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Mediation - helping people sort things out

mediate; mediation; mediator; conflict; arguments; fighting; communication; negotiation; honesty ;


What is mediation?

Have you and your friend ever had a big argument? Were you both so upset that you just couldn't sort things out?

  • Maybe you stopped being friends for a while?
  • Maybe you are still not friends?

Sometimes it can be really hard to sort things out. That's where mediation (say mee-dee-ay-shun) can be helpful.

Mediation is when you ask a third person to help you.

  • The mediator (say mee-dee-ay-tor) can be a parent, teacher, counsellor or some other trusted adult.
  • He or she may even be one of your classmates or an older student in the school.
  • You need to be honest, willing to listen without interrupting and be prepared to accept a fair resolution (which may not mean that you get all your own way).

What skills do you need?

A mediator needs to be someone who will not take sides with one or the other of you.

* They must be able to stay calm and be assertive.
* They must be a really good active listener.
* They must be really fair and make sure that everyone gets an equal chance to tell their side of the argument.
* They must be able to think clearly and see what the problem is.
* They must be able to get the people concerned thinking about ways to solve the problem.
* They must help the people to look for a win/win result.

peer mediation

Many schools nowadays have a Peer Mediator program that is run by the older students in the school. If you are interested in helping others to sort out their problems, then ask if you can do the training.




How to mediate

Even if you haven't done the training, here are the steps you can use to help others.

A. Say that you are willing to act as mediator.

  1. Ask if they want you to mediate.
  2. Find somewhere to go that is quiet and away from everyone else.
  3. Ask them to agree that:
    • they want to solve the problem
    • there will be no name calling
    • they won't interrupt when the other person is talking
    • what is said is in confidence.

B. Listen actively. That means looking at the speaker, making
   listening noises and making sure that you have got it right by:

* Asking the first person, "What happened?" then paraphrase, (say para-frayze) - that means repeating back what they said in your own words.
* If the first person agrees that you have understood, then ask that person how they feel about it. Repeat the feeling, eg. "So, you felt angry, or sad, or upset…?"
* Ask the second person, "What happened?" Paraphrase their answer to make sure that you've got it right.
* Ask how that person felt. Repeat the feeling.

C. Look for ways to solve the problem.

* Ask person 1 "What could you have done differently?" Paraphrase.
* Ask person 2, "What could you have done differently?" Paraphrase.
* Ask person 1, "What could you do right now to help solve the problem." Paraphrase.
* Ask person 2, "What could you do right now to help solve the problem?" Paraphrase.
* Encourage first one, then the other, to come up with ideas. Remember, only one person can talk at a time.

D. Find a solution.

Help the two people to find a solution they both feel good about.

* You may ask how they feel about different ideas they came up with.
* You may ask which bits of a solution they each like and which bits they don't.
* You may suggest that each be willing to give in a bit so that they can find a solution they can both accept.
* Repeat the solution and ask each one in turn if they agree to all of it.
* Congratulate both people on working through their problems. Maybe you could all shake hands too.

REMEMBER: as a mediator you do not talk about what happened in the mediation process with anyone. People have told you stuff in confidence, and it is not OK for you to talk about these private matters.

When to get help

You need to get help from a trusted adult if:

* the people won't stick to the rules of mediation ask a trusted adult if you need help
* you feel unsafe
* others try to join in
  * you could first try asking them to go away, or leave yourself, with the people who have the problem, and find another place
* you feel uncomfortable with the problem being discussed
* you feel that it is an unsafe secret and could lead to someone being harmed in some way, eg. bullying or drugs.

What kids say about being a mediator

  • "I have been a mediator for 2 years. At first there were a lot of problems to help sort out. Some kids don't understand. They think I will help them to get their own way. I'm there to try and help both people."
  • "It can be really hard to help some people. Sometimes I just go and see the teacher on duty about it."
  • "It can be really interesting. I have learned how to be a good listener and how to explain things well."
  • "Sometimes it's hard to get other kids to go away. Usually I just go away myself with the people who want to sort things out."
  • "Some kids just won't listen to each other or they listen and still think they should get their own way. It takes a while to learn how to negotiate a good solution."
  • "Some kids change their story and tell lies to try and get the other person into trouble. They don't want to sort things out, they just want to win. That's when I ask our school counsellor to help."
  • "Being a mediator has helped me to realise that problems can be sorted out if everyone is willing to listen to what others are saying."

Dr Kim says

Dr KimEveryone has the right to be treated with respect.

Sometimes we can feel so upset that we cannot see clearly how to resolve a problem. Having someone mediate can calm things down, define the problem and help us think how to solve it while treating each other with respect.

Trying to get a solution where both sides win often means that both sides have to be prepared to lose something. Having the chance to talk quietly about their problems and be listened to, helps everyone feel better and more satisfied with the outcome.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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