Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
We at CDC Integrated Services wish to take a moment to thank everyone who chose us to aid them with the issues brought to us during the past year. We are grateful for your business and wish all of our clients a safe and peaceful new year.
Peace and Goodwill to all.
From Jerry Cooper and the CDCI team
Much of what I do as a mediator involves disputes between companies, employee disputes, intra and inter-organizational disputes, and disputes between individuals. I have mediated disputes between individuals and companies often vendors they did business with. When it comes to divorce mediation, I turn down most of those requests such that this type of mediation is less than 15% of my work.
It therefore something of a surprise that I was approached last year to mediate a dispute involving a blended family, and from that experience I have since been approached to assist in several other disputes, all of which involve disputes within a blended family environment.
Unlike divorce mediation where the mediator is tasked with assisting couples bring to closure a relationship which was destroyed and deal with the aftermath and its impact on children, the dynamics of blended families is underpinned by hope. Here are people trying to build a new family structure for themselves and the children they now share with their former partners. The families I have assisted want very much for their new family structure to work, for their children to be happy and to feel safe in the new environment.
I think what I enjoy best about this new aspect of my practice is how willing the parents are to do everything they can to make things work for the children. I do not diminish the obstacles the parents face in a blended family and I have made it clear to the parents that solving the more immediate issues is not the end of their journey. The children especially need a way of voicing their concerns and fears, and they need to do that with the support of a trained professional. But what is really rewarding is the pleasure and sense of accomplishment the new parents gain by climbing out from under the anger, frustration, and uncertainty about doing the wrong thing. The biggest thing they have to learn is that the best solutions begin with small steps. The children cannot be expected to immediately love the new mother or the new father, but it is a major step forward if the children like being around the new parent.
I have treaded very carefully in this new environment, and so far the feedback has been positive.
Good negotiators do not negotiate extemporaneously, but almost always work from a script or plan. Like moves a chess player makes, negotiators execute a series of actions designed to overcome differences between parties in dispute and thereby bring an end to the conflict. Each move or action in a negotiation is structured in a manner that encourages the parties to discuss, and to ultimately select alternative outcomes consistent with the needs and requirements of the parties.
Mediation is much like negotiation in the sense that mediators also initiate actions. The key difference is that in a mediation the actions are based on a series of questions and comments constructed in a way that encourage the disputing parties to select positive outcomes, which in turn allow the parties to step back from entrenched positions, and explore alternatives. In this environment the mediator is not the negotiator and does not drive the conversation in a particular direction or toward a particular goal. While he or she may be an experienced negotiator, and may used techniques common in negotiation, the mediator should only use those techniques sparingly as a means of facilitating and fostering dialogue between the disputing parties.
In a negotiation, the negotiator is an integral part of the problem solving process, and is key to how the actions and moves play out between the parties. It is a problem solving dynamic that attempts to dismantle/disarm previously intractable concerns, and compromises are reached in stages as each aspect of the dispute is broken down and resolved.
Where a mediation is clearly different is that here the parties in dispute negotiate with each other, and the mediator is not a direct participant in the negotiations. His or her role is to facilitate the negotiators in their efforts to resolve the dispute, and should only intervene in the process for specific reasons. Some of those reasons include establishing a pause to collect data/clarify information, so that the parties can assess where they are at and document any agreements reached, to gain entry at a point the parties are approaching impasse, assist in assessing options, promote dialogue over argument, and verify each parties understanding of remaining actions. It must be emphasized that it is the mediators responsibility to control the environment, that responsibility must be executed with a light touch.