Written by Graham Perry

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

21 June 2021


Good Morning from London. Today, Day 1 of a 3 Day look at words that help + hinder a mediation. Less of a story narrative + more of guidance note.

Words do matter. Just think of the occasions when you allowed the wrong words to tumble out in a sensitive exchange. And we know that words, once spoken, are there on the table. They cannot be put back in the box. So two pieces of guidance;- first, start with the right attitude + think in an outline of the goals you want to achieve in your opening caucus with a husband in a sensitive matrimonial mediation. A “Jack the Lad” mediator will blunder into the wrong opening “So when did it all begin to go wrong”. Aggressive, insensitive,  and offensive. Avoid at all costs.

So, if that is the wrong approach – what is the right approach? It needs to be neutral, soft, non-challenging and, before you speak, have you thought through what you want to achieve? What is the purpose of the first one-to-one caucus with a party to marriage break-up? You do have a goal and it is to start the process of making the husband OK with the mediation process. You start by thinking of him + his mindset, his likely apprehensions + undoubted caution. It is probably his first experience of such a meeting and you want to ease him into the process of mediation and allow him, gently, to get to know you, your manner, your style of engagement.

First, talk a little about the process and even less about yourself. You are easing matters forward and so, eventually, how about – “And how did you and your wife meet?” Something simple, factual, non-challenging. He may be tense + uptight and, so often, the opportunity for him to say a few words on a non-confrontational subject is the way forward. He starts to talk. Let him talk + allow for pauses, gaps and stumbled expression. Don’t jump in to correct or to enquire. Just sense the pace at which he wants to go and go along with it – later you will be able to more inquisitive but not now. The Husband has to build confidence in his willingness and ability to talk so leave it with him.




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