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<xTITLE>Mediation Can Be a Bitter Pill to Swallow</xTITLE>

Mediation Can Be a Bitter Pill to Swallow

by Katherine Graham
September 2012

CMP Resolution Blog by Katherine Graham.

Katherine Graham

The mediation process is simply the structure of a different type of meeting. In NLP terms, it is designed to allow pacing of the parties by the workplace mediator, followed by leading by the mediator. The process allows parties to visualise what may happen. Like a doctor explaining an operation, talking through the sequencing and timing, any key events and how people typically have felt in the past going through this, we as mediators need to talk through what is going to be a new and anxiety-inducing process for the parties.

The mediation process is not mediation. In just the same way, taking two pills three times a day is not a cure. It is what happens when the ingredients hit the body, interact with the system (physical for pills, psychological for mediation) that is the cure. What happens when the ingredients come together in a mediation is the cure.

But parties must accept there is an illness in the ‘body’ of the relations between them. Conflict does not exist within one person but across two people.

They will resist this as we all resist difficulties or change; how we resist knowing we have to go to the doctor, knowing something is wrong but finding it so hard to move across into knowing accepting we need diagnosis and help. Our symptoms build to a point where they cannot be ignored, or where others start point out the symptoms caused by the illness. By the time a mediator meets them, some parties are still in denial, while others have moved on to wanting to “feel” better, and we need to adapt our response accordingly.

Parties who want a “cure”

Need to tell their story without judgement
Need to be talked through the cure and process
Need to be asked about how they feel and what support they may need from the mediator while taking the ‘treatment’
May need to know they may feel worse before they get better!


Katherine Graham has worked in the field of dispute resolution for over 15 years’ as a mediator and trainer. She has mediated on the BBC Learning Zone and has given keynote speeches on conflict management and mediation for The MOD’s Equal Opportunities Conference, Women in Business Annual conference and “Getting Beyond Conflict”, a national conference on workplace dispute resolution. Katherine joined CMP Resolutions (formerly Conflict Management Plus) in 1992. She was made a director of the company in 1998 and became Managing Director in May 2009. Prior to this she managed teams in publishing and communications departments for major national charities including The Work Foundation, the RNID and the King’s Fund. She was the inaugural Chair of the Institute of Conflict Management.


Author of The Directory of Mediation Services for Social Landlords (National Housing Federation)

Editor, “Equilibrium” – a quarterly journal of dispute resolution

Co-author Mediation for Managers (NB Books 2002)

Email Author

Additional articles by Katherine Graham