Mediation Training in Texas

 © 2017 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Last week I provided three training days to two mediation organizations in Texas: Texas Association of Mediators and Texas Mediator Trainers Roundtable. The first day, I gave the Trainers several skills for managing high-conflict people in mediation that they can teach their mediators in their 40-hour Basic Training. High-conflict people usually catch mediators (especially new mediators) by surprise, so that having some skills for calming them and moving toward solutions can be a great relief and actually help their clients.

The second day, I gave a workshop on Managing High-Conflict People in Family Mediation, which included an emphasis on giving the clients EAR Statements®  (showing empathy, attention and respect) and focusing them on making  proposals in joint sessions. It was fun and educational to show them a couple of video clips of dealing with high-conflict people on the spot.  It really is possible to help them reach agreements, if the mediator really connects with the parties, gives them more structure than in an ordinary mediation  and spends more time educating them about their options and less time asking them probing questions. These are some of the paradigm shifts that help with high-conflict people--or any family mediation with upset people.

After that, I gave a workshop on Managing High Conflict People in Workplace Mediation. I explained that we know believe that half the work needs to be done before the mediation, such as in Pre-Mediation Coaching (1-2 separate sessions with the mediator) or in our new "New Ways for Work" coaching method with an EAP or outside coach for 3 or more sessions. We discussed the benefits of coaching difficult employees rather than just ignoring their behavior (as healthcare and other organizations have traditionally done) or simply firing them.  New Ways for Work coaching is a good way to see if the employee can make some progress at reducing extreme behavior, especially if they have special knowledge and skills, such as with scientists, engineers, surgeons and anyone the organizations don't really want to lose. Then, after the coaching, a manager can determine if it would be beneficial to have a mediation involving one or more difficult employees, now that they are working on themselves to improve some aspect of their behavior.

The last day I gave a plenary session on ethics with a new presentation: "It's All Your Fault: Ethically Managing High-Conflict People in Mediation." These are the people most likely to turn on professionals and bring administrative complaints or lawsuits. Yet I told the mediators I didn't want them to try to weed out high-conflict people, because they generally do even worse in court.  I emphasized the need to focus on the future, avoid trying to give them insights and never becoming too openly frustrated with them.  We discussed issues of client self-determination, informed consent, treating irritating people with respect and remaining neutral--even when one of the parties seems much more reasonable than the other.

Overall, I had a wonderful time meeting many wonderful mediators and seeing how strong their community mediation, family mediation, workplace mediation and other forms of mediation are in Texas.  I have done trainings several times in Texas to various different groups and I have been impressed with how strong and dedicated their ADR organizations are. I look forward to many return trips.

And in the meantime, I look forward to seeing many family mediator friends at the Academy for Professional Family Mediation (APFM) conference in Memphis, TN on March 30 – April 2.

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high-conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books  and methods  for handling high conflict personalities  and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.