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  • Writer's pictureGeraldine Waxman, ESQ.


How people tell their stories

Language and their definitions of what something “really” means is certainly different based on many things including one's culture, upbringing or area of the country. This has brought me to thinking about how clients express themselves and how we, as mediators, must be mindful of these differences.

Structure vs. Flexibility; How parties see the agenda (rules) varies. For a “fact finder/structure” party it tends to be literal and following details to the letter. For the “feelings/flexibility” part it is a “guide” and may or may not be followed or, if followed, certainly not on a structured timetable that the “fact finder” might wish. It does not mean that the person “bending” the rule has done so intentionally or is not respecting the rule or the other party. The Mediator may note that different people see things in a different patterns and that neither is intentionally harming the other. The Mediator might call for both parties to first create a set of rules that are flexible enough to compensate for one party's need for structure and the other party's needs for flexibility. This can be accomplished by focusing on the process versus the outcome. Acknowledge to both that differences are a part of how people collect and interpret the information around them and are not choices they make to annoy others. This is perhaps

a reason to caucus so that the Mediator can both validate each party's perspective while allowing each party to understand at least some degree of validity in the other party's perspective.

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