After a lifetime of playing, coaching and refereeing, I have come to the conclusion that sports psychology can be applied to mediation. Both require preparation, discipline and patience. Your mind needs to be calm, mindful, balanced and you shouldn’t take things too personally. During mediation, as with sport, the players experience a range of emotions. From frustration, sadness, anger and bitterness to relief, joy, happiness, ecstasy and peace of mind.
I recently conducted a mediation between two parties who were both very frustrated, angry and bitter. Their goal was to “win at mediation” at any cost because each of them was convinced they were right. They had not spoken for several years. The conflict was having a detrimental affect on the couple’s four children. The oldest was self-harming and two of the others were having mental health issues.
I prepared for the mediation as if it were a sporting event. I held several pre-mediation telephone conversations and discussed the ultimate goal and how to get there. After each of these sessions, I gave the parties a task to perform for the next one. One of the tasks was having the parties visualise what resolution would look like and also what was the other person’s goal. After 3 sessions, we met for mediation.
That morning I took a walk and thought about the process I would undertake during the mediation. I ran through the game plan to ensure I was impartial and to focus on how I was going to score a mutually acceptable goal. I made sure I was calm and in control.
The mediation was a complete success. Every issue that the parties discussed was resolved. Among other things, they agreed to start to communicate about the children and to work together on a health plan for each of them. That evening, they were going to take the children out for a meal and demonstrate their ability to work together as co-parents.
Afterwards they were both very grateful and one sent me a note saying how wonderful the process had been, thanking me for being fair, impartial and attuned to the parties’ emotions and needs.
I felt like I’d won the Super Bowl! I was really happy with my performance and the result was a win! In sport, not everyone wins, but with mediation that’s perfectly possible most of the time……