On July 24, 2015, I attended a one-day workshop on proposal-focused mediation, at the home of Michael and Tammy Lomax in Cobble Hill, B.C. It was the idyllic venue for a one-day workshop.
Michael is a prominent mediator, mentor, collaborative practitioner and trainer who teaches the methods of high conflict training, created by Bill Eddy. Michael clearly demonstrated that he has the training chops to deliver an effective method in a one-day format.
I have had the rare privilege of visiting the same village in Tuscany 2-3 times a year over 10 years when I lived in Austria, and surprisingly, Michael and Tammy’s back yard comes the closest to our favorite trattoria with its “loggia” that I have experienced so far. And if that was not enough, there were the goats and baby ducks. The locally made prosecco was a perfect accompaniment to the tasty light lunch on beautiful table settings.
With feedback ranging from “Fantastic” to “When’s the next one?”, we assume the eight MediateBC roster participants out of a total of 26 attendees had an equally satisfying experience.
And what about the content of the workshop? High conflict disputes, as in intense or prolonged, are the most challenging to any dispute resolution professional. However the “New Ways for Mediation” by Bill Eddy provide the skills set to shift emotionally flooded clients to problem-solving by focusing on the relationship rather than the outcome. Michael presented a seamless interactive dialogue that provided theory of conflict styles in an entertaining format and then we had the opportunity to practice these newly minted skills, by way of role-playing. We all felt somewhat awkward initially, but by the end we were able to practice the three key skills: Connect with Empathy, Attention & Respect, Structure the dispute resolution from start to finish by teaching the clients to focus on the future by making proposals and agreements, and Educate them about their choices and the possible consequence of each choice. Michael emphasized tips that will resonate with me for a long time including: “the issue’s not the issue” (high conflict personalities seek to prolong the conflict as they are stuck in negative emotions so they benefit from mediators who can calm their emotions and get them back to problem-solving), and “you have a dilemma” (mediators need to keep the burden of problem-solving with the client). We received materials to provide to clients for pre-mediation coaching which I can attest to, work! Although I have been to three or four High Conflict workshops, I either learn new skills or refine existing ones. If only I can talk Michael and Tammy into a yoga retreat under the loggia!
Elise Schopper is a collaborative lawyer and mediator in private practice in Victoria, BC with West Coast Family Law (www.westcoastfamilylaw.com). Elise is also an Associate Family Mediator with Mediate BC (www.mediatebc.com). Elise pioneered collaborative family law practice in Europe, where it was introduced in 2001.