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Handling Strong Emotions and Mediation in Spain

Handling Strong Emotions and Mediation in Spain

Handling strong emotions and using the principles of interest-based negotiation has helped my guest transform her career from mediator to successful entrepreneur. In this interview Mari Cruz tells her story of how she utilised her mediation skills and knowledge to build a successful business. She also shares her insight into current opportunities for mediators in Spain and how you can position yourself to get first-mover advantage in the Spanish mediation market.

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Full Transcript

Aled: Hi everyone. My name is Aled Davies, founder of,
home of the passionate and ambitious mediator.

A place where mediators, young and experienced, come and listen to experienced mediators tell a story about how they’ve built their mediation practice or shaped their mediation career.

How they’ve handled particular challenges or dilemmas that they’ve encountered along their journey as a mediator and what they’ve done that’s helped them be successful and effective.

I love these interviews. I find them so inspiring, thought provoking, and I learn so much from them. I hope you will too so you can go on to the big wide world and build your own success story, and hopefully, come back here and tell your story to my audience.

Today’s guest has assisted parties in over 300 disputes ranging from employment, community and commercial disputes. She began her career as a mediator back in 1997 working for Cedar, probably Europe’s largest independent mediation body.

After a few years, she was recruited to work with London’s largest community mediation service, Southwark mediation Centre where she coordinated the development of many pilot projects around South London.

She then went to work for Brighton and Hove City Counselors, a dispute resolution expert, providing mediation and negotiation support for employment disputes and interdepartmental conflicts. She’s lectured at the University of Barcelona on the subject of ADR and in Madrid at IE Business School.

She’s contributed as a visiting professor for the Mexican Justice Department, providing a program of training for judges. Since 2012 at the University of College University in London has helped train law graduates in negotiation skills.

She’s now the managing director of Iberian Legal Group, an international consultancy publishing and business development group for international businesses and law firms with a special focus on Spain and Portugal.

I’m delighted to be interviewing her today. Mari-Cruz, welcome.

Mari-Cruz: Hello Aled. Thank you very much.

Aled: I’m really thrilled that you are giving me your time today. As I was reading out
your profile, it struck me how you’ve worked in a number of different contexts. You haven’t just worked in a commercial context, a mediation commercial disputes, but you’ve been involved for working for the public sector, workplace mediation.

You’ve been involved in community mediation in the voluntary sector and now you’re an entrepreneur running your business. I haven’t come across many mediators with that sort of experience, that broad experience.

I’m really interested in getting a bit of an understanding of what’s been your experience of working in all of those different sectors around mediation.

Mari-Cruz: Yes. It’s interesting because maybe when you go in recruiting and you see
certain types of CVs, you’re sometimes saying “Where’s the glue on that person? Are they a butterfly, they’re going from here to there? Or is there any glue?”

I actually think that I had one logic throughout my career up until now and possibly until the future. It has always been the principles of mediation, which I discovered at the end of my law studies.

I was finishing my degree and it was a presentation that I went to at Oxford University in England, so that woke me, you know, up onto that kind of new world. I think it was 1996.

That actually brought me to London. With a very clear idea that I didn’t want to be a lawyer and that mediation was something very special. And definitely it is.

Aled: Do you remember what that presentation was in Oxford University?

Mari-Cruz: Yes. It was an introduction by Eileen Carroll from CEDR, done to law students.
It was an international conference for law students and I was doing a summer, you know, kind of course.

I had the privilege to hear her talking and at the end of it, you know, just approached her and I talked to her. In a way, that was where I looked into the potential if I ever want to go somewhere, I want to go to that place. Actually that was my first place.

The first place that I went to but at the time I’d just finished a law degree so what is a young law graduate can do in the world of mediation. To me, CEDR was my school and at the time of the Woolfe reform in 1999, so I saw the absolute [justice] revolution and it was fascinating.

It was fascinating. Which actually, I’m seeing now in Spain, which is kind of going back in time.

Aled: All right. It sounds like Spain are a bit behind but they’re catching up.

Mari-Cruz: That’s right.

Aled: I want to come on to mediation in Spain in, as part of this interview, I’m sure
whether we’ve got viewers from Spain that are going to watch this interview, but I guess I’m really interested in getting a number of different perspectives.

Not just in terms of the kind of work people do but actually where they do that work. I don’t know much about the mediation scene in Spain. I don’t know how many other people do, I had sort of a quick look.

I know a few things that happened over the last eight or nine months that are starting to transform the mediation, certainly in the commercial sector. I’d be interested to get your perspective on it.

I know that you work in the UK in the field of mediation, in the domain of mediation, but now you’ve gone back to Spain and have chosen not to work as a mediator. I’m curious about that.

Mari-Cruz: Yes, in a way, the UK gave me every opportunity. I think the UK in many
ways is a very open market in which, if you prove that you can do a job all the opportunities are there for you, it was a field that I was absolutely blessed to be able to have had every experience that I had there.

Then you know life sometimes bring you opportunities and one of the issues that came up is with two other people that wanted to set up a business in Spain. The reason to move, it was to actually set up Iberia Legal Group.

