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  • Ed

Empathy, sympathy, apathy, bricks, masks and football

I spent a couple of days in training this week (with the excellent Lesley Allport) and one of my favourite images we used was the attached.

You’ll have gathered mediators need empathy, we care and hep out without getting involved in your dispute or trying to accept as ours the issues you may have, that’s sympathy, drowning alongside you, whereas apathy is up there on the beech not caring at all.

Think of mediators as throwing you a lifeline but keeping their own position safe so they can help you out of your difficulty.

I do enjoy training when you come away with new perspectives and skills or even a refresher of your own competencies and I came away with multiple uses for bricks as well as some practical questioning and phrasing techniques with which to continue to improve my own practice. Thanks to my fellow attendees on the course for the how many ways to use a brick image above.

Other skills are in discussion by Graham Boyack. In Graham's article he discusses the circus skills employed by Young Talk (part of Scottish Mediation) in their peer mediation.

Juggling interests, balancing arguments and opinions, ensuring we take no bias into the mediation ourselves whilst trying to walk the tightrope of helping and not becoming either apathetic or sympathetic are all skills the mediator has to employ.

Staying north of the border, with Glasgow Rangers now and their dispute with Sports Direct. Judge Lionel Persey used the latest hearing to fire “a little shot across the bows” of both parties by asking whether mediation had been suggested or tried.

There has already been judgment in favour of Sports Direct earlier this year and the current dispute relates to the amount to be paid.

As with all sensible credible judges Persey recognises that court time is being wasted and costs run up by battling the matter out at court when the straightforward approach of mediation could (and should) be used to the benefit of all parties.

There is still a win-win to be had in this match as continued lengthy arguments will continue to cost both sides tens of thousands of pounds in costs, let lone the damage to the businesses involved and the personal in stress and lost hours.

Persey said “I am slightly disturbed about how much of the court's time is being taken up with these issues” and you know that’s normally code for “stop wasting my time and employ some common sense” but to go that one stage further and direct the parties to consider mediation (even if only very gently) is an indication that the court wants parties to sort matters out away from the court.

Rangers had already released a statement clarifying that despite rumours no decision on damages had been made by the court other than determining the case in Sports Direct’s (SDI Retail Services) favour "Rangers would like to reassure supporters that matters concerning the litigation currently being brought against it by SDI Retail Services Limited are not as reported.

"Rangers was disappointed by the terms of the recent court judgment but respects the decision of the court and will meet any financial award made by the court.

"No such award has yet been decided and at this stage Rangers does not even know how much will be sought. Contrary to some reports, the judge has not determined that the contractual cap on damages will not apply.

"Rangers would also like to reassure supporters that no steps have been taken to stop supporters being able to buy this Season’s Replica Kits."

I confess to having a struggle to find any segue into the next article from disputes over football clothing to the presentation of abused women the second world war doesn't really have an easy link, but it's an important example of mediation's many uses and thinking outside the scope of the original dispute.

Following a mediation it has been agreed that a “shuttered” exhibition will re-open.

The dispute had arisen because the hosts of the Nagoya arts festival had refused to exhibit some of the statues, notably of “comfort women”.

That term does not just cover prostitutes but also women forced into sex slavery during world war two.

Part of the settlement includes an educational programme to inform visitors about the abuse of women leading up to and during the second world war and not just a reopening of the same exhibition.

The two sides also now plan to open an exhibition specifically called After Freedom of Expression at the Aichi Triennale 2019 festival.

It’s that kind of out of the box thinking which mediation encourages, it’s not simply what the lawyers say is in dispute or even what the parties think the other is trying to gain, it’s about exploring the background, understanding the feelings and needs of the parties and then helping them to come up with options and solutions.

Mediation is also about taking away the masks people wear and finding out what is at the heart of their issues, so there is some level of irony in the Mediation Centre of Eastern California holding a fund raising masquerade ball!

As we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor.

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 arguments 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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