GM blog

Welcome to the Guided Mediation Blog

Ian:

Designing a web site is quite a task. I’m confident enough about mediation, managing relationships, giving advice, sorting out conflict, dealing with children, financial assessments, legal advice and so on. In fact I find myself finding it difficult not to blurt out advice the moment I get the hint of a problem in these areas. But with a web site, that’s a different ball game.

Zanne:

Mediation is a different game, it’s about keeping your opinions to yourself, and that can be far tougher than giving advice.

Ian:

My general philosophy in life is this. If some other human can do it so could I given the time and effort.

Zanne:

Not everyone can mediate in my experience. It requires an ability to stand back and reflect and that is not easy for some personalities, ever, and in stressful situations it is difficult for everyone. That is why external, impartial, mediators are so necessary.

It has not been easy to distill mediation skills and approaches into a series of questionnaires knowing that whatever we produced would suit some people and not others and indeed would be right for some parents, but not others. If mediation was easy the courts would not be bursting at the seams. Mediation is difficult because it requires people to see both sides of the situation and take responsibility for their part in creating the situation they now find themselves in.

Ian:

Zanne and I have worked well on this site. This is how our relationship works. I have a bunch of ideas, Zanne laughs at them (in a very subtle and supportive way), says she’ll take a look at them and comes back with something very different. At first glance I’m fed up with what she has produced. Even if I thought it was good I wouldn’t tell her. I ignore it. I leave it in my in-tray. I let it simmer on the back burner, but slowly it grows on me that I’m going to have to deal with it anyway.

Zanne:

This is like a marriage – we have very different perspectives on this process. What’s interesting from what you have said is that you ignore ‘it’ – the idea or suggestion. What that has felt like is that you have been ignoring ‘me’.

I guess that’s pretty typical though, no response can feel like a rejection of you, when in fact the person is adjusting to the suggestion or the situation itself.

Ian:

Then she asks me if I would like to chose the colour scheme and a picture or two. I’m impressed she values my input and I start searching the web libraries for pictures. After a week or so with a short list of 150, and no clear idea of what I’m doing anymore I’m exhausted. I get an email from Zanne. She’s found a couple of good picks and I look at them. Just as I’m getting a bit blarty she emails. Send me your short list and I’ll look at them. Phew, I calm down a bit.

Zanne:

Again different pressures, both of us are working to deadlines which are dictated by our different lives. I have to do things when I have space and so do you, it’s just that our space has rarely coincided and life has intervened for both of us.

I work best when I have no other distractions, you seem to accommodate distractions more easily. Each is OK but when working together it requires both people to be tolerant.

That’s stressful enough when you are working to your own deadline. It can really be stressful when you are responding to external pressures; court dates, school transfers, house moves – especially if you feel that the whole situation is neither of your choosing, nor making. 

Ian:

Zanne’s subtle, I’m direct, she goes round the bushes, I go for the jugular. I’m aware that I’m not the most subtle of people so value her input (wouldn’t dream of telling her) and we worked well. It took a bit of discipline from me not to be dismissive but things moved on. There were times I though it was too touch feely for me. I certainly felt at one stage the Reflections chapter had gone just too far and and I wanted to pull out.

Zanne:

This is going to be an interesting blog, for there are things you have shared in writing that you have not shared with me before.

I hope that this blog will end up being informative for people but I am wondering now if part of the value of the forum will be for people to write out what they are feeling and understand it for the first time, so that they can then speak with their ex, or their children, in a more measured way.

What do you think?

Ian:

It was only the thought of the over all project, a web sight that put the tools of mediation in the hand of the users and paid half it’s profit to children’s charities, that kept me moving on. As we finalised the drafts of the documents and started the formatting, then the form field and testing we worked better and better. Now I look at the final product and have no idea which bits I did and which bits she did. It fits together seamlessly.

Now I have time to sit and reflect on this project I realise the whole thing has been an exercise in the sort of skills and attitudes required for a successful mediation. A bit of give and take, the willingness to look at things from the other person’s point of view, taking time to reflect, not jumping to conclusions, allowing the other person to ‘win’ occasionally and then keeping the big picture at the front of your mind and not getting caught up in fiddly detail. I think I, actually I really mean we, have done good. Well done Zanne!

Zanne:

Well for better or worse we have pressed the ‘launch’ button and that has taken some courage. Courage I may not have had alone, so thank you too Ian.

What kept me going? It has been absolutely a labour of love from start to finish and there have been times of real doubt along the way.

You see fathers missing their children, I see mothers struggling alone. You listen to fathers desperate to play their part, I listen to mothers fighting to secure the best opportunities for their children with special needs.

 What we both deal with is people believing they know what’s best for them and their child and fighting their corner – often in stressful and difficult circumstances – but that fight often has unintended and long term consequences and it is that which I hope this kit will help some parents to avoid. I know from my own childhood that the loss of my father had a powerful impact on my development as an adult, an impact that I have only really come to appreciate late in life. So perhaps that explains why, for me, this kit is one way of saying – when parents separate well they give a gift to their children that is priceless.