It was a conscious decision that we were going to come here and then set up a business. I think I was aware that mediation was going to be put aside but I had as well thrill of setting up something that could be hugely exciting.

I think in life when you have been an in between and have taken parts in providing potential solutions to people, sometimes you feel that you want to be a player. The opportunity of running my own business it means that when I now look at situations, I’m not an in between, in a way, I am a player.

That’s why I realize, so if we talk about concepts, that I’ve always believed and the thing is in every place that I worked in, that mediation is assisted negotiation. I was very aware of the concept of negotiation and how much alive that is in our everyday life.

If you then move to run a business, then you realize that every principle of mediation goes with your role is absolutely everywhere. It’s human resources. It’s commercial. It’s [trying to do] development, it’s everywhere, everywhere.

I could not have had a more helpful, at the time when we have to start from scratch and then build things, collaborations, build, trying to get people and influence people in open markets.

I still think that I am putting every [inaudible 0:09:59] degree of my learning on mediation in practice every day, every day, every day in my job here.

Aled: See, that’s what I like about your story and that’s what I like about other people
I’ve interviewed, their story. Your path may have started out in mediation but it sounds like to me it’s opened so many doors for you.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: The latest door is what you’re doing now. Now whether that’s just a chapter in
the first part of your book.

Mari-Cruz: I’m sure you’re the first one.

Aled: What leads me to say that is I was recently, well yesterday, the last couple of
days, doing a piece of work for a client, and I was chatting to someone and they were asking me “Where do I see myself in a few years? What do I think I want to do with my mediation business?”

I thought, you know, I’m not entirely sure that this is what I’ll be doing in three, three, four, five years time. I actually quite like the idea of doing something completely different.

Like becoming a baker or something like that. I know I’ll be able to apply my skills and probably be more effective in certain aspects of baking than my local baker just down the corner here.

Mari-Cruz: Yes. Sometimes I think that mediation is like a language, so when you learn a
new language, you know, it’s not only about the words. It’s about the tone. It’s about what you say. It’s about how to say it and it’s about the meaning of it.

Mediation is the same. It’s a tool. It’s not an end result. It’s something that if you integrate it to your own [inaudible 0:11:52], it just helps you along the way. It helps you in bad times and in good times.

I’ve always hoped that people put mediation on the table when there is problems. But then how useful it is to facilitate, mergers, synergies, collaborations, I mean, big pre-agreements are crucial to avoid conflict.

We never get mediators in pre-agreements. Imagine if your business person was a mediator. What wonderful agreements could you be able to develop?

Aled: Give me an example if you’ve got one of how you are using your,
kind of the approach that you’ve got to doing business and integrating your mediation skills into that.

Into your everyday life now, into your job now, into your role now, into what you’re doing with Iberian Law Group. Do you have any examples of that?

Mari-Cruz: All my secrets.

Aled: Shh. I won’t tell anyone. No one’s listening.

Mari-Cruz: I mean if you think about it, it’s like every day we need to be negotiating. Every
day. Every day. If there is a new project, if there is collaborators, if there is sponsors, if there is project developers, if there is freelancers, everything, everything is negotiation.

In negotiation, you know, you can use different ways to approach it. One is to say, “OK, I’m going to go hard.” Another is to say I’m going to go looking for a win-win situation.

I think everybody has a need and an interest. If you identify that need and interest from the very beginning, then once you put a proposal on the table, once you develop an idea, it will be meeting them, [it’s] an interest. Hopefully, they’ll be much happier.

The value, the money element is always one thing that people hate talking about. If it is actually [mixing] your values, if it’s actually [mixing] your needs, could you not be able to pay for it? Possibly you could, so the conversations that you have are completely different.

There are many elements. One of the things that we tend to do when we do business is just to try to put our arguments very heavily on the table. Well imagine in mediation what you do first. That’s the biggest secret, what you do first i ,you listen.

How many people are capable of listening actively? I mean I’m not saying that they can do all of that very well. But if you are not identifying those issues, you won’t be able to improve on those issues. Noticing, noticing is crucial.

Observing and noticing in order to be able to then decide what side do you want to use. Noticing who’s on the other side, what personality do they have? Are they going to be aggressive or are they going to be cooperative?

All this type of learning, I’ve learned through the years thanks to mediation because our approach, us mediators, is to earn people’s trust. They have to trust you to bring their boundaries down. If you don’t provide trust, you will be banging your head against a wall.

Aled: What kind of results or what kind of differences do you think your experiencing
as an entrepreneur now than if you hadn’t encountered mediation, hadn’t gone to that lecture at Oxford University?

Continued with your legal career, become a commercial lawyer and then decided to become an entrepreneur doing what you’re doing now? I know it’s a high [inaudible 0:16:18]

Mari-Cruz: That’s like, that’s like “Sliding doors”, that film. What about if I had never
caught that train, you know, Gwyneth Paltrow. I mean, I wish I could see that on the film.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: It’s very, very hard to say because the only think I know is everyone has some
values. When your methodology and your way to the business meets your values, it’s much, much more satisfactory.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: The only thing that I’m very clear is that when we run a business, we have to run
a business that is labeled with, some balance, with your values. I think that I feel very empowered with my skills more or less to just decide how, who, and when to work with.

