By Ashleigh Barry
When you are in conflict with someone you may be only able to see your perspective in terms of solutions that will benefit you. The problem with this is that mediation is based on finding common ground with each other and coming to a mutual agreement.
Say your neighbour put up a fence without informing you and now it blocks a lot of the sunlight that once cascaded over your backyard and is blocking sunlight from your vegetable garden. You may decide that the only solution is to have the fence torn down because that fits your needs but that generally isn’t a viable option for someone who might be seeking privacy. So when you think of a solution it is generally a good idea to run it through a four part test, in order for the possible solution to have merit.
The first thing you must do to check the solution for its workability would be to look at all the positives. Does the solution build on people’s strengths and resources, does it inspire respect and not imply blame. Outright tearing down the fence is an extreme option and assigns blame to those who installed it in the first place.
Then you must look for any unintended conflicts because while your plan might work for solution #A it may violate other areas of your agreement. Often a conflict brought to mediation is not just specifically for that reason often other things have happened to build a small conflict into a much larger one.
Look for any potential roadblocks the solution might face. Taking down a fence takes time and ignores the labour and money spent to put it up, people might not have the money or the time to take down the fence.
And finally look for the level of commitment people have for the solution. Are people actually willing to follow through with tearing down a fence or are they agreeing to something they don’t want only for the sake of being done with mediation.