Attorney Nancy Hudgins, who shares the wisdom won from her experience mediating thousands of disputes in her blog Civil Negotiation and Mediation, today describes her first mediation. It’s a story, wonderfully told, about discoveries — how one party discovers empowerment, another closure, and a mediator discovers the quiet satisfaction in helping others help themselves.
It made me wonder how many other first-time stories await their telling.
While Nancy’s story stands in part for the hope mediation restores to parties, my own first mediation resembled more closely Geoff Sharp’s “The Extra Mile“.
I got my start in community mediation, and believe me, there is no tougher initiation into the trenches of conflict. Here you gird yourself for the escalating battle between neighbors over boundary lines and unleashed dogs, or the full-scale war of feuding teens in a public housing project. Fought in deadly earnest, these disputes emit a lethal heat.
My first mediation involved a dispute in which one of the parties was a woman with profound physical disabilities. The medical attendant who was supposed to arrive failed to show up for the mediation. During a break, the woman asked my co-mediator and me for assistance in the bathroom; we helped her empty her urostomy bag.
Although time has blurred the other details of that day, I remember one thing vividly. That experience revealed something no mediation training prepared me for — not the corrosiveness of anger or the frustration of tears — but instead, despite the hardship and indignities that daily life inflicts, the courage that inhabits the human heart.
Fellow mediators, what was your first time like?