Words Matter, Especially In Mediation

Family Mediation Services in California

How you say something is more often important than what you are actually trying to communicate. 

That is why it’s important for mediators to have a developed sensitivity to the language that is used throughout the mediation process. Any individual participating in the mediation process should avoid using labels that reduce mediation as an alternative to traditional litigation. 

By definition mediation is a structured, interactive process where an impartial third party neutral assists actively participating disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques. 

Mediation, is really just an impartial person (the mediator) helping people reach an agreement they can both accept. The mediator helps people talk the issues through in a way that often makes it easier for the couple to settle the dispute themselves. Mediators do not make decisions.

Mediation is a non-adjudicative process meaning that there is no judge or decision maker who determines the end result it is important to select a mediator who is well-versed in the mediation process as it is their role to try to improve communication between parties I explore potential alternatives and address underlying interest of all parties involved with the ultimate goal of moving toward a negotiated settlement.

During the first session of mediation, when the mediator addresses introductions and welcomes, that ultimately sets the stage for tone and ground rules participants. Participants are then afforded opportunity to make direct comments with other the other parties involved whereas if this was handled in litigation council representing the participants would generally referred to this as an “opening statement.” That language alone reinforces the notion that all parties are locked into a trial in a courtroom where they are attempting to persuade counsel of their positions and that mindset is not likely to have much success in persuading the other parties to mediate dispute.

Stuck in that mindset more often than not leads to unproductive communication between parties that really gets them nowhere. Resetting the mindset here falls upon the mediator. Listening and reframing what they hear are two of the most powerful skills a mediator must bring to the table. 

The thoughtful use of language becomes even more paramount when interacting the communication is between parties.A few examples of that would be:

Instead of saying: “You are always working and never pay attention to your kids!”
Try this: “I understand work is really important to you but our kids need us both too.”
Instead of this: “That’s not true” or “you’re a liar”
Try this: “Im confused, earlier you said ___, but now you’re saying ___. Can you clarify?”
Instead of this: “You are so selfish and want to leave me with nothing”
Try this: “I know dividing ___ is upsetting. What would be ideal for you?”

 It is understandable why communicating during divorce and in mediation can be challenged and triggering. It is definitely easier said than done, to think before you speak but reframing what you want to say to ensure it moves the conversation forward can save you a lot of time and frustration thorough the process. 

You can begin the low-stress process with Scott F. Levin, Esq, at San Diego Divorce Mediation. You’ll have access to flexible options, including virtual meetings. Reach out today to schedule a consultation and see the difference mediation can make.