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#MediationQuickTips: Thought-Flow-Tracking. Issue 10

Mediation Quick Tips

Welcome to this ‘Mediation Quick Tips’ Newsletter Issue 10

In this article I want to cover ‘Thought-Flow-Tracking’ to support a mediation participant to work through and clarify their thinking. I am bringing you back to basics here, but from delivering many online mediation questions training courses based on my book: ‘The Mediator’s Toolkit: Formulating and Asking Questions for Successful Outcomes‘, I have observed that a lot of mediators, including those who have been working in the field for many years, have developed their ‘go to‘ questions which they then apply in a variety of contexts, rather than asking questions about a party’s thoughts when that may be more important at particular times.

 It is divided into three sections:

  1. Mediation Quick Tips
  2. Theory behind the Quick Tips
  3. How to apply this theory to practice
Next O’Sullivan Solutions online advanced mediation courses:

March 6, 7, 13, 14, 2024

September 19, 20, 26, 27, 2024

Irish Standard Time: / GMT: 1.30pm -5.30pm
Eastern Standard Time: 8.30am – 12.30pm
Pacific Standard Time: 5.30am – 9.30am 

1. Mediation Quick Tips

Thought-Flow-Tracking

Listen to the WORDS used by a party, reflect back those exact WORDS succinctly (reframe toxic words, but don’t lose the truth) and then gently ask simple questions about those WORDS to facilitate a party to stay on their Thought-Flow-Track.

1a. Thought Flow Track

My previous Newsletter included a link to a mediation roleplay where I used ‘Thought-Flow-Tracking’ to increase the understanding between mediation participants and you can watch it here:

Mediation Demonstration: Correct and Incorrect Practice

I have discovered my own ‘go to’ question has been: What has all this been like for you?!’

Do you have a ‘go to‘ question?

2. Theory behind Mediation Quick Tips

While our ‘go to‘ questions are all excellent questions, there are times when we need to ask questions that facilitate a party to think about what they are thinking about, and not about what I, as a mediator am thinking. Otherwise we will deflect them from their Thought-Flow-Track and they will not reach conclusive thinking.

The best questions come from the best listening and the best listening happens when we support a mediation participant to develop and talk through their thoughts, with a little inobtrusive and gentle nudging from us to support them to stay on track. This  can be facilitated by us through using Thought-Flow-Tracking and then asking questions based on their thinking, not on our thinking.

I am bringing you right back to basics…

If we need parties to have a paradigm shift in their thinking during a mediation process, then how can we do this effectively if we don’t know what they are thinking and if they have not had the space to adequately refine their own thinking? We need to facilitate a party to follow their Thought-Flow-Track and continue their thought sequence so that they verbalise and process their thoughts and, if appropriate, their emotions. 

I can only create a paradigm shift in a party’s thinking, if I know the thoughts that are in their head…

People's thoughts

3. How to apply this theory to practice?

Keep parties on their Thought-Flow-Track by listening to the WORDS used by a party, reflecting back those exact WORDS succinctly and then asking questions about those WORDS.

People refine their thinking by gathering their thoughts and choosing words to construct the sentences that will convey to others what they are thinking. Our role is to gently nudge them along their Thought-Flow-Track so that they develop their thinking further and gain inner clarity. This can often be the start of a paradigm shift in their thinking.

e.g.

Mediation participant, Paula, says:

 ‘I saw the LinkedIn Newsletter and I could not believe what I saw written in it by that woman!’

Mediator’s Response:

a) Listen to the words used by a party

b) Reflect back succinctly what the party says … capturing all the main words …

    ‘I hear you say that you saw the LinkedIn Newsletter and you mentioned that you could not believe what you saw written 

     in it by Jenny?’

c) Ask simple questions about the words the party used…

    ‘Tell me a more about the LinkedIn Newsletter and what was written in it?

    ‘You mentioned you could not believe what Jenny wrote in the LinkedIn newsletter, what could you not believe?’

 

Thought-Flow-Derailment

Imagine again that the mediation participant, Paula, says:

‘I saw the company/community newsletter and I could not believe what I saw written in it by that woman!’

Thought-Flow-Derailment happens when we ask the kind of questions that de-rail a person’s thinking and move them to a different Thought-Flow-Track.

These are some examples of the type of questions that I hear mediators asking that could derail a party’s thinking:

ContextWas this before or after the other incident? 

AnalysisWhat do you think caused her to write this?

InvestigationWho else heard this?

JudgmentWhat had you done before this?

SolutionsWhat can be done to sort this out? (Popular question!)

FeelingsHow are you feeling about it? (Popular question!)

If you can think about other derailment question types, I would love to hear from you? We need to develop simple questions about the words they used and about what they said, and not about what we heard, or what we interpreted from what we heard.

1a. Thought Flow Track

 

Methodology to support a party to stay on their Thought-Flow-Track

  • Be ‘in the moment’ with the mediation participant

  • Allow a participant to finish their thoughts before you reflect back, if you don’t then you are probably basing your question on your own thoughts!

  • At start of Thought Flow Tracking, reflect back, succinctly, the words you hear before you ask a question. Be aware that, as they continue on their Thought Flow Track, reflecting back long sentences may derail their thinking.

  • As their Thought-Flow-Track becomes more developed, then reflecting back with a questioning reflex at the end of your sentence, done very quietly and gently, is sufficient and no questions may need to be asked as they continue their flow of thinking:  ‘You were afraid?’ or just say ‘Afraid?’

  • Stay silent if the Thought Flow Tracking process does not need you – get out of your own way! Sometimes saying nothing, but showing you are listening, is enough for a mediation participant to continue on their Thought Flow Track. 

  • But, if significant new information is voiced by a participant, then reflecting back needs to happen again.

  • Sometimes it may be necessary to test some thinking at an initial separate meeting or at a caucus meeting during the joint meeting.

 

Simple Questions to support a participant to stay on their Thought-Flow-Track

   Tell me a little more …

   Tell me about…

   And then…?

   What were you thinking then?

   What was it that…?

   Tell me about your thoughts…?

   What are you thinking about now?

   What is concerning you…?

   What is concerning you the most…?

   What might I not know…?

   When you say ‘x’, what is going on in your head?

   When you say ‘y’, what do you mean?

 

What does Thought-Flow-Tracking achieve?

 
  • Parties feel important and heard.

  • It provides that which is essential for the creation of a Paradigm Shift:

         a) Missing information is identified

         b) Increased and new information enters the mediation process

         c) Distorted thinking is identified and clarified and a person becomes more congruent in their thinking.

  • Neuro-research has shown that talking about our thoughts, or emotions that arise for us, diminishes the level of threat experienced by the amygdala.  Our emotions come from our thoughts and by asking a party to talk about what is going on in their head, they need to choose what words to use, and in what order these words will be delivered, so they can get their message across. This engages their rational logical pre-frontal cortex and they can think more clearly.

      You are welcome to participate in the online training to develop your knowledge of the practice of these theories at a deeper level.

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Next O’Sullivan Solutions online advanced mediation courses:

March 6, 7, 13, 14, 2024

September 19, 20, 26, 27, 2024

Irish Standard Time: / GMT: 1.30pm -5.30pm
Eastern Standard Time: 8.30am – 12.30pm
Pacific Standard Time: 5.30am – 9.30am