Open Forum

  • 1.  I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 02-05-2022 03:47 PM

    I have no idea what I will do when I go to mediate a matter. After 30 years of practice the only thing I know is that the parties are stuck and if they have lawyers, the lawyers are stuck.

     I don't have a toolbox of skills, insightful questions, or any mediation theory that I bring to the room. I have no desire to change people, to teach cooperation or to understand their emotions or their so-called bias. I don't look for patterns, create hypotheses and I don't try to predict or control what will happen.

     As a mediator, I'm no hero. I don't seek to help, find a solution or solve the parties' problem.  I am a blank canvas. I have no answers.

     The only thing I bring to the mediation is the following question- "What is going on here"?  I pinched this phrase from the economists John Kay and Mervyn King's book "Radical Uncertainty".

     Mediation is just a venue, a room. It's where people get close to each other. Simple.

     I just help get the interaction going and then get out of the way. Things happen during interactions. Something will emerge. I improvise. It's a multi-dimensional experience. It's noisy, messy and imperfect but they are the ingredients for change. 

     This human interaction does pose a cultural challenge for the dehumanised legal profession. 

     Drawing from the language of Sonia Blignaut*, I keep the boundaries between the parties not clearly defined. I hold the parties' positions lightly and allow an exchange across those boundaries. It allows unpredictable and novel changes to emerge. It is the opposite of the command-and-control evaluative mediator stance.

     It is really just about flow - having the confidence of going with the flow (Adrian Bejan's Constructal law).

     The thing about flow is it has to be easy. I see my role as a mediator is to help them make it easy. I do this by humanising the parties and their positions through my own human connection both individually and jointly. I treat the conflict lightly and with confidence that they can settle. I am like a sports coach telling the team- come on guys you can do this.

     It's not that I am inactive. I hold the space in the room and apply Angela Merkel's dictum of being like a tight rope walker, only thinking about the next step. I look for what is possible (Stuart Kauffman's The Adjacent Possible) and allow something unexpected to emerge (Murray Gell Mann).

     Keeping it light and simple is the antidote to the infinite complexity of the dispute and the extraordinary amount of energy required to sustain it.

    I am just a simple mediator.

     *  Seven implications of seeing organisations as complex systems | by Sonia Blignaut | Agile & Change.

    Greg Rooney
    Bridgewater SA

  • 2.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 03-05-2022 09:21 AM
    Greg,  I love what you have written, it really resonates for me!  I think a good mediator needs to be good with chaos, as you say 'the confidence to to go with the flow', the tightrope walker who just focuses on the step ahead.  You are not and never have been a 'simple mediator' and this piece demonstrates that.  Thank you so much for sharing.  I would love to hear more on one of your Mediation tours to Tuscany!

    Nina Harding
    Senior Mediator
    Nina Harding Mediation Services Pty Ltd

  • 3.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 04-05-2022 10:25 AM
    Great thoughts Greg, and a good guide!
    warm regards

    Geri Ettinger
    Geri Ettinger, Mediator
    Double Bay NSW
    0414 585 024

  • 4.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 04-05-2022 10:38 AM
    Agree with all your great comments.  Keen to be in Tuscany too.  Greg, your article is having a great impact. It's been relevant to the theme we've been discussing at the Dispute Resolution Conference (online) this morning in NZ.

    Jessica Carter
    Senior Mediator
    Asia-Pacific Mediation
    Auckland NZ
    +64 21 899 444

  • 5.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 03-05-2022 12:11 PM
    Thanks for this piece. I read it while I was on the train heading to a mediation. It served to remind me not to plan too much in advance. That flow is so important. You never know what is going to come out and therefore planning ahead is difficult. 
    Also hoping to get to Tuscany next year!
    Colin Kaeser
    Kaeser Mediated Solutions

    Colin Kaeser
    Kaeser Mediated Solutions
    Level 1, 162 Grand Boulevard WA

  • 6.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 04-05-2022 04:49 PM
    Beautiful, and predictably so. Thank you.

    Christopher Boyle

  • 7.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 03-05-2022 12:14 PM
    Well that just about sums it up! Never truer words spoken.

    Alana Eslick
    Also a Simple Mediator!

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 8.  RE: I am just a simple mediator

    Posted 05-05-2022 06:26 AM
    Such wisdom Greg and an excellent discussion too. Roll on the opportunity for our mediation community to get together for more of the same discourse/ korero.
    Ngā mihi nui
    Anna Quinn
    Trainer/Supervisor/Conflict Restoration Consultant

    Anna Quinn
    Mediator / ADR Consultant
    Anna Quinn & Associates Ltd
    Herne Bay
    021 360 074