Talking mediation on CKNW

I had the privilege of being a guest on the Simi Sara show on CKNW a couple of  months ago, and then again today, talking about how mediation can be used to resolve even the most entrenched of disputes. Specifically Simi was interested in whether or not mediation could be a useful tool in the current dispute between the BCTF and the provincial government – few can imagine two sides farther apart or more clearly entrenched in their positions.

What’s the magic behind mediation that could bring such parties together? Truthfully, I don’t have the answer to the teacher’s dispute, and tip my hat to the person who does, but I do believe that mediation can bring such disparate parties together when it seems nothing else can. Unlike the court process, mediation looks behind the disagreement to see why the parties are entrenched. We know what they want, but why do they want it? What’s at stake long term? Does giving in set a bad precedent? In mediation-speak, the mediator is trying to get beyond the positions of the parties and explore their interests, or what’s going on underneath. Often addressing anger, fears, uncertainty, lingering hostility, disappointment, history, agendas etc. can have the effect of sorting out the reason that party has taken such a strong stand in the dispute. Settle the concern, the fear etc., settle the dispute.

Obviously the teachers’ dispute presents a highly complex set of issues that requires far more than this simplistic explanation, but it could be a start. As I mentioned on the show, sometimes when all appears lost getting back to basics is a good place to start. Hey, even getting such polarized parties to sit across from each other is a productive start. If you’re interested in hearing more, have a listen in the CKNW audio vault at and click on Wednesday, Februart 15, 2012 at 1:00.

Posted on February 16th, 2012 by Renee