Aled: For me, my sliding doors, I’ve been through both doors, I’ve run a business being
unenlightened and I’ve run a business feeling quite enlightened. Pre-mediation, post-mediation.

Mari-Cruz: OK.

Aled: I know I was a complete…

Mari-Cruz: You’ve seen both sides of the train?

Aled: Yes. I can look back at myself and say, I honestly behaved like an asshole
sometimes. Completely disregarded the other person’s interest and needs or the other groups interest and needs.

Prioritizing my own, sometimes, not really understanding what my interests were, not listening, not engaging, not reflecting. Not checking my understanding, all the small things that probably contributed to my business not working out.

Mari-Cruz: To me, one of the crucial learnings in mediation was to depersonalize, don’t take
it personal. I mean, you’re at a party, but sometimes people are so angry that they talk and they talk in an angry tone, which in many ways could seem very offensive to many people.

One of the things we had to learn again and again, is that these people are struggling. Be aware that they’re not angry at you. It’s not you that they feel angry.

If you put that into the business context, being aware that in many cultures and in many places and businesses, people are actually struggling. People have targets and people are pressurized by other people.

When they come and talk to you and when they approach or what they complain at you, they come across in ways that you might actually not feel that they’re appropriate. How do you react when we know important it is for conflict to build, to escalate?

If you don’t know that, you actually could generally react in order to protect yourself. But if you’re aware that your reaction can bring you even higher on the escalation of conflict, maybe today I’m not going to say something, I’m not going to say anything until tomorrow.

Let’s count to 100. Then you listen to what you’re saying. Vent. Talk. Fine. Say whatever. All of these skills, they’re very typical, basic skills for any mediation and any mediator.

If you place yourself as a party, as a player, of course you’re feeling it. Of course you’re boiling, of course you’re angry. But then how do you handle that?

Aled: Yes. What would you say then as an entrepreneur, as someone running a
business, what would you say is the most important skill that you’ve learned as a mediator that you’re applying and getting benefit from as a mediator in your current career?

Mari-Cruz: I mean, I think it’s pretty much everything. From the concept of ground rules,
you know in some ways, or genders, the formal aspect running a mixing, into listening to the other side, into making sure that they feel and they see that you’re understanding them, into the point of you communicating in a way that is objective in the language. It’s so hard to identify one thing that has not been useful.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: The empathy, feeling bad, everything. I mean it’s communication skills. What is
mediation? To me, we’ve created a concept with a name that at the end of the day is just a tool but is a very difficult tool that you actually need with time to develop and you never stop learning. Never.

As you face that individual and every situation and every case, you’ll have to just hope that you have to guess that will work with that person or situation.

Aled: Yes. Yes.

Mari-Cruz: I remember at Southwark Mediation Centre, the director called Davey Walker
[SP] that I respect hugely, that I think is an incredible mediator, he always used to say we have a tool kit at the bank.

We [inaudible 0:22:46] we have to say “OK, identify the issue and then get the right tools. But always be yourself. Don’t pretend. Don’t try to be a mediator.”

Aled: I guess, when I trained quite a few commercial mediators working with Richbell
and Gunn, David and Jane. I would often observe people’s struggle with that tension between wanting to retain their authenticity and being themselves and then trying these new behaviors.

I can think of a number of situations where that was difficult, that was challenging, for many because I think sometimes, if you’re approaching mediation from, I don’t know, where you’ve been socialized into a rights based way of interacting with the world, your entire approach, your entire mindset can’t quite compute any other way.

Now it’s a bit like you’ve got a computer and you’ve got the operating system. You’ve got the software that you run on it. Someone coming to the work shop, metaphorically speaking, running a really, really, really old version of windows, maybe Windows ’91.

They’re uploading the latest version of Microsoft Office, it just crashes. It’s full of bugs. The challenge they’ve got is kind of upgrading their operating system so that the new behaviors, the new software, runs smoothly.

I think a lot of the tension, too, I’ve found in developing my own approach and skills has been that. I can say things and I can do things, but actually am I saying, am I coming from a place of real collaboration or am I trying to coerce?

Mari-Cruz: Well, the concept of being genuine or being truthful with yourselves, I think you
put metaphor of software. I see the striving. When you learn how to drive, it’s like impossible to look forward and back and change gear, and do all these things at once.

I think in mediation, it’s the exact, I remember, you used to say “do not take notes”.

Many mediators say “Do not take notes”. There are techniques to remember things without taking notes. You can learn that, but to me the truth of mediation is practice. Practice, practice, practice, which is what is lacking and was more difficult to find.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: There are so many courses on theory, theories. Wonderful. So appealing. It’s
wonderful. I love theory. Books and books. But let’s do it. Let’s do it. When you do it, you learn it. The adult model of learning is by doing it.

