How a Mediation Career Changed My Life: personally and professionally.

By Shawn Skillin, Esq., Family Resolution Institute Trainer and Co-Founder

My Previous Life

In my first professional life, I was a nurse.  Then I got this crazy idea to go to law school.  As a nurse I worked in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, I was certified as a critical care nurse and as a trauma resuscitation nurse.  This meant I went to the ER for new trauma’s and went on “Codes” where ever they happened in the hospital.  It was the exciting hardcore stuff and I loved it.

Whemediation careern I went to law school, I thought the equivalent of the hardcore stuff would be litigation.  I mean how bad could it be, no one would die.  Then I started litigating.  I liked it, it was exciting, but it took a toll.  It wasn’t very predictable, there was no policy and procedure manual.  Ask five lawyers (or judges) the same question and I got five different answers.

To make matters worse, I missed the teamwork and camaraderie of the hospital with everyone working together to a common goal.  Divorce lawyers didn’t really work that way…

One of my colleagues suggested I would like a mediation career, so I signed up for a training.  I instantly felt at home.  It felt educational, collaborative, constructive and rewarding to me.  I felt much more in control.

A New Mediation Career

So off I went on a new professional adventure in my new mediation career.  I was in control of my hours and case load, no more ex parte hearings at the last minute, many fewer client crises.  I was educating clients, helping them solve their own problems and I was much happier.  As I attended more training and developed my skills, I became a better listener and learned to let go of the “outcomes”, after all, they belonged to my clients.  I was in charge of the process, they were in charge of the outcome.

What’s more, my new skills translated into other areas of my life.  I was better with my kids, little league and soccer parents and my siblings (a miracle in itself).  I tried to see my Husband’s side of things (warning, limited success here.)

If you are looking for a change in your profession, whether you are a lawyer, mental health professional or financial professional, consider giving a mediation career a try.

“Fair” is the F-Word!

divorce mediation, fair

Why “Fair” Is The F-Word

Our Co-founder and mediation trainer, Shawn Weber, J.D., recently wrote a post on his personal blog about why “FAIR” is a terrible word to use in mediation.  Really, a good mediator will move people away from fictional and hard to define concepts like “fair” or “justice” and guide them towards concepts such as the “good business decision” and “agreements we can live with.”

Read Shawn’s complete post here: Why “Fair” is the F-Word in Divorce Negotiations

Numbers vs Feelings: Different Perspectives in Mediation

By: Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.,  FRI Founder, Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Divorce Practitioner ©2015 By Shawn D. Skillin

In divorce mediation, there is almost always a numbers person and a feelings person.  The numbers person was probably what I refer to as the “Managing Partner” in the marriage.  The person who balanced the accounts, took care of getting the bills paid and the taxes done, made the investment decisions, etc.  This spouse was often the more organized and logical partner in the marriage.  They are more logical in their decision making and often have a good grasp on how this divorce thing is going to look from a logical perspective.  They are often focused on practical matters:  schedules, finances, logistics.

The other spouse is often the “feelings” person.  Numbers aren’t really first and foremost in this person’s mind.  They are worried about where they will live, will they have enough money, are the children going to be ok, will they ever find love again.  They are often slower to process the practical issues of divorce.

How do you bring these two parties together into a space where decisions and planning can take place?  It’s not always easy.  Recognizing where each person is coming from is the first key.  You have to take each client “where they are at.”  You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, so once you’ve identified this problem, start chipping away at the sharp edges.

Help the “numbers person” to recognize that the “feelings person” needs some time to process their feelings so they can take in the practical information and be ready to make decisions that will stick.  Pushing them forward too quickly will only result in a one step forward, two steps back scenario that ultimately frustrates the “numbers person” even more.  With the numbers person, my favorite saying is “slower is faster.”

Assist the “feelings person” by acknowledging their feelings, but gently reminding them that being involved in the decision making process requires their active participation.  Help them figure out what they need to help them move forward.  Gently remind them, that if they fail to make any progress, the other person may ultimately get so frustrated they will end up in court just to move things along.  Help them to outline what information they need and what resources they may need utilize to help them move forward.  Set deadlines for getting certain tasks done.

By acknowledging where each party is, the mediator helps normalize the situation for both parties.  This can make everyone feel heard and more comfortable in moving forward.