Thanks, Nina, for your commentary and reflections. It's a great resource to engender thoughtful discussions and analysis of what mediation is all about. It certainly makes you think whether you agree or disagree with this approach.
This is my take on the video:I view this video through the lens of the science of complexity. Haynes, Michael and Debbie, in full discussion, is an example of a complex adaptive system which is an unpredictable dynamic network of interactions. It requires interaction rather than analysis and a multi-hypothesis approach.Using the Cynefin framework (Dave Snowden) the approach is to probe, sense and respond to the interaction. If things are going well, you encourage if they are going badly, you dampen it.Haynes does this when Michael gets angry and says maybe the children should stay with him all the time. Haynes dampens it by asking the names and ages of the children and then normalises it by saying it's difficult when people separate.The transformative moment in the mediation occurred at 18 minutes 30 seconds when Debbie said that 'Michael is a good father'. Haynes held a space and the silence (silence is an intervention) and for the first time they talked to each other. This was the real solution and the outcome of the mediation not the alternate living arrangements agreed at the end which was a way of getting them to try something different before the next session. The solution emerges out of the interaction.
Australian author and academic Stephanie Charlesworth who worked with John Haynes in the 1990s said of him:
'John Haynes maintains that the professional task of the mediator is to focus on the conversation between the parties. He explores the client's world through their own eyes, as far as it is relevant to the dispute'.
'The focus is not on changing attitudes to problems, making them better people in themselves or worthy members of the community but simply to help them make decisions that are mutually satisfactory and workable about matters in dispute.'
Charlesworth noted that Haynes's ideas were constantly evolving. She stated:
"For many years I thought Haynes was a gifted, even brilliant practitioner but that his theory, (I see a model as an operational view of the theory), was basically simple. I now see it has coherent, sophisticated, highly adaptable if perhaps as yet in complete."
John Haynes approach is based on the principle that you take the parties as you find them not as you would like them to be. If the parties can jointly solve the problem, it can have a therapeutic effect on each of them and their relationship, but it should not be promoted as having therapeutic benefits per se. It is just helping them get through an impasse. Anything else that comes out of it is just an added bonus.
The way I would express it is the following quote from my recent mediate.com paper:
"I have no idea what I will do when I go to mediate a matter. After 30 years of mediation practice the only thing I know is that the parties 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 am 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.
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."
See The Art of the Simple in Mediation - Mediate.com
This is the link to the John Haynes Michael and Debbie U-tube mediation: https://youtu.be/l5mBchRroQI I would encourage you to look at it with an open mind.
Thank you Greg for posting the video of Dr Haynes in action and to Nina for your thoughtful comments in response. I found it interesting to observe Dr Haynes' line of questioning and reflect upon how his highly effective technique has evolved into the more party-led approach described by Nina and adopted by the National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS). The difference between the two approaches seems to go to the very heart of what we aim to achieve as mediators. Which is more important - to achieve resolution or to empower parties to find their own path through the issues in contention? If it is the former, then Dr Haynes' approach – solution-focussed questioning under tightly controlled conditions – has much to recommend it, especially considering his very skilful and astute framing of questions. On the other hand, when the solution is effectively achieved by the mediator rather than the parties themselves, what has been lost? As Nina points out, Michael and Debbie will be communicating with each other for at least 13 more years. Dr Haynes' approach, as effective as it was in reaching a solution, represented a missed opportunity for them to work out for themselves how to do that. Why does it matter? Perhaps I could put it like this (with apologies to Lao Tzu): if you give a couple a solution, you fix one problem. If you help them find their own solution, you empower them for life. As a mediator, I, myself waited a long time for that particular penny to drop.
I feel we are having one of those frustrating definitional debates.
How do you define empowerment and what is good empowerment and what is bad empowerment?
If we start with first principles, then we start with the proposition that people stuck in intransient conflict are, by definition, disempowered.
They choose mediation over litigation or therapy because they want to be involved in the process of finding a way out of it, they want to be able to sign off on the outcome and they want someone, the mediator, to help guide them through it.
They want to find a solution or a pathway moving forward as a transition into a re-empowered state. The outcome is central to the re-empowering issue.
My argument is that empowerment has to be within the context of where Michael and Debbie are now which is in a heightened conflictual state. Haynes honors them by sitting in their uncomfortable state and saying it's okay. He does not start where he would like them to eventually get to. He has the confidence that where they will eventually get to will emerge unbidden from the encounter.
Michael and Debbie have been separated for four weeks and are sniping with each other right from the start. Haynes has to engage with them at that level. The Aikido principle.
This initial entry point into conflict can be personally very uncomfortable for mediators. It freaks out lawyers who keep the parties apart and can be very emotionally difficult for people who are conflict averse, many of whom are attracted to the mediation profession.
Haynes shows that with a confident and caring attitude that you can sit with people in high conflict and work with them. He honors them by sitting with them in their distress. This is the mediator's act of empowerment and is at the heart of what it takes to be a mediator.
It is messy and a bit all over the place but as long as it is moving forward then that's okay. By the end of this first session, Michael and Debbie now have a constructive way forward although they will still have to do the hard work over a number of sessions.
If you look at the video from a static point of view you can pick out phrases here and there and say good or bad. But life, like a river, keeps flowing. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: ''No person stands in the same river twice for it is not the same person nor the same river'. No two mediations are the same. Nothing is repeated in life and in mediation and there is no one-way or right way to mediate. There is no universal solution.
A mediation session is more than the sum of the parts. It's all about the flow. Haynes kept the flow going and this fluid process has given Michael and Debbie a chance over time to re-empower themselves. They have to do the re-empowering not the mediator.
Hi there interested fellow mediators,I'm attaching chapter 4 in John Haynes' book 'Mediating Divorce' (1989) that is now out of print.This chapter pertains to this video that Greg kindly posted (this is a rare video, so thank you thank you thank you!). The chapter includes John Haynes' notes on this session. I feel this gives this great and sadly deceased mediator some chance to explain what he is doing.A note regarding copyright: You can still find this book second hand, but it is difficult to come by and has not been re-printed. I therefore feel that for educational purposes sharing a portion of this book is fine.best regards from CanberraPeter
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