Mediation has no more secret than do lots of it, lots of it. Then you integrate it in your own behavior as much as possible but under your own brand. I think the secret of mediation is for clients, for anyone that wants mediation, to choose the mediator that suits them best.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: That’s very difficult. It’s almost like a trust chemistry. Is it really about theory? Is
it really about, you know, am I an expert of energy? Am I an expert of, so in some cases, it might be interesting to have that specialization in certain areas. but really?

Really, the power of it is about managing a process where two people communicate with each other, and honestly, I don’t see any other secret.

Aled: As you’re talking now, I’ve got a couple of business ideas, actually.

Mari-Cruz: Wonderful. Let’s talk about them.

Aled: Here’s the challenge. Part of the reason I set up Mediator Academy was coming
across so many mediators who I thought would be really effective with parties just redundant. Not getting many opportunities, not creating many opportunities. Feeling very frustrated.

The travesty with that is they’ll either go and do something else, they’ve wasted a whole ton of cash on training themselves a whole bunch of resources. Also it’s such a waste of skill when there’s so much conflict in this world.

If mediation is, as you said, about practicing, practicing, practicing, cultivating those skills, that attitude, that mindset, but then retaining that authenticity so you can distinguish yourself. You’re your own brand. Those were your words.

How do you get that across to a client? I was thinking about these interviews. Can you imagine having, you’re someone looking for a mediator, you want to get the real sense of what someone’s going to be like.

Maybe watching some of these interviews will give you a sense of how relaxed these people are, what their personalities are like.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: It could be sort of the–

Mari-Cruz: The way forward.

Aled: What’s the “X” factor?

Mari-Cruz: The “X” factor.

Aled: The “M” factor. There we go.

Mari-Cruz: The “M” factor.

Aled: I want to come back to talking about practice.

Mari-Cruz: OK.

Aled: The way I got experience, here’s how I started out. I just joined a local
community mediation service in London and put myself, because there’s plenty of work in the volunteering sector.

For me it’s been the best learning experience because it is right at the coalface. You get plenty of opportunity and you are challenged.

Mari-Cruz: With everything.

Aled: With everything. Tell me a little about your experience both in comparing
community mediation with say the kind of commercial mediations that you’ve done. What’s been your experience, the differences? What’s been helpful and less helpful and so on?

Mari-Cruz: I think the main differences is the formality. I mean the formality of commercial
mediation verses the informality in general that requires community mediation. I think the capacity to adapt to what people are expecting is very important.

I mean, I’ve done some cases in Spain, not many, but I’ve done some. When we were introduced, it was two mediators on the case , me and somebody else. But the practice of it was very important, the fact that I was a lawyer, although I’ve never practiced as a lawyer.

The fact that I had a lawyer, that I was graduated in law, it was very important to them in that publicity on anything I could do as a mediator.

I remember as well how important in community mediation it was to say, we are independent and we’re not part of the committees or the city council. The authority, so take the authority element out of us.

Then on commercial mediation, you’ll find that people want to make sure you belong to an organization that has a set of guidelines that gives the credentials to anyone that gets involved.

People’s expectations, whoever is on the other side and receives you, before you open your mouth, that you already have a judgment and an expectation.

Generally, it’s about re-focusing that into what it might actually being which quite rarely it is what they expect it was going to be like. In every sense, it starts by building trust. In every type of mediation. They did not open any doors if they’re own expectations are not being met initially.

Aled: OK.

Mari-Cruz: To me, the process in every case it’s about adapting to the clients, to the other

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: I don’t like when people say mediation works like this or like that and in
commercial this is what happens and in community this is what happens. I remember in general everywhere that I’ve worked, we’ve always agreed with the people that I work, always, it’s a process that should be flexible enough to allow people to reach their objectives.

Their objective is the result of the situation, to find a way to close a situation that has been very painful, costly, to them. Yes, it helps to have a framework. It helps for you to know at what moment you are moving, from what stage you’re moving to.

The other side doesn’t need to know this is the beginning. They don’t need to know [this is stage two.] They don’t need to know now we’re going to go and focus because this is what is supposed to happen.

That is I think when one integrates the different elements that you’re driving and you decide whether now it’s time to turn right or left. The opportunity for right or left, is always there. The ground rules is crucial for any mediation.

Aled: Yes. OK. Would you say the work that you’ve done particularly in, let’s say,
because I know that there’s a qualitative difference, my experience.

A qualitative difference between the kinds of mediations I would do in an organization, work place mediation, the mediation that I would do in the volunteer sect and then the commercial mediations.

From my perspective, I think that the work that I do in community work place help me in commercial mediation. How do you see that?

Mari-Cruz: Yes. We used to discuss that a lot. On the different elements that we
find challenges from one type of mediation or others. In commercial mediation, I see that as generally it is business people or professionals, the capacity to negotiate is very high.

They play games in a less general manner because they might actually raise on objective in their favor and they might not be so much interested about the relationship as it is not affecting them personally, as strongly as you might imagine, unless it’s work place experience.

The work place experience has an element of personal relationships, which it’s very hard to deal with more than in community mediation, because it’s been damaged so hugely, so massively creating trust between these two parties for a better future is very, very difficult.

Community mediation I see it fully. Human beings defending their core values and then that’s a pure conflict. They’re very emotional. They’re very passionate. They are very real and sometimes very unreal.

