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The power of Gratitude and Acknowledgement in Workplace Mediation

“Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today…” This is how I begin my calls with a mediation participant for our initial one to one meeting. Starting with a thank you is so important. I’m acknowledging they are taking a brave step to start a potentially painful process and putting their trust in me to support them through it.

As workplace mediators we meet people at a time when they are experiencing real difficulty. Invariably their health has been impacted by the conflict they are experiencing. They may be sleeping badly, they might be off work with stress / anxiety, their mental health could be suffering. When in this state what do we ask them to do? The suggested way to resolve their situation is to sit down next to the person causing the problem (in their view) and have a conversation. For most people that is a big ask and many will not be prepared to take that courageous step. For those willing to do so I have great respect and admiration – hence I thank them and acknowledge what they are doing.

A key benefit of doing this is that from the outset participants are more relaxed and it is easier to build rapport. They are more comfortable to speak openly and share their thoughts. That doesn’t automatically mean they are bought into the process. Many come to the initial 1-1 calls sceptical that mediation can resolve the issue. That’s a perfectly natural response, and again thanking them for being open and acknowledging the validity of the perspective is a helpful approach. It is important that people know they can be open with me and express their doubts. In turn I can help them understand this is a perfectly normal response and not one they should be nervous to express. Acknowledging their scepticism, and normalising it, ensures they feel listened to. They don’t need to feel defensive – probably in contrast to what they have experienced in dealing with the situation that has led to mediation.

Acknowledgement and praise continues into the mediation meeting itself. At various times during the session I will recognise what they have achieved so far. This is particularly helpful if they are getting stuck and feeling pessimistic about the way forward. When we do reach agreement and wrap up for the day, I will make a point of thanking them and acknowledging what they have achieved. After what they have been through it is so important that they can go away feeling positive, both about the situation and about themselves.

One final point on this… only give genuine praise and acknowledgement. If I were to be insincere it would be obvious, damaging the trust relationship that a mediator needs to establish with mediation participants. So when I say it, I really mean it – it does take courage to do mediation and those that choose to do so deserve much credit.


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