One of the first goals of a mediator is to gain the trust of the parties; to convince them to put aside their fears and anxieties about even attending the mediation and about what might occur there.
Sometimes, the best way to learn how to gain someone’s trust is to be put into the very position of having to trust someone else. That is, similar to a doctor becoming a patient to learn how a patient feels, the mediator should become one who suddenly must place her trust in someone else.
Serendipitously, I had such an experience a few weekends ago. My husband and I were going out of town (by car) for the weekend and somehow I managed to leave my wallet on the kitchen counter. I realized this about an hour later, when it was too late to turn the car around to retrieve it. Suddenly, I was in a panic and felt very helpless: I had no cash, no debit card, no credit card, no check book, and no driver’s license! (It was far from being a “priceless” moment!) If on my own, I was absolutely destitute, and could not even drive!
But, after a few moments, I viewed the situation very differently. I felt “liberated” as though I did not have to worry about anything such as driving or paying for anything. Everything would be taken care of. . . by someone else.
Why? Trust. I trusted my husband to take care of everything for the whole weekend. Any errands that had to be run, he would have to go with me as I could neither drive nor pay for anything. My schedule was totally in his hands for the weekend. I had to totally rely on him. And, I trusted him completely.
To say the least, it was an interesting and unique feeling. But, through it, I learned what it was like to have to totally rely on someone else: how vulnerable it can feel to have your daily schedule ( or fate?) determined by someone else. I also learned a lot about trust and working cooperatively to get things done. The experience highlighted many things I had taken for granted and thus, never thought much about. Pretty much like when the doctor becomes the patient, she sees things from a whole new perspective.
So, when parties come to my mediation, I now more fully understand the vulnerability they probably feel because of the new, strange and thus uncomfortable situation in which they find themselves. My goal is to “liberate” them from their momentary panic if not vulnerability by gaining their trust. My goal is to convince them that during the mediation, they can totally rely on me, and that is okay to do so: nothing “bad” will happen.
If you want to learn a lesson in trust, put yourself in a vulnerable position. I did, totally by accident, and am a much wiser person for it!
. . . Just something to think about.