by Mr. Jacob Hirsch
I meet people and begin
speaking with them about the benefits of mediation, invariably a number of
questions arise. Are other disputes ripe for mediation besides divorce? Must
legal issues be present in the conflict? If not, then how is mediation any
different then social work or other prevailing methods such as psychotherapy? I
have come to the realization that apparently mediation is seldom understood and
that is why I receive these simple yet seemingly complex inquiries. There is a
wide range of issues and conflict that mediation can cover and be helpful to in
our everyday lives. As the masses begin to appreciate its realistic approach
they will begin to see that mediation has a unique approach that allows the
potential for peaceful resolution of varied types of conflict.
told we are all in some ways social workers. I am not suggesting that we are as
equipped as an MSW or CSW. Rather I am suggesting that Hashem has created all
of us with innate capabilities many of which we are not even aware of. One
could suggest that a kind word in the morning or a friendly smile at work in
some way is the social worker in all of us in that we can easily, even without
realizing it, uplift others spirits. Similarly one could suggest to a friend
that is having difficulty coping that they seek professional help or just lend
an ear and in that small way would be acting on some level as a therapist.
Again, I am not suggesting that a PHD in Psychology is as simple as that.
Nevertheless the point that I am trying to make is that with some interest in
other peoples plight we can all try to be helpful to others in our own small
way by using the innate social worker and therapist within.
Mediation tries to accomplish is to build a rapport and connection to the
parties by bringing out the “professional” within all of us. As a mediator we
will not tell you what is wrong nor will we rehash the past and cast blame. The
mediator is there to help facilitate resolutions by empowering the disputing
parties with the knowledge and understanding that they can dig deep and help
themselves to communicate their wants and desires so that they might more
easily resolve the underlying dispute at hand. That is why most mediators will
make it very clear from the outset that it is the parties themselves that will
set the tone. It is the parties that know from whence this dispute arose and it
this is their forum to try to resolve some of those issues that brought them to
the session to begin with. I recall one mediator even going so far as to tell
me that if the decibel level gets too high at the session then he might throw
the parties off balance by simply asking the parties if “this is working for
them” and if they say it is he will allow that to continue for some time. Most
mediators are trained to facilitate and work with the parties rather then take
over the forum and be directive.
precisely because the mediator tries to build a rapport and connection to the
parties by helping them connect to their inner abilities that mediation is so
helpful in settling all different types of disputes. Of course the courts are
looking more and more towards mediators for help these days but legal issues
need not be present and that is why parent-teenager conflicts as well as
interpersonal neighbor conflicts are most often ripe for mediation as well.
Mediators are trained to help the parties express themselves
constructively so that the parties can help themselves. Give a man a fish and
he has what to eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he has sustenance for a
lifetime. That is the goal of the mediator.
actively engages in the discussions, building rapport, listening carefully,
asking questions, clarifying statements, and creating understanding between
parties who may have had little success understanding each other at least in
the recent past, if not for quite some time. The mediator listens and watches
for opportunities for one to understand the other better or to acknowledge the
other’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings. In the end it is your forum, the
mediator is there merely to help you bring out that small social worker,
therapist, communicator, that Hashem has uniquely placed within us all.
Jacob Hirsch, J.D. is a Certified Mediator/Divorce Mediator, member of the
Association of Conflict Resolution as
well as a member of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New
York. He maintains a practice in Brooklyn, N.Y. For more information and a free
consultation contact him at (718) 327-9278 or (917) 840-4806.