Accepting the need to draw a line in the sand and move forward is a key component of mediation. Arthur Ashe, a great athlete and activist shared these thoughts.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
The last animal of the Chinese zodiac is the Pig. The Pig is regarded as being able to remain calm even when facing trouble.
With apologies to Rudyard Kipling:
If you can keep calm when everyone around you
Is stomping the ground and shouting at you,
If you can remain focused on interests and know which is true,
But understand that others may have interests too;
If you can listen and not shut down your understanding,
Or being challenged, not react with rage,
Or being accused, not give way to accusing,
And yet not forget to act your age:
Yours is resolution and the end of conflict,
And – which is more – you’ll be at peace.
And now for my favourite animal in real life and in the Chinese zodiac, the Dog. I have written previously about what dogs can teach us about conflict. Every day, my dogs teach me more life lessons, many of which involve the importance of access to treats and how to bark at wild boars.
In the Chinese zodiac, Dogs are well known for their loyalty. It is a defining feature. Loyalty may seem to be an unusual quality to look for in conflict, however, it has a role to play. In family mediation, trust and loyalty are gone. However, they still have a place if there are children. If there are children, then the former partners will continue to be co-parents.
This continuing co-parenting relationship demands connection at a time when many people wish the other person would disappear. As a family mediator in Hong Kong, I have an ethical duty to assist parents to focus on their children’s best interests. Research would tell us that ongoing conflict has the most negative impact on children.
As parties are dissolving their adult relationship, it is difficult to remember that the other person remains a co-parent and should remain a team-mate. Whilst your former partner may no longer deserve your loyalty as a partner, they may need to receive your loyalty as a co-parent, for the benefit of your children. I remember listening in a child inclusive mediation as a child consultant brought messages from their children. The children had specifically requested that their parents could be “a team”. Even though the children understood that their parents were separating, they still wanted to be parented by both of their parents. The children wanted to know that they had a team of adults looking after their needs and caring for them. Team-mates have loyalty for one another because they have a higher goal that they are seeking to achieve. Team-mates have loyalty for one another because they are focused on something other than their own feelings. Loyalty can have a place in conflict.
In the Chinese zodiac the Rooster is known for being confident.
In mediation, I often see parties who struggle with their confidence to find their voice. Being confident that you have a right to be heard and that you have the ability to represent yourself is important. One of the criticisms of modern mediation is that the process is based on being able to speak up for yourself. The criticism is that this is not easy or possible for everyone.
I can acknowledge the truth of this and think of parties who did struggle to speak confidently. However, I also think about how each of those people through the mediation process, grew in confidence.
Mediation is a very structured process. The mediator is there to enforce ground rules which require respectful communication. The mediation process itself is based on the idea that each party should have the opportunity to express themselves. This may be the first time that some parties have had this opportunity. In my experience, people do gain in confidence.
Confidence is an important strength in mediation.