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>Interruption and Self-Determination</xTITLE>

Interruption and Self-Determination

by Dan Simon
November 2018

Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation by Dan Simon

Dan Simon

“That’s not true!”

“Will you please let me finish?!” turning to the mediator hoping she’d agree that the interrupter was out of line.

“Not if you’re going to lie.”

“If you’d let me finish, you’d know what I was going to say.”

“Fine, go ahead.”

Chaos?  A mediation out of control? A weak mediator? I don’t think so.  In those six seconds, the parties came to an agreement about who would speak and who wouldn’t.  A recently trained transformative mediator told me about this exchange in her first attempt at a transformative mediation.  The parties went on to have a conversation that ended with them happily agreeing, “we’re friends again!” The new mediator shared how refreshing and inspiring it was to see the parties change their interaction.  She also appreciated that if she had intervened to enforce a no-interrupting rule, the change might not have happened.

From the transformative perspective, that quick bit of dialogue included:

  • one party speaking up about something he thought was untrue (maybe an empowerment shift)
  • the other party asserting her desire to be fully heard (maybe an empowerment shift)
  • the first party suggesting that he cared about what the other party had to say and that he was not happy with what he was hearing (maybe both a recognition and an empowerment shift)
  • the second party indicating that she wanted the first party to hear her out, and requesting that he do so (maybe a recognition shift and an empowerment shift)
  • and the first party choosing to honor the second party’s request (maybe a recognition shift)

That’s a lot of potential shifting happening.  It’s the sort of interaction that gives parties a greater sense of control of the situation, better understanding of each other, and renewed belief that they can collaborate, at least in having a conversation where each of them gets to say what they want.  A mediator attempting to control that interaction would interfere with those sorts of shifts.

It’s understandable that mediators imagine they should prevent interrupting. It’s consistent with the idea that we control the process.  In the transformative approach, we don’t control the process, we support it. We support the party complaining about interruption (by attending to her, allowing her the space to say that she doesn’t want to be interrupted, and maybe by clearly reflecting what she’s said about that).  And we support the person who interrupts (by attending to him when he talks, allowing him to do so, and maybe reflecting what he’s said). In this sort of conversation, parties choose how to interact, when to interrupt, when to hold their tongues, when to genuinely listen.  As transformative mediators, we support a conversation characterized by that level of party self-determination.

Biography


Dan Simon writes the blog for the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He is a national leader in the field of transformative mediation.  He practices and teaches it in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He's trained mediators throughout the country for the U.S. Postal Service, the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, and as an Adjunct Professor at the Hofstra University School of Law. He serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court's ADR Ethics Board, is the Immediate Past Chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's ADR Section; and he serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He has been the director of Twin Cities Mediation since he founded it in 1998. He helps with divorces, parenting differences, real estate issues, employment cases, business disputes, and neighbor to neighbor conflicts.



Email Author
Author Website

Additional articles by Dan Simon

Comments