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A Transformative Example

A Transformative Example

What does a transformative mediation approach look like in practice?



Full Transcript

Well, you started off with that question in the opening moment in a mediation where it may indeed feel uncomfortable for the mediator to say something like, ‘So where would you all like to start?’ And I’d say that I was uncomfortable for me when I first tried to actually embrace the transformative model. At this stage, I really don’t have any discomfort about that because it’s so clear to me that it’s their choice who starts and how they start. And it’s so clear to me that they have so much more knowledge about what matters to them in that moment than I do. So I realize now that the reason I was uncomfortable before was because I wanted to convince them that I was in control of the process, which was never true. I never was in control of the process. I would do things to create the illusion that I was in control, but I wasn’t and I’m not and I shouldn’t be. So now I’m very comfortable with the idea that, ‘This is your process. I am here to support you folks. So what do you want to do?”


For example, I might say ‘Well, as I said briefly in my introduction, I feel that this is an opportunity for you all to have a conversation about whatever you feel would be helpful to talk about at this point so it really is your choice how you start.’ And then you say to me again, ‘Well yeah, Dan, you’re the expert. I don’t know where to start. This is overwhelming. We came here because you could tell us what to do’.


‘Well actually I should make that clear that I actually don’t know what you should do. I see my role as just being here for you, as you have the conversation, and I’ll reflect what I hear you saying and I’ll summarise what I hear and see as areas of agreement and disagreement. But you know your situation much better than I do. So I’ll leave that up to you. Where do you want to start?’ And most often my experience has been that there really isn’t a long moment of discomfort. Often a very meaningful thing happens where one party says to the other, ‘You know, why don’t you go first, if that’s okay.’, so already there’s some transformation happening instantly. There’s the realisation that, ‘Boy, we aren’t absolutely complete enemies. This guy just offered me the chance to go first.’ And then maybe I deferred to him and said, ‘No. No. That’s okay. You go’. Boom, we’re already collaborating. Just because I stayed out of the way.

About the mediator

Dan Simon Profile Pic

As a teacher and practitioner of the transformative approach, Dan helps parties have a constructive conversation about their differences. He received his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Minnesota School of Law, his M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Minnesota, and his B.A., with honors, from the University of California at Berkeley. Although he is licensed to practice law in Minnesota, he prefers to practice mediat... View Mediator