Prince Harry met with the Queen and Senior Royals yesterday to discuss the future plans of Prince Harry and Meghan. Is this an opportunity for a Right Royal Mediation?
Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see how the talks will unfold.
I wish them well and hope a satisfactory outcome can be found for all as soon as possible.
However, as a mediator specialising in facilitation of family business disputes (and this is beginning to look a lot like one), I wonder whether using an independent neutral trained in facilitating resolutions of conflicts of this type might help.
What would a mediator add/ do in these circumstances? Here are a few things:
1. They would allow each party to “vent” or say how they feel in private to the mediator. A powerful process of getting things off your chest (even to someone not involved) means people can feel more ready to move on. There may be cultural or other sensitive issues to be aired.
2. The mediator can help to put what is said into words that will be more easily listened to and understood by the other party. They can ‘take the heat’ out of the message. It may even be apologies are given or exchanged. So much easier to do in a calm environment and possibly through a third party.
3. The mediator will help each party to formulate what they really want, and what are the benefits and risks of their suggested outcome(s).
4. The mediator will help each party to understand better where the other is coming from and “get into their shoes”. Once this happens, the possibility of a deal becomes more probable.
5. Once a way forward in principle is on the table, the mediator can help each party to “reality test” it, and to see whether they could actually live by it.
6. The mediator could challenge people’s unrealistic beliefs by asking probing questions.
7. The parties could have various different meetings either altogether, with communication assisted by the mediator, or separately where everything said is confidential and will only be disclosed to the others if agreed. This can make people feel more comfortable and in control of the dialogue.
8. If someone is attending by telephone, this is a perfectly good way of negotiating. Indeed, I do many telephone/ Skype mediations. However, the interposing of a mediator makes all of the above all the more successful as the direct line is to the mediator rather than on loudspeaker unless otherwise agreed.
9. Then there’s the money. Rarely is the money sorted out completely until the emotions have been addressed. But when it is time to look at a financial settlement, nothing beats having an independent person looking at the figures in each room and assisting to broker a deal by managing expectations and helping parties look to a range of options.
10. Finally, there’s the fact that all mediations, and what are said at them, is confidential, unless otherwise agreed. There is nothing worse than “airing dirty washing in public”. One reason why we hear so little of mediation and its benefits – usually it’s all behind closed doors.
Rebecca Attree, Attree & Co, International Commercial Mediator.