Initially, Florence and I started this book as separate authors, each with a clear vision on integrating NLP -the methodology and tool- into mediation. We both realised that we all mediate in our daily lives, without having to be in court or anywhere else. Mediation is part of life, and in this book we focus on mediation. Yet you will see easily how the information can be used in any situation, because what we are really talking about is how people communicate.
In the first section of our book, FOUNDATION, we explore mediation in the theoretical sense, and then explain the similarity between the role of the mediator and the NLP practitioner.
We show how mediation isn’t confined to those who are trained to practise. Parents find themselves mediating, often unknowingly, between their children. Friends often help mutual friends get over silly arguments. Business leaders try to help employees and line managers resolve differences. This book isn’t just written for trained mediators then. It is for all those who are interested in other people, and more importantly, the relationships people have with each other and themselves.
Mediation can be so much more successful when success is measured not as arriving at an enduring negotiated settlement, but as one that is entirely aligned, or congruent, with all parties as individuals. It is, as a generalisation, a lack of communication that leads two parties to seek the assistance of a mediator in the first place. But mediators are not immune from the same behaviour and responses. Instead of two people distorting, generalising, and deleting information, there are then three. Given that situation, it is a wonder that mediation works at all!
One reason for its success is that mediators learn to trust the mediation process, and in keeping out of the content or issues of the dispute, they avoid miscommunicating through weak listening.
This is where Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, comes in, and in our second section, THE NLP LANDSCAPE, we offer a working introduction to the powerful theories and techniques of NLP -the methodology- that are already in use in many areas of people’s lives.
In NLP, for instance, a state of congruence is a result of all of a person’s internal beliefs, strategies, and behaviours being in full agreement and orientated towards securing a desired outcome. In other words, all people in the dispute have their minds and bodies (and some would say souls) aligned with the final outcome—the negotiated agreement. One definition of NLP is that it is the study of the structure of subjective experience. Disputes arise because two or more people make different subjective judgements or interpretations of the same experience or set of circumstances.
Now, the rather clumsy name of NLP comes from:
Neuro: The study of the mind and nervous system. More simply, how we think.
Linguistics: The study of language and how we use it.
Programming: The sequence of our actions, or how we develop and use our strategies, the ‘how we do things’.
In understanding these three elements, mediators can not only reveal the issues behind the position of each party, but also the implications and effects of those issues on each individual. And by recognising and honouring those implications and effects, mediators can start to facilitate the change that will make the change. Understanding and applying these techniques, mediators will find new and innovative ways of facilitating their clients’ journeys to a settlement that will not only improve their own performance, but also improve the understanding and communication between all involved in the dispute.
From there we move onto section three, BUILDING BRIDGES. We could have called it CREATING THE SPACE; you got it, that last section is all about applying the skills. We wrote that section in three chapters, one on knowing yourself, one on preparing yourself, and one on applying all this to a future mediation process.
Now, you can read our book in a linear way or you can read it jumping from one chapter to another one, coming back to a chapter at a later time and then another one, it’s your choice. Just as this book isn’t written only for those trained in mediation, neither is it just about mediation.
The subject of this book is actually communication, more specifically, the language of communication, and how it can be used with astounding success for people to gain different perspectives and to understand better each other’s point of view; which, after all, is the key to successful relationships.
We do not just communicate with the words we use, though. How we listen is a form of communicating. How we stand or walk is another form of communicating. It is how we interpret the messages we receive that dictates the response we give. We distort, generalise, and delete information in order to make sense of it; this is the ‘how’ we process information.
Yet it isn’t all about the other person. Communicating well also means knowing who we are and how we process information, so be prepared for some introspection… and remember, everything starts with a story.