What Makes Mediation Work?

It's a question of attitude, isn't it? If a couple comes to mediation with the attitude that it's either 'my way or the highway', they are not going to succeed in reaching their alleged goals. So why would anyone sabotage the process that seeks to get them toward their goals?

Partly, it's fear. Call it fear of flying, because in mediation each participant takes responsibility for their own actions, offers, and acceptances. If it turns out you choose the wrong action, or accept a proposal that doesn't work out, you really have no one to blame but yourself.

I've met a number of people who just couldn't handle mediation, because they were terrified of taking responsibility for making decisions in the divorce process. Some actively sought to end the session and return to court, because it felt safer to hide in the decisions of a judge. If something didn't turn out the way they wanted it to, they could toss the blame onto the court and leave themselves blameless. "Not my fault! I didn't want that. The court ordered it!"

It's strange they would feel that way, because you're never forced to decide anything in mediation. You can ask for time to consult a lawyer or your clergy member, or even a Ouija board. You can request that everyone meet again after a week or so, while you mull over what offers are on the table and what new proposals you might come up with yourself. Or you can stop the mediation if you genuinely feel the process is not helping.

It seems more likely such people either have not yet reached or reject the responsibilities of adulthood. But the majority of people choosing mediation are indeed grownups and can make decisions. They realize that they can negotiate safely and gain concessions from their exes they would not be able to realize in court, at the same time maintaining a civil attitude. How freeing!

So don't be like Judith's clients in the cartoon above. Don't come into mediation with your backs already figuratively turned on the process. Be open, be brave, be bold, and be confident. Your mediator is there to make the process work. Have trust.

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." --Winston S Churchill


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