They play games, too, but they play games to protect themselves and their core values. That is an incredible experience in areas and with people in circumstances that I’ve never ever faced before.

In a way, I don’t know if I was helping them or they were helping me because what I learned from them was amazing. What I feel sorry, is that there is not even more support for these kinds of organizations in London, let alone in Spain, which they don’t exist.

I think it is one of the biggest contributions to community that anyone could offer. These mediation centers around London. They’re actually incredible full of incredible people.

Aled: I love what you said there, what you said “I’m not sure whether I helped them
learn more or they helped me learn more.” Something like that.

Again for me, that kind of captured the spirit of mediation as a learning conversation. Not just a learning conversation for the parties but for the mediators.

Approaching it with that mindset is quite humbling for the mediator. I think probably makes the whole process less threatening for the parties.

Mari-Cruz: Then I see as well, that the expectation in commercial mediation is quite
different. In many cases people are actually expecting that directive mediator. They’re expecting the proposal coming from the mediator and just know at this moment, our office space is just very me and the headquarters of Iberia Airlines.

They are actually going through huge problems. That’s merged with British Airways, and now they’re going to do massive redundancies in Iberia. They’ve been, for the last three days on, in front of the headquarters kind of trying to put the best forward, et cetera, et cetera.

They have a mediator that is trying to help with trade union, with this mess. Business wise, there is no future in continuing with the amount of people they have because the company’s not going that well.

They got a mediator can think of what is happening that the role of mediator has more of an element of a conciliator, than a [inaudible 0:39:52] mediator in which he’s dealing with both parties’ representatives.

Taking their demands and then putting a proposal in front of them, what he thinks. Sometimes you wonder whether this is crossing boundaries or what even it could be an arbitration.

I think the concept in itself is so gray, in every way. Society is not really, they don’t have clear what the role of the mediator is supposed to be. The expectation is to be a bit of an arbitrator, without the authority role. I don’t know if we come in to this situation in Spain, but…

Aled: Yes. Well, I was going to say, I got two things I still want to cover off with
you. One is the situation in Spain is a nice little segue into that. I want to come back though to the kind of mediator challenge, the one thing you found or have found challenging. Let’s do Spanish scene first and then…

Mari-Cruz: OK.

Aled: That work for you?

Mari-Cruz: Fantastic. Going back to this kind of situation and even considering what the
context of the economy is like and the contentions that even the majority of companies around Spain and Portugal.

If we focus on Spain is interesting in a way this context of crisis has to be one of the elements that has come for the government to consider mediation and to legislate and regulate. It’s been as a project a long, long time and 2012 was the time in which finally, the law came out.

It’s interesting and what is very debated is when they say mediation is an option to kind of get all the piling cases out of the judges and to move it away and then make it faster and it’s cheaper.

Some people believe that you introduce a mechanism, the result is good that is faster and cheaper, it doesn’t fair as well. It might seem that it’s like, you know like in a super market that you could get an economy product.

They question whether is it about price? Is it about speed? Or is it about a mechanism that could actually allows parties to participate so directly, that it’s not a third party that will decide for them.

Then there will be renegotiating any situation they have with a [counter] party to see if there is potential for survival or not.

Then there is a question of, OK, who are the people who will be able to do that type of job? Then there is a battle in Spain on are the lawyers the best ones to do it? Everybody, mediation…

Aled: That’s a familiar battle I think.

Mari-Cruz: Exactly. It’s like looking back and then saying, in England at least, all this
tension between… Here they say, is it social workers, is it lawyers, is it psychologists? Is it this? Is it that?

Then every professional bar association, they decide if for us, we are going to regulate and we are going to have a special list of mediators. We then want to be the ones training and we want to be the ones regulating it.

From the beginning, and I think it’s following the typical way in Spain things happen, there is over regulation on something that basically still doesn’t exist.

Maybe because of the place where I am, I believe in the kinds of market deciding for themselves. While I understand that you want to protect the public so they don’t get involved with people that could put them at risk, I think that a legal framework could be interesting.

But, with enough room to allow people to proof each other, so offer to demand, who is the one to stay. The ones that have entered in Spain as mediators that are stronger in their training, they are the Argentineans.

There’s lots of Argentineans because in Argentina, mediation has been going on for a long, long time and they have a huge tradition on mediation. Interesting enough, when you see mediation centers or associations or mediation services, in many cases they’re led by Argentineans.

That’s an interesting element that is going around. The criminal area and family mediation areas, that’s started before 2012. Family mediations, especially in Catalonia, was one of the first places in which the government supported and then allowed lots of [schemes] to function before divorce mediation.

I think it’s been commercial mediation, the one that has kind of been introduced the latest and most recent. In order to be enforced, you have to take the agreement into a notary and is signed by a notary.

That has given a very interesting opportunity for notary to say “Hey guys, you know, we could be great mediators. You don’t have to bring it to us. We’ll do the whole job for you.”

Aled: Right.

Mari-Cruz: Again, different groups want to position themselves strongly to say we are the
right ones to do the job. What they try to say is in a company that I run, there is an in-house club, so a group of in-house lawyers.

