Unresolved conflict does not go away. Generally, it gets worse and living with conflict can be truly debilitating.
When someone is living with conflict, having the opportunity to tell the party they are in conflict with, how the conflict has played out for them and how they feel about it is really powerful.
Even if the other party does not appear to have really “heard” what is being said.
Even if the other party disregards the point of view.
Having a safe place to tell your story can be very healing.
Most mediators can relate stories of how parties in mediation have been able to get closure on an issue simply by being able to tell their story in a mediation environment. It can indeed be cathartic.
How does that work?
In conflict often parties are talking at each other or past each other. There is usually not a lot of listening going on. In fact, there is a lot of reiterating of variations on the rightness of a particular position.
In mediation however mediators provide quite a lot of structure. I generally say to parties when setting out the process “Each party will have an uninterrupted opportunity to talk about the issue so when one party is talking the other is listening and you both get a turn. There will be time to respond to what you have heard and responses will be made respectfully…..” I suppose in some ways this becomes the rules of engagement and it slows everything down so that parties are bound to take time to consider what they are going to say, how they are going to say it and then how they decide to respond.
When parties are telling their story and a mediator reframes what has been said and summarises the issues, it can be very validating. It is often the first time someone has shown that they understand the issue form that persons point of view.
There are so many things for mediators to be aware of during a mediation session and writing about some of the really important things is always a good reminder.