The Backyard Fence

24 Jun

I had an opportunity to mediate with really high conflict parties recently.

Mediators aren’t the only ones who need to figure out how to help parties who just can’t help going after each other. So do parents, teachers, supervisors and so many others.

Which got me to thinking about a tool that might be helpful in these types of situations, especially in ongoing relationships.

Last year, I took an advanced mediation class in Las Vegas. The teacher, an experienced mediator, talked about a technique he uses to keep parties “out of each other’s backyard.”

Here’s the visual. Each party has a backyard, separated by a fence. I like to think it’s a picket fence … it’s the conflict ‘Pollyanna’ in me. fence

As the mediator (or parent, teacher, supervisor etc.), you let the parties know that it’s your job is to keep them out of each other’s backyards. So why is that important? Because it puts them on notice, that when you see the jabs, verbal low-blows or whatever form the unacceptable behavior takes, you will call their attention to the fence. And their job will be to climb back over that fence into their own backyard.

In mediation, you can’t go about looking to the present/future to find a resolution to a dispute if the parties keep rehashing the past or going back to the behavior that got them to mediation in the first place. Now a certain about of review is needed, in order to understand what brought them to this point. But if all the conversation does is to continuously devolve, then no resolution will be in sight.

This technique will only work if the parties understand what they are doing and recognize the benefit of making that climb.

But if that’s the case, you can help them to be more civil and work towards resolution rather than ‘invading each other’s backyards.’






Print Friendly

No comments yet

Leave a Reply