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Beginning a Narrative Mediation

Beginning a Narrative Mediation

What’s the first thing you do in a narrative mediation?



Full Transcript

Actually, I probably need to go back one step. The very first thing that I do is ask them what they would like to happen. People who are in this complex story, they find that actually a very hard question, other than, ‘I want the other person to go, the bad person not to be there anymore’. I say, ‘Let’s imagine that we can’t get rid of the bad person. What would be the next best thing?’ People are very good at telling you what they don’t want. They’re not so good at telling me what they want.



I think it’s because it’s really easy to whinge about things we don’t like. It’s easier to complain. Once we start thinking about what we want in our positive sense, then they still have an obligation or a responsibility to try and work towards it and that involves them engaging and having some agency. And people in this mindset, it makes it feel like it maybe could be a bit their fault if they’re not working towards something better and they’re just wallowing in this situation.


So right at the beginning, I try to get them to think about what they want to work towards, rather than run away from. I would set that up at the beginning, then we do a lot of the story telling and they may not be very good at the beginning, but at least I’m going to go and try and get them to think about the fact that I want to know where they want to go.


I want to prompt them at the beginning to think about where we’re going and elaborate their story, so try and get as many facts and details as possible, using the genre to give me clues about areas where they might be missing things like characters, giant leaps in time. The fact that they’re probably going to talk a lot about the bad guy’s actions, but probably not so much about their own. They’re probably also going to do some mind reading. They often know what the bad guy’s thinking. It’s always fact, but they’ll say things like, ‘I think they’re doing it deliberately. I think they’re enjoying this. I think they’re really trying to make me feel uncomfortable.’ They spend a lot of time mind reading and talking about the villain’s actions. They don’t talk so much about what they’ve been doing, their contributions which inevitably are there. I ask questions very gently around those sorts of areas.


The next thing I do is I ask them why it matters. ‘This sounds really terrible. It sounds like it’s been a really bad situation for you and why does it matter? What’s the impact?’ That’s probably where we get to some underlying needs. ‘What is it about this situation that’s not working for you?’ That could be things like the standard substantive needs, procedural needs, psychological needs. It might be that they’re having an emotional response that they’re not comfortable with. They wish they could respond differently. It might be that they’re feeling powerless. Their identity might be being challenged. For example, this person’s making out that they’re not a very good worker and they know that they are. It’s who they are. They work really hard. So, looking at the emotional drivers, that impact on them.


Sometimes what happens to people when you do that is they realise that it actually doesn’t matter nearly as much as they’ve been telling themselves. When you really get them to focus about it and think about it, sometimes people go, ‘You know, maybe I’ve been making a mountain out of a mole hill, when I actually say that out loud, I realise that I could probably just let this go.’ Sometimes that happens.

About the mediator

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Dr Sam Hardy is a leader in the field of conflict resolution and has been described as both a practical thinker and a thinking practitioner.
 She has advanced postgraduate qualifications including a PhD in
 conflict resolution as well as many years of international experience as 
a conflict resolution practitioner. Sam has been mediating since she completed her original mediation training in 1997, and she is a Nationally Accredited Mediato... View Mediator