Mediation techniques for the holidays.


In thinking about the holidays and how we look forward to them, I am also well aware that many times I have heard stories about how the holidays end up being fraught with hurt feelings and arguments instead.  Mediation techniques can help.  Without going into the whole mediation process and why it works – I can demystify the first and most important part of any mediation session – in the hope that you can use this technique to minimize conflict or heal hurt feelings if they creep into your holiday season.

If you and friends or family members are upset because someone is hurt or not feeling respected have a sharing.  I recommend a formal structure and that all parties agree to abide by the rules before beginning, usually by a show of hands.

Here is the structure:

  1. Have everyone sit in a comfortable quiet room where everyone can see everyone.  If there are more then two people a circle is nice.  Make sure everyone is comfortable.
  2. Select one person as the timekeeper.
  3. Agree in advance to listen to each other and not interrupt or respond to what the other is saying.  Hold the space by keeping a calm demeanor and eye contact.  If you must, take notes while the other is talking rather then interrupt, but hopefully given that this is a family sharing this won’t be necessary.
  4. Allow each person ten minutes to talk about how they are doing, how they feel about being together for the holidays, what they enjoy about it, why they feel there is conflict and how they feel about it, and whatever else surfaces that the person feels to talk about. 
  5. At the end of the ten minutes the timekeeper should ring a bell and everyone should close their eyes and sit in silence for a few minutes before the next person begins.
  6. After everyone has gone allow a few minutes of silence before taking a group hug.  Don’t try to analyze what anyone has said or try to fix anything.   Just breathe knowing that everyone has had a chance to speak and be listened to.
  7. You don’t have to agree or necessarily come to resolution– sometimes it’s enough just to feel like you are heard and seen by your loved ones and the same for them.

If feelings are still ruffled after this perhaps let time work its magic. It’s my understanding that people don’t deliberately hurt their loved ones but that most of the time hurt feelings arise because people don’t understand each other or where they are coming from.  Sharings can help create intimacy and support – not because someone is actually jumping in to fix things, but because love and support can be as simple as really listening and really being seen.  I hope this helps with your holidays and throughout the year!