We’ve all seen exasperating behavior in mediation. Furious parties who don’t listen, won’t cooperate, and seem determined to make problems for themselves. Indignation, fear or outrage swamp their better judgment.
But perhaps these parties aren’t trying to drive us insane. Perhaps they’re experiencing a brain malfunction.
Flooding is an adrenaline overload that was first identified by the family researcher, Dr. John Gottman. During flooding, an adrenaline surge disrupts parts of the brain. Symptoms include:
Flooding will interfere with most of the skills you need in mediation: listening, problem-solving, cooperation, you name it. And worse, as your own frustration builds, you can find yourself flooding, too. That means you experience a sharp drop in your ability to listen or find new options. Not exactly what a mediator needs.
What to do?
Flooding is not the sign of someone crazy, stupid, or deliberately obstructive. It’s a natural consequence to being upset. But rather than just trying to reason with this person (which you may have noticed, doesn’t necessarily work), there are different ways to get through to the brain and get these parties functional again.
My approach is called the Virtual Tranquilizer®, and it tackles flooding directly. For an example, here’s a “how to” clip from my new DVD from the American Bar Association, Working with Emotional Clients: The Virtual Tranquilizer® for Lawyers. Mediators have a different program, of course, but both professions at times have to get information from parties who are so upset they make no sense. You can see it here.
In short, many of the problems we face in mediation are caused by a brain malfunction. It’s not character, it’s chemical. And we can help these parties get past that malfunction and come back to their better selves.
If you would like to learn more about Virtual Tranquilizer® skills for mediators, please visit our website, where we’ll have a special discount for Mediate.com members.
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