Beneath the positions and strategies of people in conflict lies a magnetic field of possibility, our common humanity, ready to invite resolution. Empathic Mediation is a structure for resolving conflict that taps into this rich source of resolution with empathy. Using the skills of Empathic Communication, the mediator creates a safe, and balanced environment in which people can be heard as they wish to be heard. This model differs from other structures for negotiation in that strategic thinking is delayed until after empathic connection has been established between the participants. Empathic mediation can be used on its own or in conjunction with other conventional mediation techniques. We find that learning this process builds effectiveness both for conflict resolution professionals and also people wanting to learn how to bring more peace, cooperation and understanding into their environment and the different dimensions of their life.
Empathic Mediation invites each party in the mediation, in turn, to express how they are reacting to a specific piece of the issue being mediated. After one party has expressed what is going on for them, the other party is invited to reflect what was expressed. These expressions and reflections often engender spontaneous communication. One of the tasks of an Empathic Mediator is to track whose turn it is to express and whose turn to reflect. The skill of "tracking" thus contributes to balance in the communication throughout the mediation.
Translating and Surfacing Needs
In Empathic Mediation, each expression by a party is translated into the underlying human need. For example, if a man says he is furious that his son, who also happens to be vice president of the company, lied to him about something that caused the man great embarrassment and also cost the company an important account. The mediator might translate the man's expression by saying, "Is it about wanting trust?" The man might reply that trust is part of it; and then he might talk more about his embarrassment. The mediator might guess that the man is wanting respect or perhaps it's about congruence. It might be a need for connection with what prevented his son from telling him the truth.
The term "surfacing needs" refers to the process of asking someone to express something so you can listen for the needs within their expression.