Rio has been inspiring, as all of the last three or four Olympics have been. All the participants, whether medallists or those from obscure countries coming in a distant seventh, have shown us the principal of the privilege of simply taking part. Even for those of us who seem to have a sport-bypass and no usual interest at all, watching these people perform to the very highest level is very compelling.
The performances at the Velodrome have been particularly difficult to ignore. Wonderfully fit athletes charging around a beautiful stadium dressed like sci-fi robots with exotic helmets and colourful suits seeming to be able to accelerate from a standing start in milliseconds.
Listening to their interviews afterwards they are clearly very emotional after giving their all in pursuit of their personal best, however, when they are “in the zone” they concentrate on the performing not the emotions around it. Jason Kenny had to endure two re-starts in his last race and yet, afterwards, admitted that he had been in a euphoric bubble whilst he was performing. Meanwhile the equally unbeatable Laura Trott performed like the genius she is but afterwards simply overflowed with tears at the enormity of what she had achieved. This may be their secret! Divorcing the emotion from the process can often be the key to a successful outcome.
And so it is with dispute resolution. Anyone who has been involved with any sort of dispute knows how easy it is to get so carried away with the wave of emotion (often anger or extreme sadness). The more the conflict develops the more the participants go over and over the “facts” and as they fester away the more extreme the reaction. Adrenaline and testosterone-fuelled emotion leads the most sensible people to act in an extreme and surprising way. Then, on reflection, they get more angry, more hard-done-by, and the common-held area of the problem becomes smaller and more difficult to focus on.
The Mediator is the catalyst that can help diffuse the emotion and try and concentrate on the “process”. Just as the cycling is not a simple action, the mediation “process” is not a robotic function but something to be handled with skill and discretion. Parties can let off steam, vent their fury but, when it comes down to the settlement, be gently guided to think of the root of the problem, look at it from a different angle, consider a host of different possibilities and, in around 80% of cases, come around to an answer that works for all the parties.
Alas, as a Mediator, we don’t get to wear the blue and white skin suits and alien space-helmets of the track cyclist (nor for that matter earn gold medals) but perhaps we can help others to experience the sheer relief of putting a dispute behind them and moving on to better things.
ADR Accredited Civil and Commercial Mediator, Certified Accountant and member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (former Chair of the East Anglia Branch), university lecturer and trainer and a member of the CIOT Dispute Resolution and Litigation working group.