Mediation as a Bridge—Challenge and Hope

Nov 18, 2021

Each year, on average, I participate in 40-60 hours of continuing education programs, which include seminars, workshops and conferences focused on mediation practice.

I find these learning experiences to be enriching, as there is encouragement to expand the tools and strategies mediators can bring to helping others. At the end of each event, I consider what I can take from what I’ve learned to help me think more carefully about what I do as a mediator and as a financial neutral and how I can be a better version of myself, professionally.

The most recent workshop I attended was particularly thought provoking, as it gave me a new way of looking at conflict—its causes and the negative behaviors associated with it. At root, we experience conflict because something that matters to us is being challenged. A natural reaction is defensive behavior. At worst, conflict is a cycle of such behavior that creates an impenetrable wall.

As I think about how this applies to my work, I see that the divorce experience poses a challenge to both spouses. Divorce often affects much of what matters to you—your relationship to your children, your financial stability, your self-image in the wake of your failed marriage, just to name a few. These challenges, also described as threats, can create fear, anger and negative behavior.

From this place of validation of what is being experienced in the midst of conflict, we expand the discussion to one of hope. Most simply, I ask you to think about what can be better in the future if you and your spouse use mediation to have a productive conversation about what concerns you both and what the options are to create that better future.

As a mediator, I offer the opportunity to explore these challenges, to help each of you acknowledge them, to ask about these concerns in a way that addresses the fundamental question about what matters to you most. From this place of validation of what is being experienced in the midst of conflict, we expand the discussion to one of hope. Most simply, I ask you to think about what can be better in the future if you and your spouse use mediation to have a productive conversation about what concerns you both and what the options are to create that better future.

I’ve often described divorce mediation as a series of conversations that build a bridge from the marriage you are ending to your separate yet interconnected futures. That same bridge can bring you from a place where you feel that what you value the most is being threatened to a place where you can both experience something better—accomplished through meaningful dialogue.