One of the most important things we do in Mediation is listen. Although we challenge, we don't judge and people usually feel safe to open up to us, sometimes it's the first time they opened up to anyone. It's great to see the difference in people once they've spoken to us.
Conflict is never simple, so our job is fascinating. We see people change from tense and depressed to calm and hopeful. We mediate for them, but the change is their own.
So what's a day in the life of a Mediation Officer like? It goes something like this:
9am: Travel to client's house for meeting
I start the day with a visit to a client but they've told us their family are unsure about mediation. We've invited them all along, should be interesting!
When we arrive, several family members are there. For mediation to have a chance, we need family and friends to support the process, so it's good to meet everyone.
10am: Meeting with client at their home
The meeting starts with one family member saying 'I won't sit in the same room as my neighbour' but we make sure our client knows mediation is voluntary and we encourage their family to let them explain why they're considering taking part.
Exploring the issues is always intense and our client is angry and tearful. We work to show that change is possible - the future isn't fixed, no matter what's happened.
The meeting is challenging but after talking everything through, the client decides to take part in mediation. We describe how we run a mediation meeting and explore any worries or concerns about it.
We leave at 11.30am with a promise to call with follow-up arrangements once we have visited the other party. We're so pleased as we know this is a step towards resolution!
1pm: Initial phone call to talk to a new client
We have an hour before our next meeting and I've just received a call from a new client. It sounds as if they may want to do things on their own with a bit of advice. I coach them on how to handle difficult conversations and they sign off saying they feel more confident. They'll let me know how it goes.
2pm: Full joint mediation meeting begins
This afternoon it's a mediation. I sit down with the other mediator and discuss tactics. We discuss how the parties might cope with their emotions, how angry they may get. We also talk about where we will seat people and where we'll place the interpreter.
The clients and interpreters arrive. Everyone is nervous. We settle people down then bring them together. We start by giving a lot of encouragement and everyone has some time to talk without interruption.
Things get heated. We call a break and talk them through how they can manage their anger. Things are calmer once we return.
4pm: Work towards an agreement
We continue to talk and begin to build agreement; one client even spontaneously offers to help the other person with part of the agreement. We end up with a detailed plan and it's our job to test it for practicality, timing, realism and even sincerity. All agreements must be made freely, so we pay close attention to body language at this stage. Everyone leaves with hope for the future.
5pm: Writing up the case notes
I go back to the office and manage to squeeze in some admin. The conflict has affected family, friends, neighbours, housing, the council and the police, so the result is more than the sum of its parts. I end the day on a happy note.