Written by Graham Perry

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

18 October 2023




Telling a story is a popular format for promoting an idea. The narrative needs to be condensed and focused with no time for indulgence or self-promotion – few exhibit the skill better than Somerset Maugham whose particular talent was to maintain the suspense up to the very last line – remember The Verger?

In our story the mediator is beginning to think of synergy where 1 + 1 = 3. Remember the stage that we have reached. The elderly Mrs Kendall, a former Primary School teacher, has been providing assistance to her young teenage grandson who has learning difficulties. Two nights a week the young boy stays with his grandparents in order for Grandma Kendall to help him to improve his reading skills. Most of us take our English skills for granted and fail to identify with youngsters who become tongue tied and embarrassed when called upon to speak up in class. Poor lad – cheeks redden as the hesitation takes a grip and the flow of words is disrupted. Good news, then, for the Kendall family – Grandma has given the boy a real lift. The vocal hesitations are far fewer and self-confidence has strengthened.

Now the Mediator recalls “Didn’t Mr Jackson make a disparaging comment about his young son?  Rude and dismissive”.  The father’s insult made a negative impression on the Mediator and a phrase from her Dispute Resolution training comes to mind – “Marry a Strength to a Weakness”. It often produces a positive outcome. Maybe Mrs Kendall can help the Jackson’s younger son with his reading in the same way she has helped her own grandson – the Mediator muses as she juggles with the germ of an idea.

But Mrs Kendall is in her mid 80’s and she already has her own grandson to assist. She could feel over-loaded. And, in any event, the brash Jacksons may not take kindly to the suggestion that their younger son would benefit from some quiet reading time with Mrs Kendall.

At this point our Mediator gives herself some strong words of advice. “Think positively! Be clear-headed. You have a young lad with a reading problem and an elderly neighbour with a heart of gold.” You surmise that Mrs Kendall – knowing that this initiative might just help her and her husband to bond with the Jacksons and remove some recently arisen awkwardnesses – will respond positively and the young lad is unlikely to resist as he knows he has a problem and needs help.

The Mediator is right on both counts. Mr Kendall will be OK if he is assured that the neighbour’s car will avoid his manicured front garden and there is no overload on Mrs Kendall who is enthusiastic about the proposal. He, therefore, falls into line and agrees to his wife giving it a try, But what about the brassy Mrs Jackson and the brazen Mr Jackson? – they may resent the idea that their boy receives help from “her next door”.  How to approach them?  What words to use to introduce the possibility that the warring neighbours rise above their instinctive animosity to the Kendalls and consider a peace initiative? How to appeal to their self-interest? – the knowledge at the school that they, the Jacksons, rather than the Mediator or Mrs Kendall, have put, their weight behind this important initiative will assist?  Truth can be stretched a little in pursuit of a worthy cause – can’t it?




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