“When there is a patient listener the speaker starts listening to the speaker within the speaker”.
Decision making process and the act of decision taking are two aspects that govern the field of settlement through mediation. Disputing parties may walk back without being able to take a decision notwithstanding participating in lengthy decision making process . Emotion is a factor that may prevent a person from taking decisions .Some emotions need to be handled and some need to be addressed. Unless emotions are addressed reasoning will not work . Where emotion stops working the reasoning will begin to take charge. Decision taking is the fruit of reasoning. ‘Pure Reasoning’ free from emotions enables a person to take appropriate decision. By effectively using the skill of active listening mediator sets an atmosphere where emotions get addressed and reasoning begins to work.
Active listening is considered as one of the essential skills of mediator with which a mediator who is trained to listen navigates the entire process .
Communication is a two way process. Listening is no exception. In every speaker there is a listener. In every listener there is a speaker waiting to speak. The narratives revolve around what a disputing party wants to happen and does not want to happen followed by one’s own justifications. In many mediations while listening patiently to the speaker the mediator understands that “ The speaker sees a victim of injustice , hero/heroine , role model in himself/herself , and sees a negative personality in the opponent and/or sees the opponent as a beneficiary of unjust enrichment.” Mediator further understands that ‘There is creation, there is projection and there is expectation in the backdrop of facts.’
Each disputing party understands the facts within the frame fixed by himself/herself and expects every other person to watch and understand the facts through the same frame. The fact that ‘facts just exist and get the meaning through which they are viewed’ cannot be ignored by the mediator.
Any speaker expecting the listener to understand the speaker as the speaker wants to be understood is an understandable expectation. But are the words coming from the speaker loaded with emotions and feelings? Have the emotions and feelings made the speaker see, create and project the picture ‘not’ as they are? are the concerns. Mediator cannot doubt the bonafides of the speaker, but can always assist the speaker to go through the process of listening while speaking to get answers to the above questions. This is where the technique of “navigating the listening of the speaker while speaking” comes into picture.
To whom does a human being listen to? “To one’s own inner voice”. No one listens to any one else unless one’s inner voice agrees. This inner voice is something placed deep within an individual, which calmly sees, feels, listens, and analyses the facts as they are required to be seen, listened to and analyzed and then speaks in its assertive voice directing the individual to act in one way or the other. This inner voice can be listened to by only those who are prepared to listen to it. Mediator cannot ignore the fact that with any troubling issues every disputing party will be constantly in conversation with oneself. Majority of the times the true inner voice gets surrounded by sounds, emotions, feelings many of which may be the result of one’s suffering from imaginations, pushing the actual inner voice far below and at times burying it. It may just be a mind chattering. The conversation of the speaker may many a times be with the external sound than with the inner voice. It is here the mediator’s role begins to play. Before the speaker -turned – listener listens to the inner voice, there has to be an external physical listener who listens to everything the speaker speaks. Motivational speaker and author Steve Maraboli rightly said “Sometimes we need someone to just listen. Not to try and fix anything or offer alternatives, but to just be there …to listen. An ear that listens can be medicine for a heart that hurts.” This need of the parties in mediation cannot be ignored by the mediator but is required to be satisfied.
When a party speaks, the mediator listens to the emotions and feelings as well and visualizes the facts as painted and projected by the party. Mediator assists the party to voluntarily cleanse the unwanted weed to enable the inner voice to surface and take control. Mediator sets an atmosphere for the party to have uninterrupted conversation with the inner voice., to listen to it and thereafter take a call. This navigation is a psychological process. It has to be carefully and meticulously handled to see amazing results.
In mediation listening acts as a controlling mechanism. It is not enough if only the mediator listens actively. Mediator has to set an atmosphere in such a way that the disputing parties and others actively listen to each other. Mediator should also set an atmosphere for the speaker to have uninterrupted conversation with one’s own voice and listen to the inner voice. Failing which “ party’s right of self determination” may get sabotaged somewhere.
Navigation: Navigating the parties to listen to their inner voice and take a decision about moving from where they were struck to where they decide to go.
CASE STUDY FOR EFFECTIVE USE OF NAVIGATING LISTENING AS A TECHNIQUE:-
Wife was willing to get back to husband , but had many apprehensions. She had put several conditions to be agreed upon by the husband , his mother and his sister.
Husband was agreeable to take back wife but with many riders.
There was no meeting point between the two .
STAGE -1- NARRATIVE BY THE WIFE:-
NARRATIVE BY HUSBAND:
1)Humiliations suffered ,2) Toxic words, 3) Interference by parents of wife, 4)Failed expectations.
TECHNIQUE USED: Uninterrupted active listening
(shifting the focus to future from the situations that are over )
(Assisting the party to identify what is more important to him/her )
iii) Interference and expectations: What do you think you can do to see to it that you and your spouse and others in the family be happy?
iv)What are your reasonable expectations from your spouse and relatives which they can honor? What are their expectations that you can respect?
(Asking circular question fixing liability on the person who answers).
Trust building: ASSURANCE BY THE MEDIATOR: You need not have to tell me the answers.
Setting an atmosphere : Requesting the party to tell everything that the party wants to tell , in consultation with the inner voice.
Active listening by the mediator as well by the speaker.
RESULT: Parties decided to live as couple.
“A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves.”
Yahia Lababidi- Egyptian American thinker and poet
The Cheyney Ryan Peace and Conflict Studies Essay Contest is an annual competition sponsored by the Master’s degree program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon. The...By Michael Cohen