Of course I’m very interested in the topic but I don’t think that you can provide a service [until] there is no market [niche]. Sometimes, people package products that they don’t respond directly to clients’ needs.

One thing that I’m noticing is that when we run roundtables or platforms or research on litigation, arbitration or dispute resolution, big business, kind of the ones that lead the market.

They say, “One, we’re not convinced of about arbitration, we have questions. We have the feeling, in a way, that arbitration is too close to mediation. They’ll be the same people. We’re not sure whether we believe that these people will be the ones that could get in to a negotiation process helping us the results.”

Secondly they say, “We want to look at disputes from inside.” They’re actually introducing different elements of dispute resolution, which is more internal panels, which is more mediation within different areas of the business.

Why not a mediation scheme for the human resources department? Why not a mediation scheme with their people, with people trained, and maybe this is how the Brighton and Hove [City] Council works.

You use an external mediator at the very end of the process. It has to be a culture, a culture in the business that is transferred all along.

When it gets to the conflict, they know while they’re using that mediator to resolve that dispute, and I’m seeing many businesses thinking that way more than wanting to jump into the mediation wagon directly.

Aled: It sounds then, if I’m an aspiring mediator in Spain, one thing, I’m somewhat
contemplating changing career or wanting to become a mediator, the best opportunity for me will be explore mediation within organizations.

Either getting trained as a mediator if I’m already employed in an organization and developing my capability and capacities that way.

Or if I’m a mediator in Spain and I’m a freelance mediator, rather than sitting on an independent panel waiting to be appointed for a commercial dispute, I should go looking and sniffing around.

Mari-Cruz: I do the training at the University of Barcelona and this is a special, graduate
course they do for people who want to be mediators. Every year it’s like lots of them and that’s one course that’s offered.

They all have that question. OK. Some are lawyers. Some are, they come from different backgrounds but they would like to be mediators and we discuss that question a lot. I think, imagine if your background is human resources.

OK, you think about becoming independent and trying to see whether you’re going to get mediations coming to you or can you empower your business through human resources to establish an internal scheme that will help your business to manage conflicts better.

You could be your company mediator, or premeditator, or whatever you want to call it to assist your company to diffuse conflict. If there are things that escape from your knowledge, use external experienced mediators to support you on that thing.

You don’t need to externalize everything always. In many ways every person that is a trained mediator can contribute in their own businesses in every way.

Another option that I always consider interesting is to say many people have dreams of getting into, I don’t know, there’s lawyers that would like to do more mediations. Again, instead of waiting, why not approach some clients and then talk to the head of labor and then establish concrete skills for concrete answers, for concrete questions for concrete problems.

You become a panelist with them. People want to learn to become self sufficient. Now there’s no time for outsource and spending a lot money. It’s time to diffuse and reduce the amount of explosions in order for the business to run smoothly, as smoothly as you can. The external context is difficult enough to deal with internal problems.

Some internal problems, they’re hard to externalize. You have to trust the person in the same way that when they have their internal lawyer, they understand, the internal lawyer understands the culture of the business.

I can look at it in a different fashion, in a different way, although, I still think that there is room for a private, high profile mediation center. Here there is very high level, come on, you know, the ham, the [inaudible 0:52:54] ham thing, the Spanish [come on.]

There is one very good value, ham that is called [inaudible 0:53:03]. They talk, clients say, if there was [inaudible 0:53:09] mediation center. The high level top mediation center, three, four people able to do that independently, maybe.

Aled: Very interesting.

Mari-Cruz: These people have to have ready the credentials of the market. In a way, I
could now, at least from the lawyers I know in the market, have five people that could do that job brilliantly and they do have the experience.

Market yourself in that way, like it happened in England. At the time, and I remember perfectly, when people from CEDR were leaving CEDR and creating their own, consultancies or projects or whatever you want to call them with four top, crËme-de-la-crËme.

Aled: Yes. I guess that’s part of the challenge in the UK. The latest CEDR survey or
the last one I saw anyway, something like 90% of all commercial mediations are being carried out by 10%-

Mari-Cruz: Same people.

Aled: Yes. Same people. Causing a huge frustration.

Mari-Cruz: The same for arbitration. I mean, this has evolved in ways there’s some people
that have been able to position themselves very well. Why have they positioned themselves so well? They’ve done something right. They possibly have done something right.

I don’t think markets are stupid. Truly, if you’re a business would you risk it? Would you risk it with a new face? The question is how can we create second generations of elite mediators or arbitrators? This is a question.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: what it means is that the second generation of top mediators or arbitrators or
anything, they need to be continuously working heavily in the background.
There is enough work. The question is how do I put my head in.

Aled: Yes. I’m smiling because the very first time I observed, I was an assistant for a
commercial mediator. A very, very senior, one of the top sort of ten commercial mediators.

After the mediation, I was probably rabbit in the headlines throughout the mediation, he said to me, “Yes, I think you’ve got the right sort of attitude. You just need a few more grey hairs.” I’m thinking, I’ve got some grey hairs. They’re coming through. It’s my turn. My turn is coming.

