The Narratives We Build
I am speaking at a mediation event this week about one of my first mediations for a local community mediation charity. Reflecting on the case, it reminded me of one of the constants in all forms of mediations regardless of if they are commercial, community or workplace It is the narratives we build.
Our lives are complex. The human habit of simplifying through narrative helps us find our way through what would otherwise be an unnavigable world.
As the protagonist, our cause is always noble, our motivations pure, our intent merely to put right an obvious social injustice. The other party, meanwhile, is perpetuating an unjust world, has questionable motives at best and is blind to all of it.
Simple Stories, Complex World
Our lives are complex. The human habit of simplifying through narrative helps us find our way through what would otherwise be an unnavigable world. It's imperfect though. Sometimes we have to slow down and work on a more vivid and colourful story.
The moment these personal narratives come in for a re-write, in my experience, are the first joint meeting. The structure of these sessions encourage, often for the first time, each party to see and hear the other person and what they see is someone like them. Perhaps angry but also anxious, vulnerable, even afraid. Differences fall away and what was black and white becomes every shade of grey and it is in these shades that the real work starts. Creative solutions are found, compromises discovered and resolution is reached.
The True Story
The closing chapter in human disputes rarely involve a plucky protagonist being cheered on as the wrongdoer is left to hang their head. Rather, it is a series of revelations about ourselves and others and an acceptance that our characters, motivation and plot are not as simple as we first thought. We put down a novel because it had a discrete start, middle and reached a satisfying end. Our story though, and those with whom we share it, overlaps with a thousand others and we are not trying to close the book, rather to find a satisfying way for it to remain open and continue on.