Monday, 8 August 2011

Mediation, not Meditation

sunrise in Jordan
Hello, Lola II here.

It's been aaaages since the Lovely Lola asked for me to contribute to her blog and so, finally, I'm happy to oblige. I have decided to write about my day job. I work for a charity involved in a couple of different areas.

1. Restorative Justice - helping victims and offenders to deal with the effects of a crime - something that the courts don't/can't deal with.

2. Workplace Mediation - helping colleagues to resolve difficulties. Mediation is a much quicker and cheaper alternative to a tribunal. Also, mediation can help with on-going work relationships if the individuals concerned are going to continue working with one another.

3. And my personal baby, Community Mediation - I help neighbours who are in conflict with one another due to noise, pets, communication, communal areas, gardens, shared facilities, parking, and my personal favourite - when Neighbour Lady 1 was disturbed by Neighbour Lady 2's snoring at night - plus much, much more. This is my main area of expertise, along with responsibilities of chief proof-reader, how to change our answerphone message, and Fun&Games Monitor.

A common misconception when it comes to neighbour conflict is that one person is the victim and one the perpetrator. This is very rarely ever the case. Neighbour 1 might be experiencing loud music until 3 a.m., however Neighbour 2 will, invariably, be feeling harassed from Neighbour 1's complaints, rightly or wrongly.
Just today a neighbour called me following her mediation meeting last week. At that meeting, she and her neighbour had agreed on a number of actions for the future, which were written down by the mediators and sent out to them both. She thanked me for the meeting and said that she'd never spoken up for herself like she had to her neighbour, and that she was really pleased she had. She thinks mediation is great and is telling everybody.
I speak to the neighbours from a totally impartial approach - their housing officer has asked me to contact them both - we're an independent charity, we don't take sides and we don't pronounce a judgement after our involvement. We're as far removed from the court system as you can get, other than solving the problem with fisticuffs in the playground.

Noise is the BIG problem. A lot of council housing has poor sound insulation and no money to rectify it. Many people I speak to wonder how mediation can help, since "I'm not going to stop my two and my five year olds playing!" What we find is that by helping neighbours clearly and constructively communicate to one another the 'impact' the difficulties are having on them, the complaint changes from a 'grumpy moan' to a reasonable person trying to live in peace in their home.
Mr S and Mr J fell out over the use of their shared balcony. Making our usual 12 week follow-up call after they reached agreement in mediation, Mr S told us that he invited Mr J to his party, since he realised if Mr J was going to be disturbed by the noise, he might as well be part of it. They'd shared a pot of mint tea after the mediation and, ever since, were getting on like a house on fire.
What I love most about my job is that I help people. I know the beauty of mediation and what it can achieve. My challenge is in encouraging people in conflict to accept mediation as a valid way to resolve their dispute.

8 out of 10 times that neighbours meet in mediation, agreement is reached. Close to 100% of neighbours who return our feedback form after the close of their case say that they would use us again and would recommend our service. I'm very proud.

The key message I work to get across is that people have to take responsibility for their own problems and not expect others to magically change their ways. Empowerment, that's our business.

I was at a networking event some years ago and a fellow delegate asked me "Do you travel to people in their homes?" "Yes," I said. "Do you bring your own candles?"...

I love mediation. Better than meditation any day.

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