Mari-Cruz: Yes. Yes. You’ll be happy the day that you have enough grey hair.

Aled: Yes.

Mari-Cruz: It’s a bit like judges. In Spain, there is, where we talk to lawyers in many cases
and they talk about judges, I’ve heard more than once people saying, “It was a young woman sitting back, judging that case.” It has connotations in the same way that clients look at you, that happens everywhere.

They look at me and they say, “Twenty years ago or now, is she really running a business?” Everyone has prejudices and questions. Some people, very soon, will be close to your generation and they’ll be saying, “I could have that type of mediator.”

It’s like anything else, we have to work as well on the marketing side in many cases. You have to position yourself where you fit. Don’t try to go to places where you don’t fit. And that’s hard.

Maybe in chapter two of your story, you will go into that area. At the moment, where do you fit best? There have been many people that could love to have a mediator like you.

Choosing mediators is about choosing people that you connect, that they talk similarly to you and that you think they’re going to understand what you’re saying. It’s about empathy. It’s about connection.

Aled: I’m thinking about polishing up my Portuguese. It’s a little bit rusty.

Mari-Cruz: Good.

Aled: I think with a bit of practice, maybe I could enter that market. And maybe you
and I
could set up the Spanish elite ham, we could play with, I don’t know. What’s the, there’s a really good quality salami. What is the Spanish, there’s a type of, it’s not salami. What is it? I was getting a lecture, an education by a Spanish guy and he said this isn’t proper–

Mari-Cruz: [A kind of ham, then.]

Aled: Maybe it was I can’t remember.

Mari-Cruz: Maybe it was [ham].

Aled: Obviously it was…

Mari-Cruz: Chorizo?

Aled: I’m sorry. Chorizo. That’s it. It’s a certain type of chorizo which is high quality

Mari-Cruz: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Aled: He said “No, no, no. They say it’s this”, we’re in the restaurant. “They say it’s this
but it’s not. If I walked into the kitchen, I could call the chef out”.

Listen, so, that’s given us a little bit of a snapshot, little bit of an insight intooooo the Spanish mediation market. I’m still mindful that we’re approaching the end of our interview.

I do want to get just a little, sort of, flavor of some of the challenges or a specific thing that you found challenging that will help the audience.

I’ve no doubt that you’ve found challenging, that I’ve found challenging, other people are going to find challenging. Helping them with some ideas, skills or strategies of managing those. What have you found challenging in your mediation career?

Mari-Cruz: In mediation, I guess, one of the elements that when you bring people, I mean
they always say anyone that goes to mediation, they’re very brave because they really don’t understand what they’re getting into. We know that it’s fine. But they’re very scared.

You have to be brave to go through that process of facing the other side directly when generally the feelings are very high and the emotions are very strong.

The elements that I tend to find, and you will find them quite often, but that sometimes can be really difficult is strong emotions and aggression. You have to have some ground rules.

You understand that there is personalities and different people in different ways. Dome people cannot hide the level of strong emotions and managing. You have to accept that they happen. You cannot allow that to go directly to the other side.

In a face-to-face, you find people that they just, in crossing the line is extremely difficult. People even, feeling so strongly that they stand back from the [inaudible 1:01:13]. You want to know whether that could reach a level that you don’t want to happen.

It has never reached that level of anyone hitting anybody else, but that feeling’s that strong. Generally, and I guess everyone deals generally with this situation similarly, but it’s time for a break, time for a break.

On the other hand, what I don’t like is not to allow that to come out. If it doesn’t come out, there is not genuine communication amongst people. I’ve seen mediators wanting to stop that too early.

I think the risk is, and I assume that risk, is allow it to come out so that the other side can see too, how important that is to him or her. As long as it doesn’t cross the line, the line is the line of not tone, but the line of language.

Obviously not typical about, so but if earn a trust with the parties in advance, once they lose their temper in a strong way, you will be able to manage and control that. They’ll look at you. They will respect you. And it will stop.

We’ll have a break. Generally they come back differently. They tend to be turning points. They’re turning points. That’s why I find it really difficult. It’s very difficult, but very powerful, very powerful. The same as crying. I mean crying is as difficult.

Aled: Yes. I think different people find things differently. Different emotions,
different reactions, experienced differently and struggle with them. Someone blows up in a mediation, you see that as often a turning a point, it’s almost like a junction.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: Or a milestone in the mediation.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: At that stage, you think it’s important for the mediator to allow it to come out.
Not to the extent that it’s the other side feels in any way threatened or unsafe. Just to the extent that they have an appreciation of what it means for the other party.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: One strategy to dealing with that is just to kind of take a pause, take a time out.
It sounds like what you’re saying is the important bit comes right up front. Two aspects, I think you said.

One is developing trust. There’s a great interview with David Richbell on this. He talks about building trust. He’s very much, his entire approach is about cultivating a deep sense of trust with the parties very quickly.

Developing a trust with the parties, so they can have some reassurance that they feel safe in your hands.

Mari-Cruz: Yes, completely.

