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  • Ed

The Courage of Ambivalence

I’ve been out and about the last few weeks working with employers and also having a short break in the Forest Of Dean (yes Cinderford, you should have mediated and not killed the bears).

During my time off I’ve been considering the strengths of a mediator and today I was listening to Radio 4 discussing an interesting book by Mark O'Connell name called the “Courage of Ambivalence”.

In a world which is increasingly bi-partisan it was good to hear Mark talking about the strength which comes from admitting “I don’t know” and that sometimes there isn’t a hard answer to questions.

Courage and being able to be ambivalent about situations is one of the things we have to steer clients through. I’m always surprised that clients to a mediation do not realise the courage they have already shown by being able to attend a mediation, I more often than not thank clients for their hard work but don’t often enough thank them for being able to have the courage to attend, something I shall address in future.

Ambivalence isn’t a weakness it’s simply being able to accept there are some matters about which you cannot know the answer or can genuinely have mixed feelings about (cf our current PM great on Have I Got News for You, not so sure how I feel about him running the country).

Ambivalence is a human state of mind, being able to acknowledge different points of view and address your own entrenched views allows clients to come out of mediation having found a way forward with which they can live.

The former Wallabies star and “staunch” Christian Israel Folau has been urged by the court (Chief Judge Will Alstergren) to take his case for wrongful dismissal against Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs to mediation.

I guess it would be fair to say he’s a sports star about whom there may be ambivalent feelings about, on the field he’s a great athlete but his deeply held views may not accord with the progressive thinking of many fans of the sport.

His dismissal you will recall followed him posting that hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” which was deemed a high level breach of the RA’s code of conduct.

You might be ambivalent about how you feel about photoshopping photos in general but in a light-hearted attempt to, perhaps, raise awareness of mediation an unnamed lawyer/mediator photoshopped himself into several photos of the signing of the UN Convention on Mediation in Singapore, which we spoke about a couple of weeks ago.

I’m not naming names, you know who you are, and I suspect no harm was intended or indeed done, but next time try and make the photoshopping less obvious!!

The uptake in mediation in civil claims is not something I’m ambivalent about, the current pilot scheme at Manchester has suffered from a dearth of interest from judges despite recommendations of the CJC.

Over in India Justice SA Bobde has said people don’t want to fight they want solutions to their problems and so mediation MUST be the way forward.

Bobde who is chairman of National Legal Services Authority went on to say that litigation rarely addresses the underlying issues, whereas mediation seeks to find what the problems are (both spoken and unspoken) and address the root cause of problems not just treating the symptoms, which is what litigation is designed for.

He noted the stress, disappointed and frustration which litigation causes to all involved and added that Gujarat National Law University should have a course for mediators specifically to ensure there was no gap in service providers, I am happy to help if the University wants to fund my travel.

And it looks like the ambivalence of lawyers to mediation is being addressed again in a case involving a claim by HMRC in which KPMG for the claimant utilised judicial review as a first line of attack.

In dismissing the claim for costs in excess of £600,000 the court has reminded parties that all avenues of ADR including mediation before launching litigation, referring to Lord Woolf in R (Cowl) v Plymouth City Council [2001] EWCA Civ 1935 :-

“This case will have served some purpose if it makes it clear that the lawyers acting on both sides of a dispute of this sort are under a heavy obligation to resort to litigation only if it is really unavoidable. If they cannot resolve the whole of the dispute by the use of the complaints procedure they should resolve the dispute as far as is practicable without involving litigation. At least in this way some of the expense and delay will be avoided.”

At this time of year I’m a bit ambivalent to friends who are teachers posting on facebook about how they’re counting the days before they have to go back to work…like those of us not in mainstream teaching want to hear about the weeks between end of term and start of the next.

In Vancouver it’s not even guaranteed the teachers will be there when the kids go back as there remains an outstanding issue over class sizes and composition of classes.

B.C. Teachers Federation President Teri Mooring has confirmed that to try to avoid there being any strike action eight days of mediation with BC Public School Employers’ Association will proceed this month.

Mooring said “we’re focused on making the most of August so we don’t have to deal with going into September without a collective agreement secured”

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public (and some lawyers) will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate mediation contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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