I’ve been working my way through research notes for my upcoming book and today came across these excerpts on the mediator’s job from Winslade and Monk’s 2000 classic, Narrative Mediation (affiliate link). If you’re a mediator and you haven’t read it, you ought to. They have several worthy sequels, too.
“If mediation is about creating new meanings in a dispute where existing meanings have become stale or stuck, then deconstructive listening and deconstructive questioning are useful tools in this creative task…The mediator’s task is to unpack the suitcase and take out the pieces and hold them up for view by the parties. This unpacking involving adopting a naive posture and asking questions, not so much about the hidden depths of the suitcase but about the obvious and ordinary aspects of the baggage that comes with the dispute.”
“…the mediator is not listening to the stories people tell with a view to sifting out the facts or the truth from among the details of what people say. Such an aim risks communicating a subtle disrespect for people’s stories. It sets them up as falsehoods gained by personal bias and implies a process of replacing people’s stories with a higher truth based on a more rational objective account. The alternative stance is to listen to people as experts on their own lives.”