Aled: But also putting down some ground rules and some expectations about how
people behave and how they don’t behave. What’s acceptable and what isn’t going to be acceptable. The unintended consequences or what will happen if that line is crossed.

Mari-Cruz: Yes. I think the key, as well, is that people don’t repeat that behavior in the
mediation. It’s not the same the first time. The situations in which continuously that becomes the way they’re communicating. That is when it crosses the line.

That is what you don’t want to see, especially because in some occasions it might mean that is a tool they’re using to overpower the other side. Then you have to look very carefully at the other side to balance powers.

That in a way is your role, to balance power imbalances and communication and aggression is very hard to digest for the other side. I couldn’t allow that continuously at all.

Aled: Yes. Some people use anger, aggression. Sometimes that is a strategy to

Mari Cruz: Go their way or, Yes…

Aled: …elevate their power. I guess as a mediator, one has to be sensitive to that,
particularly if it means the other party can’t be in charge of themselves and put their views forward.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: Yes. Yes. No, I can relate, I can relate to that. And I can relate to that sort of
dilemma as well. How long do I let this go on for? What do I say so I don’t get their back up and they don’t think I’m closing them down. I’ve been faced with that dilemma many times. It’s a tough one.

I think as mediators, you’ve got to approach each mediation as a learning opportunity because something will happen and if you’re not open to learning from it you’ll either see yourself as a failure or it will be a bad experience where actually no one mediation is the same as another.

Mari-Cruz: No. I think, you know, we’re all human beings. There’s no perfection in the
world, in a way. We have to be aware that it’s about every moment, to try to handle it in a way that is not too intrusive, but to keep the structure clear.

It’s that thing we always say, you control the content, I control the process. That concept at the mediation session, although I’m very pro flexibility, if you have difficult people, then the process has to be more controlled. The authority that you get from the parties to control that process is even higher.

That’s why I believe it’s very good to meet the parties in advance. Not everyone does it, but I think it’s quite important in order to identify in a way, what might you be finding and what are the hard hot buttons that they might have somewhere emotionally that might jump.

Anything else I think is manageable, any negotiation strategies, any brainstorming, any ideas, any element of looking back, future focus, [inaudible 1:08:25]. You know, it’s the concept of emotions that is harder.

There is a wonderful book that is called “Beyond Emotions”. I can’t remember the author, but it focused on negotiation, how emotions are basically affecting in every way in negotiations.

Aled: I’ll look that book up. I should probably put the reference into the interview.

Mari-Cruz: Wonderful.

Aled: Mari Cruz, look, we’re probably close to our hour. I’m really, really grateful.
I tell you what, it’s been a really rich interview.

Mari-Cruz: Thank you.

Aled: I loved this sort of idea of how mediation has opened doors for you. It’s not the
door that you’ve closed behind you because you’ve taken so much with you and are still able to apply what mediation has given you in what you’re doing now, I’m sure.

Not just in your professional life but your personal life as well if it’s anything like me. It’s been really interesting hearing about the struggles with mediation in Spain and where they’re at or where you’re at, which seem very similar. Lots of parallels with the situation here in the UK.

Mari-Cruz: Completely, exactly the same.

Aled: It sounds like it’s a sort of an emerging market.

Mari-Cruz: Yes. For mediators.

Aled: Opportunities for the first mover advantage in the fine ham version of mediators.

Mari-Cruz: Yes.

Aled: You know, thinking about strong emotion, the impact of that on the mediation
process, how as mediators we handle it. There’s a lot in there about how people use it to get power over others.

What we can do as mediators to allow it to come out but not to the extent that it’s disruptive, but just productive. I mean, so, so much in this interview. I really, really appreciate it.

Mari-Cruz: Thank you.

Aled: I know people are going to want to say thank you or get in touch. How do they
do that? What’s the best way of reaching out to you?

Mari-Cruz: Email. LinkedIn. I think I’m pretty much everywhere.

Aled: All right.

Mari-Cruz: [inaudible 1:11:04]

Aled: Should I put your website details on there? Would they be able to find you
through that?

Mari-Cruz: Yes. Sure, too.

Aled: OK. I’ll put some contact details that people can connect with you and say ‘thank
you’ because I’m sure they’ll want to.

Mari-Cruz: That would be wonderful.

Aled: I want to be the first one to do that.

Mari-Cruz: Thank you.

Aled: Thank you very much. Thank you so much for your time. I might visit Madrid in
August just to fry a few eggs on the pavement.

Mari-Cruz: I’m sure you will be able to. It’s a wonderful initiative. Thank you very much for
involving me. Anything we can do to support that initiative from Spain, you know, here there will be lots of people wanting to looking at the experience from the mediators that you’re selecting. So thank you so much.

Aled: You’re more than welcome. Thank you, Mari-Cruz.

About the mediator

Maricruz Profile Pic

Mari Cruz has assisted parties in over 300 disputes ranging from employment, community and commercial disputes. She began her mediation career back in 1997 working for CEDR. After a few years she was recruited to work with London’s largest Community Mediation Service; Southark Mediation Centre where she coordinated the development of many pilot projects around South London. She then went to work for Brighton and Hove City Council as a disput... View Mediator