Mediation: Do you really know what you are feeling during mediation?

| June 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Harvard Business Review featured an article by Peter Bregman called “Do you really know how you are feeling?” The article does an effective job highlighting the fact that, often times, we don’t recognize the feelings which are behind our thoughts and actions. This issue is also very important to consider during mediation. In fact, not dealing with feeling can ensure failure during mediation (I know as attorneys we like to ignore feelings under the auspices that legal analysis shouldn’t include feelings.) Therefore, this concept is also very important to understand during the mediation process.

Peter points out that:

“Simply being able to feel is a feat in itself. We often spend considerable unconscious effort ignoring what we feel because it can be painful. Who wants to be afraid or jealous or insecure? So we stifle the feelings, argue ourselves out of them, or distract ourselves with busy work or small talk.”

Avoiding your feelings leads to a lot of problems in our personal and professional lives because that approach hinders our progress personally and professionally. In fact, if we look back at some of the bad decisions we have made in our lives, we can trace them back to decisions which were made by ignoring our feelings and human needs.

So, how do we change our approach? Peter has a good suggestions about how to get to the root of the problem.

“How do you get to those feelings? Take a little time and space to ask yourself what you are really feeling. Keep asking until you sense something that feels a little dangerous, a little risky. That sensation is probably why you’re hesitant to feel it and a good sign that you’re now ready to communicate.”

This leads to a more difficult question of: How do you know what you are feeling? I teach a mediation training workshop which is built around how mediators can deal with angry participants in mediation. In that workshop, we talk about how mediators can help participants get to the bottom of their feelings. After all, feelings drive all of our positions and our decision making process. In order to do this, the mediators need to be in tune with their own feelings and how feelings can drive the mediation process for participants. Doing this allows mediators to better understand the parties and be more effective during the mediation process.

To better understand your own and others’ feelings you can start by asking a few questions:

1. What words am I (or the other party) using to describe this situation?

2. What human needs are driving those feelings (need to be heard, understood etc…)?

3. How are the human needs and the words driving the thoughts and our (or the other party’s) decision making process during mediation or in life?

4. How can acknowledging those human needs and words, help us understand the feelings behind the position during mediation?

5. How can acknowledging the human needs and feelings facilitate a more effective discussion making process during mediation?

The bottom line is that as mediators, the process is the most important part of the experience. The more you try to understand the parties and their feelings, the more success you will have in mediation. As always, the journey is what drives the results. Don’t be afraid to look deeper and your mediations will be incredibly successful.

Shahrad Milanfar

To read more from PETER BREGMAN or read his article “Do you really know how you are feeling?” click on his name or the article name.

Here are some other mediation related posts:

Trust, Morality & Mediation

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Category: Conflict Resolution, Mediate, Mediation, Mediation Blog, Mediation Courses, Mediation Training, Mediator, Negotiation, Settlement, Shahrad Milanfar, Uncategorized, What's New

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