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When the Values of the Mediator and the Client Conflict

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When the Values of the Mediator and the Client Conflict

Mediator{2:54 minutes to read} Recently, I was reading a discussion on a divorce mediation group’s listserv about weapons in a mediation room. A mediator met with a couple, and one spouse, a police officer, was wearing a holstered gun. While few details were given, the scenario made me think about how I would feel in the same situation.

On one hand . . .

It may be perfectly normal to this couple that the individual walks around armed. Neither of them may have even been aware that the mediator was concerned. The gun may simply be part of this person’s daily ensemble, much like a handbag or umbrella.

On the other hand . . .

The act of bringing a weapon to a mediation session could easily be construed as a way to exert power and/or intimidate the other individuals in the room. The gun then becomes a deliberate choice — one that sabotages the mediation process.

I know people who are legally permitted to carry guns and do so on a regular basis. It is normal to them and, in many cases, those around them aren’t even aware that they are armed. If this were the case, then having a gun in the mediation room does not serve as anything other than an “accessory,” like the aforementioned handbag.

But if the gun changes the dynamic between the participants in the mediation, then it jeopardizes the process and its presence should be addressed.

Setting some guidelines at the beginning of the mediation (see our recent blog post on Mediation Ground Rules) may be helpful, as long as they are acceptable to everyone. These guidelines can outline any expectations of the participants and the mediator and give everyone an opportunity to express any concerns they may have.

Mediators generally strive to meet their clients where they are. If everyone feels comfortable and safe in the mediation space, the process can work. However, if anyone is uncomfortable with certain conditions, even if that person is the mediator, he or she should have the right to end the mediation, even if the other participants are willing to continue.

Have you ever encountered a situation in mediation where you felt the safety of you or your clients was compromised, or behavior your clients found acceptable was not something you could accept?

Melissa Burns

16 Pearl St., Suite 201
Glens Falls, NY 12801
Phone: (518) 529-5200

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2017-01-30T11:33:45+00:00 By |Mediation, Melissa Burns|

One Comment

  1. Michael Lang October 26, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    I encountered a similar situation with a couple, one of whom carried a weapon in a briefcase for personal protection. I am uncomfortable around fire arms, and the presence of a weapon would have altered my approach and my comfort. I asked the person to leave the weapon in some secure place outside of my office.

    I believe, no matter how comfortable the parties may be with one or both having weapons in the room, the fact that I am not comfortable around weapons is sufficient reason to (a) ask the parties to place them outside the office, or (b) find another mediator.

    I would broaden this comment to include any situation or circumstance that potentially affects the mediator’s ability to function with optimum efficacy.

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