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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Mistakes we all make them, dealing with them properly sets you apart

With the continued backlog of cases mediation is even more so now than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute. Get your dispute resolved now while you can’t go anywhere you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.


Northwest Mediation continues to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes should we add we also do live in person mediation too! So please do not feel that you cannot contact us if you would like to mediate but wish to do so remotely.


“Why do pencils have rubbers on the end? Because we all make mistakes”. It’s a sign that used to be up in the window at the post office to remind customers that everyone is human. Many years ago I turned up exactly an hour late to a hearing which I’d written in my diary for the wrong time (you remember paper diaries?) the District Judge memorably said to me ”that’s ok Mr Johnson, we all make mistakes…I became a judge”, he was in fact one of the best DJs I ever regularly appeared in front of, and is sadly missed from the northern circuit.


Mediation is about mistakes, sometimes an error of judgment or an action has unintended consequences which needs repairing, sometimes the error (as one dad said to me) was getting married “we were perfectly happy for ten years before we got married”, though in that case I do of course wonder given the divorce within 2 years quite how happy both parties were.



And here for your digestion are some ways to avoid making mistakes when you’ve got to mediation from our friends at Miles Mediation and Arbitration, 8 ways in fact:-


1. Prepare – the old piss poor prep leads to p poor performance is absolutely true, you can after a number of years reduce the time you prep but never fail to prep at all


2. Disarm with charm – Jack Waddey the author talks about asking about local traffic or restaurants to get the client on side and at ease, being British I guess we talk about the weather, I’ve never consciously charmed clients but the first few questions tend to be me putting people at ease with, what is normally, an unusual situation.


3. Show you’ve done number 1 – you’ve read about the matter so prove it, let them know that you have an idea of what is in issue but NEVER assume you have it right!


4. Demonstrate the risk – reality checking they know what they face, the arguments being made, for and against and what the consequences of potentially not settling are


5. Listen (Jack puts it more bluntly) but do listen ACTIVELY, you’re there to hear what they want and if you don’t listen you might miss that they want an apology AND money


6. Appeal to the ego (butter that client) and put them in mind of settlement, often clients enjoy being told they know more than you do (guess what? They do it’s their case so let them know)


7. Consider alternatives- my forte thinking outside the box other ways of settlement, other aspects of settlement, a handshake goes a long way sometimes


8. Be patient, you have all day (normally) so don’t rush to the numbers, counsel can do that sometimes as they tend to be in mind of pre-trial con settlements but that’s not your role here so slow down speedy.


And who hasn’t sent an email with an error, or wished they hadn’t sent one at all?


Ralph Kilmann talks this week about whether in writing emails the skills of competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating work are as impactful or useful as in discussion.


I would say it is a mistake to consider that email is as useful as the spoken word, I confess to disliking the phone as a method of communication as it takes away the eye to screen you get on zoom but to take even that away and have the one voice is not in my opinion the way to conduct a mediation. Yes some emails can be useful for clarifying but the big work in mediation is done using body-language and tone of voice, both by the mediator and the clients.


One of the concerns of the boom in zoom was taking away the physical connection (not contact) that you get and the greater understanding you have from being in the room with a client. People in the same room end up breathing at a similar rate – we are creatures of the group – and that physical reaction is lacking on zoom so to suggest a further stage of mediation by text, no thanks. Negotiate that way by all means but it is no replacement for mediation.


As Ralph says people fire off emails, don’t review the tone or consider how “regards” might be read by the receiver when the sender means to be friendly but the receiver considers anything less than “many thanks for your assistance” to be downright inflammatory.


And finally getting kids to know about mediation so they can help fix mistakes is a great move forward and in Albuquerque (Weird Al Fans I hear you) Washington Middle School the students are learning techniques from mediation to avoid conflict, whether verbal or physical.



Whoever came up with the SPIRIT acronym needs an award (is almost as good as SHIELD) and stands for “School-Student Program Identification and Resolution of Issues Together”.


APS Superintendent Scott Elder addressing students said “You’re the ones that are coming together to have tough conversations, to be brave to have hope, and I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you not for what you’re doing right now, I’m proud of you for what you’re about to do today and what you’re going to take back to your school”


During Covid the school carried out it’s first round of training with positive feedback but this round has all the signs of even further success.


The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary (except apparently when it won’t be anymore), it’s confidential, the mediator is independent, by using those pillars to support your work the parties keep control, save costs, save time and energy and reduce stress. Finally this one is mediation, mediator jointly appointed, areas of discussion agreed and intention to be bound by the outcome.


In person or via electronic media 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 so you can get out choose a different path, not quite the road less travelled but perhaps the path less adversarial. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.


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 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 me at Northwest Mediation on 0161 667 4418 or via email at ed.johnson@northwestmediation.co.uk

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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