Written by Graham Perry

Graham Perry M.A. Cantab FCIArb Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer

20 June 2022



So what is the actual dispute? Is it what you are hearing from the parties or is there an unexpressed agenda which is driving the parties’ passions? Is there A Big Unmentionable?

This explains why Listening is such an important skill. Not Listening in terms of the words tumbling out from the mouths of aroused, even angry participants, but listening to try to understand the real agenda that each party has when they start to present their case. But don’t rush it. Don’t play the investigating detective. Do you remember the scene in Erin Brockovich when Julia Roberts has a chance encounter with the employee who was ordered to destroy key papers? Her boss, Albert Finney, tells her not to ask the chap too many questions – “Just let him speak” instructs Finney and, sure enough, the truth comes tumbling out. Erin does a good job.

It is the same with a mediation. Listen, Listen and then Listen again. Allow the party to relax, to begin to feel comfortable and to give their account. Your time to prod + clarify + even suggest points comes later. And it is later when you hear a comment here + an aside there that the core issues begin to emerge.

So we start with a neighbours’ dispute in Wiltshire. An elderly couple on the one side – the Barratts – and a younger couple, the Canons, in the adjoining property. The Barratts are long-time residents and were comfortable with, and good friends of, the previous neighbours who, like the Barratts, had lived in the Crescent for many years.

So what is the dispute? Some familiar issues – noisy music at the weekends (you sniff a clue), car parking encroachment in the Crescent, unilateral tree removal + hedge reduction, + BBQ’s by that leave a trail of smoke wafting next door, only on a Saturday and Sunday.

You then speak to the Canons and you wonder whether the leaves are coming off the artichoke

EPISODE 2. 21 JUNE 2022.




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