Some time ago, I concluded a mediation involving three parties in a commercial matter with a brainstorming session to devise a checklist for future conduct between them. We were adjourning to enable the parties to work on a plan to seek finance for an option which had arisen in the mediation as the preferred solution to the impasse they faced. Communications had been tense for months and trust had been lost among key players. The matter had become personalised to the extent that it was difficult for them to view matters objectively. Apparently trivial matters dominated discussions.

Here is what I said to them:

You identified the following criteria for conduct of communications going forward; I suggest you each commit to these and hold each other accountable in a light touch way:

  • Keep in mind the common purpose of maximising value for all and achieving a successful outcome
  • Maintain communication: two way, take the initiative, engage
  • Be respectful of others whatever you may think of them; I remind you of the Commitment to Respectful Dialogue to which I have referred previously
  • Listen before speaking
  • Use questions to explore and understand more, rather than merely asserting
  • Try to see things from the other person’s perspective: get in their shoes: what pressures are they under? How does the world look to them? What do they need? How can I help them?

I reassured them that I remained available at any time to talk on the phone with individuals or groups as may be helpful, or to respond to email correspondence, and that I would make myself available for further meetings should the occasion arise when that would help to deal with an impasse or any other problem which might arise. This additional offer was well received and provided a safe space to go in what would remain a challenging matter to resolve overall. We agreed to meet again in a couple of months to take stock.

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