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>Mediation During the Coronavirus: Putting Things in Perspective</xTITLE>

Mediation During the Coronavirus: Putting Things in Perspective

by Kathleen Young
August 2020 Kathleen Young

Grit. Sweat. Stamina. Focus. Quarantine.

I just finished an inspiring article about Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, a Danish bike rider whose chance to compete in this year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad crumbled. This 24 year old had trained strenuously to race with her new team. Yet, suddenly, she faced a two-week minimum quarantine in Spain if she did not return abruptly home.

The article? Uttrup Ludwig: Coronavirus puts things in perspective.

Ludwig could have been furious. She could have faced a spiral downward into lethargy or resentment. Instead, she stated: “I still have a job, I know I can go out and train on my bike, and that makes me happy. And if this should be restricted in Denmark too, I can still ride on a turbo trainer at home. It helps put things into perspective – in the end, it’s just a bike race; other things are more important than that.”

This led me to think, as I often do, about mediation. 

Mediation creates the perfect intent and space to slow down. It provides a forum in which to see a bigger picture and put things in perspective. Yes, there might have been tense moments in prior conversations. Yes, busy schedules and simple (or even blatant) mistakes might have gotten in the way of being heard or respected.  And, yes, passions, accusations, and anger might have eroded trust.

Mediation helps clients move past issues into defined interests that can be addressed.  No matter how valid your emotions and frustrations have been, it is time to move ahead, By putting the past into perspective, the road to resolution makes new ideas, creative solutions and stronger relationships possible.

In Frenkle and Stark’s, “The Practice of Mediation: A Video-Integrated Text”, videos show the magic that happens within well-structured yet open mediation.  They write about “putting things in perspective: focusing on interests and exploring the costs of not reaching agreement.”  Successful mediators help parties keep their eyes on the prize: a clean slate and positive way forward. Luckily, once parties commit to mediation, they generally truly want resolution.  It is the job of the mediator to help navigate the discussion, honor both sides, guide past roadblocks and, yes, help put things in perspective.

Case Study:

I once mediated a situation in which:

  • parents were unhappy with how they thought their daughter’s school had - or “hadn’t” - responded to kids teasing their child. Their daughter had once been part of this group of friends, and then the whole group turned against her.
  • the school felt that the parents were asking for information they could not legally provide. They no longer trusted the parents after accusations had been made in public and on social media.

Issues:

  • The parents were furious that the school, in their view, had not been transparent about how the situation had been handled. Had they investigated the situation? Had the kids been held accountable? They did not feel listened to, and they were not sure the administration cared about their daughter. Their daughter no longer wanted to go to school, and could anyone blame her?
  • The administrators, under a tremendous amount of stress, were becoming impatient with the tone and frequency of these conversations. They had a lot of other urgent matters to attend to. They were angry at social media posts that they thought had portrayed them unfairly. They had provided the family with the most information that they could, and they certainly had faculty/staff in place who cared deeply about all the children.

          Interests:

  • After open and constructive dialog, parents identified their interests as:
    • An apology from the school for not taking the situation more seriously;
    • New friends for their daughter and repaired relationships with her old group;
    • A “point person” to whom their daughter could turn in times of distress (when the counselor was not available);
    • An action plan for helping their daughter feel better about returning to school;
    • Better working relationship with the school.
  • After open and constructive dialog, the school identified its interests as:
    • The well-being of the student;
    • The well-being of the school community;
    • Respect for HIPAA Law restrictions on what they could and could not share about other students;
    • An action plan for helping the student feel better about returning to school;
    • A commitment from the parents to discuss their concerns with the school prior to posting about them on social media;
    • A better working relationship with the parents.

Resolution:

  • The school apologized for not making the HIPAA laws clearer to the parents and for sounding rushed on the phone;
  • The counselor committed to meeting with the student and her parents to identify a point person and new potential friends for her. The point person would check in with the student at the end of the day for two weeks;
  • Counselor to organize some social lunches during which the daughter would get to interact with individuals, in small numbers, from her old peer group;
  • Parents would encourage their daughter to identify and join a club for after school;
  • Parents would email their daughter’s teachers, cc’ing the administration, to ask them to keep an eye on their daughter and communicate any concerns to them and the counselor;
  • Parents would communicate directly with the counselor when feeling worried or upset in the future. They would assume “good intent” when it comes to the school, and they would reach out to the school prior to posting school-related concerns on social media.

Mediation works. It works through neutrality, confidentiality, and the creation of space designed intentionally for resolution. 

Grit. Sweat. Stamina. Focus. Discord.

Yes, it is hard.  You might be furious. It is easy to face a downward spiral into lethargy or resentment.  Do consider mediation. It puts things into perspective. It is a terrific way forward. And, as you know, forward is the only way to go!

Biography


Kathleen Young, M.Ed is the founder of Young Mediation Associates. She currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the General Education Alternative Dispute Resolution Program for the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which she helped create. Young Mediation Associates LLC provides full-scale, confidential mediation services for the educational sector. They facilitate open and transformative dialog to resolve disputes in a non-adversarial manner and help shape healthy school communities and culture. Kathy is trained through Harvard Mediation Program, Mediators without Borders, NonViolent Communication and Global Youth Courts. She holds an M.Ed. in Special Education K-5 and 5-12 from Lesley University, and a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College. A lifelong learner engaged in continuous education and training, she is a tireless advocate for youth, schools, families and communities.



Email Author
Author Website

Additional articles by Kathleen Young