Family Resolution Institute co-founders Robin Duboe Seigle, J.D. and Shawn Weber, J.D., CLS-F, recently participated in a noteworthy event that drew attention within the mediation community. They attended the annual Family Mediation Institute, organized by the Southern California Mediation Association, which took place on April 20, 2024, at California State University Dominguez Hills. This event is a central gathering for professionals focused on facilitating dialogue and resolving conflicts within families.

During the institute, Seigle and Weber were not just participants but workshop presenters. They shared their innovative approaches to tackling miscommunications — a common challenge in mediation scenarios. Their method revolves around transforming these misconnections into opportunities for productive dialogue, thus fostering a constructive environment for all parties involved.

Their workshop was highly interactive and included practical sessions where attendees could engage directly with the concepts being introduced. The co-founders employed real-world scenarios to demonstrate how subtle shifts in communication tactics can lead to meaningful changes in mediation outcomes.

Their presentation was well-received, with many attendees expressing appreciation for the insights provided and the practical applicability of the strategies discussed. Their contribution not only showcased their deep expertise but also reaffirmed the Family Resolution Institute’s commitment to advancing the practice of family mediation. Such interactions underscore the importance of continuous professional development and innovation in the field of conflict resolution.

If you’re interested in experiencing this transformative presentation complete with enjoyable and interactive exercises, don’t hesitate to contact FRI. Booking Shawn and Robin for a workshop or presentation with your group promises not only insightful learning but also an engaging and uplifting experience.


In the intricate dance of human interaction, miscommunications often lurk in the shadows, ready to disrupt harmony and understanding. Whether it’s in personal relationships, professional settings, or even casual conversations, the potential for miscommunication is ever-present. However, beneath the surface of these misunderstandings lies an opportunity for growth and connection. By recognizing the root causes of miscommunications, reframing complaints, and actively making proposals, mediators can help clients transform discord into productive dialogue.

Unraveling Miscommunications: Understanding the Roots

At the heart of many miscommunications lie mistaken assumptions, selective deafness, and a fundamental failure to truly listen. These factors create a breeding ground for confusion, frustration, and conflict.

Mistaken assumptions are like silent saboteurs, stealthily undermining the clarity of communication. When individuals operate under the guise of assumed knowledge or understanding, they inadvertently pave the way for misinterpretation. What seems obvious to one person may not be as apparent to another, leading to crossed wires and tangled messages.

Selective deafness, whether conscious or unconscious, erects barriers to effective communication. It occurs when individuals choose to hear only what aligns with their preconceived notions or biases, filtering out information that challenges their perspectives. This selective hearing not only distorts the message being conveyed but also erodes trust and mutual respect.

Moreover, the failure to truly listen is perhaps the most pervasive barrier to effective communication. In a world where everyone seems to be talking but few are genuinely listening, meaningful dialogue becomes elusive. Listening goes beyond mere auditory reception; it entails active engagement, empathy, and a willingness to understand perspectives different from our own.

Where’s the miss?

Often in mediation, the two participants seem like they are on a completely different plane and not hearing each other at all. In such a situation, it is helpful for the mediator to step into the role of a translator. Perhaps the clients are having the same toxic argument they have had for years and never really hear each other.

For example, a complaint about a parenting issue could be interpreted by the person hearing it as a direct criticism of the other participant. “You never help the kids with their homework” could be interpreted as, “my partner thinks I am a bad parent” when that may or not be the case. Perhaps the speaker just wants to make sure a child gets help with their homework.

In such a situation, the mediator can help by slowing the participants down in this interaction and following a step-by-step approach to make sure the complaint is communicated so the hearer understands what the speaker wants to change. In this instance, the speaker wants to make sure the child gets help with homework.

Following this pattern can really help:

Step 1: Clarify the complaint with the listener.

After the speaker has finished describing their concern, turn to the listener and ask, “What did you hear?” Don’t ask the listener how they felt. Feelings can confuse what the speaker is trying to communicate. Sometimes words can trigger and the listener will hear what they DON’T want to hear, like, “She thinks I’m a bad parent.”

If the listener just parrots back the exact words, then ask, “What does that mean to you?” The mediator is trying here to get the listener to a deeper level of understanding.

Step 2: Turn to the speaker for deeper meaning.

