My cousin’s wife was competing in a final tennis match last week, so he and I decided to have a coffee in the local café before going to watch her. I assumed he would pick me up. He assumed that I was meeting him in the café. Result? He sat in the café for 25 minutes wondering where I was while I did the same thing at home.

This set me thinking about communication. In these digital times when we can call, text, tweet and contact others through Facebook and all the social websites out there, how could it be that two professionals who spend their lives communicating with clients could get such a simple arrangement wrong? And that led on to contemplation of what we are trying to do in mediation where communication lies at the heart of the process.

In intake sessions, clients generally are very clear in communicating their story and identifying their reasons as to why things are not proceeding smoothly with regards to arrangements for their children. However, when the mediation stage is reached and clients are seated with ex-partners, clear communication can become difficult to achieve as feelings and emotions intrude on the ability to deal calmly with one another.

Assisting clients to communicate effectively and to keep their children at the forefront of discussion and decision making is a crucial and challenging task for the mediator. In my co-mediation sessions I have been fortunate enough to observe seasoned mediators and have realised that listening and reflecting what has been said back to clients is a most useful strategy for improving communication. This also has the advantage for the mediator of ensuring that everyone in the room is “on task” and can be helpful in allowing clients to perhaps see things from the other parent’s point of view.

I realise that I am taking my first tentative steps in the world of mediation, but I appreciate more and more the power of successful communication as applied to every stage of mediation.

And I hope in future to avoid situations where I stand anyone up …

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