Mediation and Bridges
Bridges are used in architecture to connect two places that are separated by an obstacle. The images on this website reflect my view of the bridge as an ideal metaphor for the mediation process. Like a bridge, mediation:
- Unites people who are in different places;
- Provides a reliable way to cross over barriers;
- Establishes connections between those who are far apart;
- Allows those who are separated by distance to meet on common ground; and
- Is the most efficient way of getting from one place to another.
Don’t Meet in the Middle
People don’t typically meet in the middle of a bridge; they use it to get from one place to another. Similarly, I ask the parties in mediation to treat the process not as a way to meet in the middle – by compromising on what’s important to them – but, instead, as a way to arrive at a common place – by first understanding the other side and then collaborating on a solution.
Every Mediation is Unique
As every engineer can attest, no two bridges are exactly alike. Even those that are designed and built the same way will differ from one another because the obstacle they are addressing – whether it’s a body of water, a void in the land, rugged terrain or something else – will always be different. Similarly, every mediation is different because every dispute is unique.
Constructing the Bridge
My primary function as a mediator is to help people in conflict cross over barriers and obstacles. How best to accomplish this will differ in every case. To acknowledge the uniqueness of every dispute – and to set the stage for collaboration on a resolution – I begin each mediation by asking the parties to help design how the session will proceed, effectively having them play a role in constructing their own bridge.
The most gratifying part of my job as a mediator is to bring people in conflict together, to close gaps in understanding, to help them resolve their differences and to find a better way forward. I take great pride in participating in a process that, like a bridge, stands out as the most reliable, safe and efficient way to unite people on common ground.