Four Skills to Learn Before Mediation

So you’ve met or spoken to your solicitor and the mediator. You’ve told them the issues, talked about your broken relationship, your finances, your hopes and aspirations for the future – it’s clear the only thing standing in the way of you moving on is your disengaged or unreasonable ex.

Your solicitor has listened, provided you with advice and a referral to mediation. The mediator has listened, nodded along, grunted or even groaned in sympathy.   Either your solicitor or mediator may suggest………..

“We need an FC on board to get you ready to mediate” – you stare blankly at them – a what?

An FC is a Family Consultant – trained in reducing conflict, keeping the lid on raw, unhelpful emotions and improving communication between you, your partner and your lawyers. The FC’s job is to help you prepare for mediation by coaching mediation skills. This improves the chances of you reaching a settlement more quickly (saving time and money). Being better-skilled from the outset, before there is time for damage to be done, preserves and improves the relationship you have with your ex and so enables you to parent together in the future or be a better prospective partner in your new life.

There is an underlying assumption that anyone can meditate successfully. But ask any mediator and they will tell you that better-prepared clients make better, longer lasting settlements. The FC’s job is to teach and coach you practical skills and provide emotional support, targeted at the time and the issues most critical to a successful settlement.

This is not three years of intense self-analysis. This is helping to “prepare you” and give you skills to make the best possible agreement. It can be done in a single session or short series of sessions if you prefer.

The most common type of help I give as an FC is summarised in the diagram below. Sometimes couples just need the space to explain the pain they are in before then can contemplate a settlement, particularly if it’s not their decision to end the partnership. Others are unaware of how they come across when they make proposals about a settlement. Some need support to enable them to take the legal advice they are being offered by their lawyer rather than making punitive or emotive decisions.

The FC’s job is to work flexibly with you, your partner and your mediator to help you reach a settlement quickly and without destroying yourselves in the process.

The FC’s job is to help you master Four Key Skills before you negotiate a settlement

  • Calm & Controlled: Learning this skill can help you stay calm when your partner is talking, emailing or texting. It will help you stay reasonable and focused on solutions.
  • Flexible thinking: This will help resolve matters in a way that works for all the family. For example, learning option-generation techniques to increase the number of potential solutions for consideration.
  • Effective Communication: Demonstrating how to communicate so you don’t make the other person defensive can be really helpful since most people don’t think about it when they’re upset.
  • Catch yourself doing it: This helps you remember to use the skills during critical moments (meetings or court) and takes you from “knowing” to “doing” – crucial in learning & behaviour change.

Kate Daly is a Family Consultant, Divorce Coach and member of the Thameside Collaborative Lawyers & Mediators – working with Lawyers, throughout London to reduce stress and conflict in divorce.

To speak about any of the issues in this article please call 07710 595 422 or e-mail