willing and able to understand (and feel understood), at an emotional, psychological and practical level, (the positive and negative drivers), from a variety of perspectives.

4.     To understand and be understood, people need to be willing and able to listen to each other and respond appropriately, at a cognitively (and ideally, emotionally) empathic level.

5.     In order to be willing and able to listen, at this kind of level, people need to be clear about their motivations, their ‘why’

6.     In order to be motivated enough to listen at this kind of level, people need to be willing and able to manage and self-regulate the tendency to react in a defensive way, when feeling challenged or threatened, by what they are perceiving- self-restraint.

7.     In order to be willing and able to manage and self-regulate this tendency, people need to be in touch with and ulitise a variety of personal resources such as resilience, self-discipline, patience, tolerance, self-awareness, open-mindedness…..

In summary, in order to reach agreements/outcomes, together in mediation, each person in mediation needs to be motivated, empowered and supported to utilise the appropriate personal resources they need at each of the above levels to do what is necessary.

Each person and anyone helping them (in this case, the mediator) need to develop the personal skills to help them work with each of these 7 levels, in order to achieve a successful outcome.

John E Hind – Mediator. FMCA. CMC. NLP

How to effectively problem-solve in mediation- The Top Down approach
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