When a couple decide to separate there can be a huge range of emotions that each has to deal with following that separation. When the couple start mediation this can make it difficult to hear each other. How often has somebody started a sentence with something that incenses you so much that you don’t listen to the next bit they say because you are too busy thinking about what you’re going to say next?
This can happen in the mediation room. For the participants in mediation they feel stressed and emotional – despite the mediator’s best efforts to put them at their ease. “Fight or flight” is an involuntary human reaction that most people are familiar with. Adrenaline may surge through you because you feel that what is being said is not just, fair or reasonable. Well actually the first bit of what is said because you didn’t hear anything after your ex-partner said you were difficult to talk to.
As well as facilitating discussions the role of the mediator is also to facilitate listening. This may sound a bit odd because you are perfectly capable of listening without help. But are you hearing what is being said? It is difficult to remain calm enough to take in everything that is being said when you feel you are being criticised. You want to criticise back again or at least explain yourself.
The mediator will use a variety of techniques to help the parties in mediation hear each other. They may record points that are discussed on the flip chart. You might not have heard what was said but if you look at it on the flip chart and read it back then you may realise the point that was being made was not what you had thought. The mediator may also emphasise points that have been said to ensure that each participant has properly heard what has been said. This is called amplified listening.
If both parties can properly hear each other then this can greatly improve communication which can then enable the participants to explore options and to discuss making their own arrangements. No other method of dispute resolution focuses on listening and the importance of it in quite the same way, which is one of the things that makes mediation such a powerful tool.