Written by Graham Perry

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

23 October 2023




In every mediation there is a key moment when the mediator makes her/his pitch. It occurs when you, the mediator, have moved the parties from their focus on their rights to their focus on their interests. That journey – from rights to interests – is crucial if you are to move the parties from their respective list of complaints (parking the car on the grass, slamming car doors and playing the radio at high volume and the newcomers appearing to be disinterested neighbours). You have to allow both parties – preferably in private meetings – to let rip with their moans and complaints. The mediator needs to allow the parties “to get things off their chests.” Then, and only then, is when you are able to discuss the moans and, later, begin to focus the minds of the parties on possible solutions. Never try too soon. Timing is everything.

But you have had your sessions with the neighbours and they have had their say. Now your instinct tells you the time is right to make your move  – softly, gently but with persistence and with the right choice of words. You are not making a speech but speaking from the heart and with just enough passion to strike a chord with the Jacksons..

You know they tend to be high octane – speak as it comes and without too much thought. You want to lower the temperature, turn down the volume, and slow the pace but not lose their involvement or their interest. You cannot impose your norm on them but you can engage with them more on your terms than theirs.

You decide to make their family (the Jacksons) the issue and in particular the two sons. You give them the opportunity to do what they have already touched upon and that is to focus on the son they regard as Master Success rather than on the younger son about whom they have less to say. In your own mind you know that the way to talk about the younger son is to start the conversation on the elder son and to learn more about his achievements – academically and on the sports field. And then switch the focus to the younger boy.

At this juncture the Jacksons will disclose their embarrassment with him and talk negatively about the younger boy’s impact on the family. Not nice for you to hear but you are the professional problem solver so it is not for to take up the cudgels on behalf of the boy. You have to be more subtle and say you have been giving some though to the problem on the basis of what they [the parents)  have said and you want to make a couple of points. The mother’s body language evidences a possible positive response  but the husband is unmoved with his face wearing a grim Trump like facial expression. It confirms what you have felt all along – he, not she, is the problem.

Back to your two points – you experienced reading difficulties in your teen years, you spoke as little as possible and despaired of finding a solution. Your confidence crashed and it led to generational difficulties with your parents. Things improved when a student teacher took you as a training challenge  and eased you back – slowly at first – to comfortable speaking skills.

The mother is interested – her manner is changing for the better and she offers a second cup of tea. But will she swallow the bait and ask you about your “the second point.” She does and you are pleased to be asked – you  know that at this stage you need to talk solutions. Without overloading with technical terms – eg anomic aphosia (struggling to find the right word);and  discarthis (the speedy onset of flushing and red cheeks) – you want her and her husband to understand that speaking difficulties are a science with solutions and outcomes. And this moved you to the core issue  – that Mrs Kendall has experience to help their younger son as she has helped her own grandson. Mrs Jackson gets it – she wants to believe there is a solution and the Mediator has provided her with solid grounds to believe that Mrs Kendall can play a significant role in bringing the boy along.




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