Forbearance and the Professional Mediator
This week, professional mediator David Liddle, founder of the Professional Mediators' Association, speaks to our CEO Andy Friedman about the importance of 'stepping back' as a professional.
A housing association manager had been making non-racist derogatory comments for several months. Then he made a racist remark at a team meeting. This was a case for dismissal, but the victim did not want his manager sacked. He wanted the manager to know how hurt he was. In this case David Liddle, a professional mediator and the president of the Professional Mediators Association, was called in.
‘I met them separately twice, first to go through the process and then to run through their hopes and fears and coach them on how they could express themselves in a potentially volatile situation. Managing face-to-face interactions is tricky. They control what is said, but I set ground rules. I need to ensure it doesn’t revert to platitudes and pleasantries. They must speak honestly. But I need to know when and how to stop the process and then restart it if it gets out of hand or bogged down. I also need to manage a transition from talking about the past to the future - to unlock insight from hindsight and move away from blame.’
‘Part of professional mediation is to resist making suggestions even when solutions are staring you in the face. Let them come up with their own solutions, which may take all day. Professional mediators need more than innate diplomatic skills and an ability to be compassionate,’ David explained. ‘They follow a recognised process to accredited standards and create a safe non-adversarial space. This is particularly important when dealing with racial discrimination. Direct victim-perpetrator dialogue can challenge belief systems and developing empathetic connections.’
By the end of the mediation process David reported that the manager was indebted to his victim. ‘He showed true remorse and undertook to change. I think they’re still working together.’
Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN
First appeared in Newsweek, edn. 16 January 2015
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