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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Sorry, seems to be the hardest word

With the limited access to courts and lawyers 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 uses Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes so please do not feel that you cannot contact us as there are limits on physical meetings.

I was reminded this week that it was the ability of parties to acknowledge injury or hurt to others which settled the very first case I was sole civil mediator in 2015. What reminded me was when exploring the similarities between two “warring” neighbours.

In mediation you often look for overlaps, common ground, shared experiences and build from there. In this case the shared experience was that both parties had chronic medical conditions which had in no small way led them to the mediation, their own medical issues having exacerbated and in some cases caused some of the upset.

Once the parties were able to confidentially lay out those issues it was very natural that both expressed how sorry they were for the hurt the other was suffering and for any part they had played in that happening.

The simple word “sorry” came out and from there on the parties who had been almost literally daggers drawn were able to communicate once more. There was little else as a mediator for me to do other than record as they wanted me to an agreement about behaviour and communication going forward.

It’s a matter of some dismay that in our current climate of career politicians apologies are not forthcoming, in fact as observed in John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme last week there is a whole language about apologies which politicians use to avoid saying sorry. I’ve never understood it, we’re human, we make mistakes, we can and should apologies for them, it should be regarded as a sign of strength not weakness.

In mediation it takes no small courage for the parties to say the word but in the case I refer to above saying “sorry” was the proverbial pebble that started the avalanche of reconciliation.

In that first case, it wasn’t that the parties were sorry for each other but that they were sorry for themselves, they each wanted to know the other was unhappy (they used a rather more brutal term) with having to have settled by litigation and then mediation rather than sorting it themselves.

In both cases hearing the other party is sorry (for the situation or the upset caused) was what sped the parties to conclusion and is something which litigation cannot elicit, in both cases the parties have ongoing relationships so the importance of the communicating with each other in an open and frank way about their feelings was so much more productive that a court order telling one to ay the other damages would have been.

In family disputes an apology goes a long way, though it’s often hard to see it happening at the start of the process it’s not unusual (though not obligatory) to find one somewhere during the mediation being volunteered by one party to another.

This doesn’t seem to have changed when the method of delivery is by Zoom either, you’ll not be surprised that online mediation has been flourishing under covid restrictions, keeping everyone safe whilst assisting the parties in moving forward with their financial or child care disputes.

As we’ve said before the use of mediation is going to increase to assist the courts with their backlog following the Covid restrictions and now even more business leaders are asking for mediation to be recognised as the first port of call for disputes.

In this case it’s 12 Scottish business leaders (but as we’ve learnt over the pandemic often where Scotland leads England follows, and apologies for the picture but it was that or the shot of our previous tour of the west coast and the Great Glen) the group includes representatives from the North Coast 500 (a journey which the family and I will be making next year) as well as Building Workshop, Burness Paull, The Business Banking Resolution Centre, Dentons UK & Middle East, Future Pathways, The 2Gether Partnership, Gilson Gray, MBM Commercial, Transcend Change, Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie and the University of the Highlands & Islands.

In a situation where public, third and private sector organisations require to focus attention and resources on moving forward, the Scottish courts and tribunals system presently has a significant backlog of cases which is likely to continue while the requirement rightly remains to give priority to the health and safety of users.

In a joint press release the group stated:-

“As a result, it is unlikely that the courts and tribunals system will be in a position to cope fully with the short to medium term requirement for fast, fair and effective dispute resolution.

“In many other difficult situations outside the justice system that requirement is also likely to be greater in the months ahead.

“Mediation is a fast and cost-effective method for public sector, not for profit and business stakeholders to find solutions to the range of economic and social issues arising from Covid 19 – and more generally. It has a very good track record already

“Mediation can be one of the cures to help alleviate some of the difficult challenges facing our economy and society as a whole.”

The UK Government has already (7/5/20) issued guidance that mediation and other forms of ADR should be utilised prior to issue of proceedings in contract disputes, the Scottish group have gone further and said Scottish courts should take the steps already recommended by an independent report to place mediation squarely at the heart of dispute resolution.

Mediation remains a viable option to mine workers at the Candelaria copper mine in Chile. The latest offer made by Canada’s Lundin mining was rejected by a large majority vote last week but time still exists in the coming days for the mediation efforts to reach a resolution and avoid strike action.

The Chilean government is currently acting as mediator for the parties and the door remains open to the workers to take up the offer of further discussions. The first phase of mediation expired on Tuesday but the door is open to extend for further time and talks in the next few days.

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. 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 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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