Mediation and Words/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on March 21, 2014


Gary Harper’s recent article at makes some salient points. Mr. Harper uses the exhortation often aimed at children to “Use your words”. Half-communications, shrugs of the shoulders, etc. is not good enough. He thereby gives some good examples of how one can re-frame incoherent or inappropriate responses. Examples follow:

-“Your opinion is ridiculous” can become “”I get that you see things differently” or “Why does my idea not work for you?”

-Rolling of the eyes can be converted to “You are not excited about that, are you?”

The point being made is that it is the easy way out to let your listener make inchoate comments or gestures. It is also ineffective for the most part or even counter-productive. The mediator or parent or adversary can do so much more if they can encourage the semi-communicative party to come up with constructive comments. Sometimes, a mediator can even try silence or a shrug of the shoulders with hands extended. This “invitation” may go far in furthering conversation. Silence is often broken by one party filling in the “dead” with conversation. The good mediate knows when to invite the parties to “use words” for desired results.