Written by Graham Perry

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

19 October 2023




The scene is set. The Mediator has made progress. She has persuaded the elderly Mr and Mrs Kendall that the wife’s English teaching skills could assist the Jackson’s younger son, who in a casual aside by Mr Jackson, has been dismissed as a nonentity because he struggles in class at school. Reading, perhaps caused by dyslexia, does not come easily to the young teenager and the Mediator, knowing of Mrs Kendall’s success with her own grandson, has wondered if a breakthrough with the boy’s reading might help to improve relations between the two families. Is there synergy?

Every mediation needs an element of luck and the task of the Mediator is to think creatively and with imagination in order to find a breakthrough issue that can lance the boil of bad relations. But how to approach the Jacksons? What does the Mediator need to say or do to bring the focus back on to the challenge of removing tension between the two neighbours? Statistics show that “across the fence” difficulties form the largest share of mediations – little things lead to big things and small problems, if left unresolved, can quickly mushroom into unpleasant confrontations.

Our mediator thinks hard. She knows where she wants to get to – good rather than bad relations – but how to get there? What approach to adopt? What words to use? This Mediator has found that she thinks best when she is walking so on goes the coat as she makes off towards the local park. Should she be blunt or subtle? What approach is likely to work well and by the same token what initiatives should she rule out?

She thinks about the Jacksons both as a couple and as individuals. Ideally she would like to know them better and to have a better feel for their interests but the proposed solution has come sooner rather than later in the mediation process and she has to work from where she is and not from where she would like to be. But something does occur to her – she was humiliated during her early school days by other pupils who mocked her because she had difficulty saying any word with the letter “p” in it. She settles on her approach. She needs to get on to the issue of their young teenage son with reading difficulties as a stepping stone to proposing the teaching solution that involves Mrs Kendall.

She meets with the Jacksons and moves the conversation onto their two boys. The Jacksons talk up the achievements of the older boy who has A’s and Starred A’s and has been made a School Prefect. You sense the problem area – talking up the older son and talking down the younger son. But you sense something else as well – the husband and wife have different views and the wife says just enough to reveal that there is tension between the parents about their respective attitudes to the boy’s difficulties. You want to avoid giving the parents the opportunity to play the blame game about the boy and sense the moment is right to mention Mrs Kendall and her English teaching skills.




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