Once the listener has repeated what they heard and finished step 1, turn to the speaker for deeper meaning. Ask, “Is that what you meant?” The mediator should then ask more open-ended clarifying questions. Don’t assume you understand. Dig deep with clarifying questions to make sure you are teasing out what the speaker really means. If the speaker confirms the listener understands, then move on to the next step. If not, have the speaker restate or clarify and then go back to step 1.

Step 3: Get something meaningful from what the listener hears.

After the mediator has confirmed with the speaker that the listener understood what was meant, turn back to the listener to get even deeper and find something meaningful from what the listener heard. Ask, “What did you hear now?” of “How is that different from what you heard before?” The point is to get the listener to express a deeper understanding of what the speaker was trying to say.

Step 4: Turn to the speaker again.

Once the speaker has made a deeper and more meaningful recitation of what they hear, turn again to the speaker and ask, “Is that what you meant? If the answer is, “Yes,” then work with the speaker to find out and clarify where the proposal in the complaint is. A complaint is a proposal in disguise. Transforming a complaint into a proposal is where the mediator can find real magic. Remember, the complaint is what is wrong. The proposal is how to change what’s wrong into something acceptable or even right. The mediator then works with both parties to reframe using neutral language to find a workable proposal.

If when asking the speaker, “Is that what you meant?” the answer is, “No.” Then the mediator attempts to reframe the concern in neutral language and then goes back to Step 2.

The process continues until the parties can identify a workable proposal reframed with neutral language.

Diagram showing steps to clarify communications and complaints in mediations transforming complaints into proposals with neutral reframes.

From Complaints to Proposals: The Power of Perspective Shifts

A complaint is a proposal in disguise. They often serve as veiled proposals, expressing dissatisfaction or a desire for change. However, when viewed through a different lens, complaints can be reframed into constructive statements of intent.

A reframe involves shifting the perspective from one of blame or frustration to one of possibility and solution-seeking. Instead of dwelling on the perceived shortcomings of others or the situation at hand, reframing encourages individuals to identify the underlying issues and explore potential paths forward.

For instance, consider a scenario where a divorce client expresses frustration about a parenting concern. Rather than viewing this complaint as an indictment of the other person’s parenting abilities or dedication, the concern can be reframed with neutral language as an opportunity to to make a mutually respectful proposal for an improved state of affairs.

By reframing complaints into proposals, clients empower themselves to take ownership of their concerns and actively contribute to finding solutions. This shift in perspective not only fosters a more constructive dialogue but also cultivates a culture of collaboration and problem-solving.

Empowering Dialogue Through Proposal-Making

Central to the process of transforming miscommunications is the art of making proposals. Rather than dwelling on past grievances or assigning blame, making proposals encourages parties to focus on the future and actively participate in shaping outcomes.

When individuals are empowered to make their own proposals, they become stakeholders in the conversation, invested in finding mutually beneficial solutions. This sense of ownership fosters accountability and fosters a sense of agency, driving momentum towards positive change.

Moreover, the act of making proposals shifts the conversation from a passive exchange of grievances to an active exploration of possibilities. Instead of waiting for others to offer solutions, individuals take the initiative to put forth their ideas and contribute to collective problem-solving.

Furthermore, making proposals injects a sense of optimism and forward-thinking into the dialogue. Rather than being mired in the quagmire of past miscommunications, parties are encouraged to envision a future characterized by clarity, understanding, and collaboration.

Conclusion: Cultivating Connection Through Communication

In the intricate realm of human interactions, communication stands as the fundamental framework that unifies us. Despite the complexities inherent in interpersonal relationships, miscommunications frequently entangle us in confusion and conflict. Nevertheless, by dissecting the underlying reasons for these misunderstandings, converting complaints into constructive proposals, and proactively offering solutions, we can convert these conflicts into meaningful conversations.

Miscommunications are often fueled by mistaken assumptions, selective deafness, and a failure to truly listen. By acknowledging these barriers and cultivating a culture of active listening and empathy, individuals can lay the groundwork for more meaningful and authentic communication.

Complaints, when reframed as proposals, become catalysts for positive change and growth. By shifting the perspective from blame to possibility, individuals can empower themselves to take ownership of their concerns and actively contribute to finding solutions.

Central to this transformative process is the art of making proposals. By encouraging parties to focus on the future and actively participate in shaping outcomes, making proposals fosters a culture of collaboration, accountability, and forward-thinking.

In essence, effective communication is not merely about transmitting information but about cultivating connection, understanding, and mutual respect. By embracing the principles of reframing and making proposals, individuals can navigate the complexities of human interaction with grace, empathy, and intentionality.