Stay up to date on everything mediation!

Subscribe to our free newsletter,
"This Week in Mediation"

Sign Up Now

Already subscribed No subscription today
<xTITLE>Appropriate Distance: A Reliable Path to Forgiveness</xTITLE>

Appropriate Distance: A Reliable Path to Forgiveness

by Alia Ismail
March 2019 Alia Ismail
The importance of space is often underestimated. Some think space is hate, space is coldness, or space is a sort of relationship interruption. While space is not those, the way it is employed is what creates positive results. For good feelings to flow and also to be maintained, a good deal of distance is essential. Without that room, any sort of feelings, even ones involving good intentions and true affection, could come across as harassment and be fully misunderstood.

No matter how intimate a relationship is, or how much one trusts another, recurring bumps, whether small or big, are inevitable. A balanced interplay between proximity and distance allows not only good feelings and good intentions to flow, but also enhances one’s capacity to forgive unintentional or even intentional mistakes. With that continuous interplay, the likelihood for one to overcome disagreements with beloved ones or discrepancies with adversaries, will relatively grow.

For credibility purposes, the psychology of forgiveness dictates that the wrongdoer not only self-reflects but also conducts corrective actions that are self-directed. Without space, the capacity for self-reflection as well as for authenticity diminishes. It is not always likely for the wrongdoer to accurately detect where they have violated the other. Through an accurate and well assessed non-passive aggressive space creation, it’s the role of the offended party to guide the offender to self-reflection and authenticity. By doing so, the offended party avoids two things: rushing into reconciliation as well as sending a signal that no violation has taken place. Rushing into reconciliation could keep both parties swirling with the same issues for a long period of time, if not permanently. That’s why, the offended person ought to not refrain from directing the wrongdoer and from getting their attention.

Moreover, it is imperative to always remember that some people are less emotionally intelligent than others. That’s why, for self-reflection to take place, their attention ought to be caught if not directed by the other’s behavior. Few people assume they are making mistakes unless they pick they’ve done so through the body language or direct signaling of others. Nevertheless, when one is engaged with another, one is less-likely free to engage with one-self. That’s why productive behavioral changes are less likely to happen. In such cases there is little room for self-reflection or for real non transient relationship improvements.

It is tempting, when disturbed, to resort to easy ways out. Some people prefer remaining silent. Many others resort to ending relationships. While one could temporarily escape that regulated effort for setting the right space and sending the right signal, it is almost impossible to avoid this interplay if one is interested in remaining in healthy long term relationships. Thus, a return to that dynamic may be inevitable.

In addition, for a behavioral change on the wrongdoer’s part to be reliable, the wrong doer ought to self-initiate change. Lack of space could restrain free will. Without space, one’s free will loses a great deal of its authentic power. While responding to other people’s advice and other people’s demands for a corrective action signifies openness and may be humility on the wrong doer’s part, self-initiated behaviors ensure one’s changes are not transitory, but permanent and more importantly authentic.

Last but not least, space enhances forgiveness. While the wheel of life encourages one to resolve things fast, it may send one in a whirl when the wheel of heart or feelings are not catching up with life changes, circumstances, or the speed of others. To ensure that one’s heart does not get stained and that one is overcoming any resentment, space is essential; space in the sense of pace regulation.

That’s why, it is one’s responsibility to run one’s relationships wisely, as relationships are no less important than any vehicle that ought to be constantly maintained. There always are red flags that relationships are heading in the wrong direction. In those cases, it is essential to employ space to enhance three things: self-reflection, self-initiated corrective actions, as well as forgiveness.


Alia Ismail is an independent dispute resolution professional. She is a non-lawyer mediator and a formerly California licensed financial advisor. Possess a consistent and successful track record for closing deals within the environmental health (Lebanon), financial services (US) and education (US) industries. While in school, and as part of getting trained, mediated and dismissed a few cases at Los Angeles Superior court.

Possess primary local (formerly Lebanon, and latterly US) and secondary international (Europe) education in public administration, business and dispute resolution. Holds an MBA and an MDR from Pepperdine University, a certificate in global enterprise management from Oxford, and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Public Administration from the American University of Beirut.

In the process of establishing a Beirut-based American Lebanese cross-border mediation center to regulate mediation activity within the Middle East, and between the Middle East and the US. Besides mediating commercial disputes, developing a private practice in cultural transformation to instill a culture of ethics and protect the human rights of employees within organizations.

Email Author
Additional articles by Alia Ismail