In a week in which one of the major television networks (in association with the leading UK mental health charity, MIND) has committed to publicising a sequence of promotions and broadcasts on the significance of communication, I somehow found myself recalling the 1980s Spandau Ballet song “communication” which includes the rather negative line “communication brings me down”.
The ITV promotion, in which substance predominates over hype includes some important wording such as “Find The Time to Talk” and “Talk. Listen. Catch up.” These sentences emphasise the importance of communication in people’s everyday lives and quite correctly suggests that simple talking is a very good way to address mental health issues. To quote another extract “It’s the Simplest Thing”.
With these thoughts in mind I listened with interest to a recent piece on the BBC Radio Four 5 o’clock news programme, PM.
This piece recounted the experiences of an American woman, A, who for some time has been mourning the passing away of her brother. Even months after the sad event she was still grieving and found comfort in sending texts to his mobile phone number. Imagine her surprise when six months or so after her brother’s death she received a reply – not a curt response from someone who resented an intrusion or who had some sort of ulterior motive – but from a kind sympathetic person who offered sympathy and comfort.
Subsequently, through the medium of texting, regular dialogue began. It appears that A has benefited enormously from the whole process. This was demonstrated when, with the help of a UK rather than American radio presenter, they spoke to one another for the first time. It was clear that they had, perhaps unexpectedly, become friends and spoke very warmly of one another. They also appear to have realised that they were of like mind and have a certain amount in common.
This account amply demonstrates both what a little kindness can do and how even in quite unusual circumstances, meaningful communication can be both established and maintained. It also reinforces importance of the ITV/MIND initiative which hopefully will be instrumental in addressing the needs and difficulties of many people, young and old, with their mental health issues.
All too often, when the subject of mediation, a facilitated meeting or some other ADR option is broached, one party or another will decline because it is considered that “he won’t communicate”, that things have gone so badly wrong that “communication will never be established” or as I was told recently “the communication door is well and truly slammed shut”. However, the experience of the two women recounted above and the underlying sentiments of the ITV/MIND initiative tell us otherwise and demonstrate that contrary to the sentiment expressed by Spandau Ballet, communication really does “bring me up”.
At the very least, a mediation or facilitated meeting can get disputing people into a safe, confidential and facilitated environment. Often, even in the most complex of disputes there may some elements of agreement even if it is only to “agree to disagree” and even this standpoint can be the start of a possibly gradual but nonetheless meaningful dialogue. All it takes is one small “kind word” or one modest acknowledgement and those involved find that if it has not been “kickstarted” it has at the very least started and many may come to realise that even if the end of the tunnel is some way off, there is light at the end of it.
We at ASM PLUS offer our very best wishes to all those involved both at ITV and MIND and trust that media outlets, journalists and commentators across the whole broadcasting spectrum will embrace their initiative and do everything in their power to ensure that it is the resounding success that it not only deserves to be but needs to be.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.