A mediation is like a good holiday.  Here’s why…


A weekend vacation trip does not give enough time to find the holiday ”sweet spot”.

Bruce Kirkby wrote a great article in last weekend’s Globe & Mail about the holiday ”sweet spot”.  As a veteran outdoors trip guide, he knows all about the magic and difficulty of disconnecting.

Kirkby says it’s not possible to truly relax on 2-day trips, where too much time is spent on transportation, logistics, getting comfortable with the new surrounding.

On 5-day trips however, personal change is possible, and the invaluable “middle day” of any trip, when sitting around the fire, the distractions of work and home, at least for a brief moment, fade from a traveler’s mind.’ By day 4, the magic is gone, as the travelers were already mentally into day 5, the end of the journey, and thinking about tasks awaiting their return.  Roughly, I graph it like this:

The idea of a middle day is an interesting one for mediators.  There is no middle day in a mediation, at least along a predictable time scale. Each mediation is unique.  There is, though, in a successful mediation, a sweet spot of resolution, a time in the mediation when tension is released enough for surprise, surprise, resolution to magically appear.  Over-simplified, I kind of visualize it something like this:

Although parties in a dispute may enter the mediation room with a greater level of tension that in the visual above, the fact that they are close proximity, again, tends to escalate tension between them.

Holidays and mediations seem like kindred spirits to me.  The trip guide and the mediator have similar responsibilities:

  • to act as facilitator
  • to create opportunity for parties to discover their sweet spot
  • to foster letting go and making connection
  • to work with emotion
  • to understand the cycle of change

Just this week, after one of my mediations ended, one of the parties said to me, you have such a stressful job.  Maybe, and then again, if I imagine myself as an outdoor trip guide, the sweet spot makes it all worth it, sitting around the fire on the middle day of the trip, knowing that I’ve helped others find what they were looking for.

In a way, that’s what we do as mediators bring people to the fire, to let them tell their stories and find their sweet spot.

How do you visualize the sweet spot of mediation? Leave a comment.

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