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Issue B: Mediation and the Truth

I am a mediator, helping individuals and companies resolve disputes.

Mediation has a number of advantages:

  1. It is confidential and so any final agreement, which can be legally binding, will reinforce the confidentiality of discussions and the terms of the agreement.
  2. It is “without prejudice” creating a level ground for neutrality and discussion, and so all possible solutions can be explored before an agreement is signed.
  3. Those involved retain control of the mediation and agreement, rather than passing it to somebody else who does not have particular insight into the matter at hand, for example in the case of a Tribunal or Court where decisions are made by others and then imposed.  The resolution to the dispute is created by the parties behind the dispute.
  4. A mediation can identify solutions which are not evident during the early stages of a dispute or subsequent litigation. For example, creating a middle ground between formality and informality, an apology can often go a long way in resolving matters.

It is often the case that those involved in mediations express strong and opposing views. In such circumstances, it is difficult, if not impossible, to agree on the real facts or on certain matters being true. For example, is an email insulting or direct; has a piece of work been carried out as defined in the contract or has the contract been breached; can specific behaviours be considered to be bullying or as assertive; is a particular legal analysis of the issues correct or fundamentally flawed?

The following may be helpful as a definition of truth:

  1. The real facts about something.
  2. The things that are true.
  3. The quality or state of being true.
  4. A statement or idea that is true or meaningfully accepted as true.

The conditions which are needed to be obtained before something can be deemed to be true require further work in order to get this definition off the ground. Indeed, the notion of truth has kept philosophers very busy for a long time and the nature of such is too complex for us to simply resolve here despite centuries of debate.

The notion of truth in use in day-to-day life is more pragmatic. For example:

  1. This is a fact
  2. It is true that this happened – I know it to be true, I can prove it to be true and any other account is therefore false
  3. To claim that this did not happen is false  

Such statements are often loaded with judgement and emotion and are rarely neutral, particularly in a dispute.  It would not be unusual for a parenthetical along the lines of “and you are a damned liar!” to be stated or implied in 1-3 above.

As such, any search for a mutually agreed definition of truth relating to a dispute is likely to fail, recognising there may be more truth in one series of statements compared to any other.

One of the skills of mediation is to encourage those involved to focus on the future, recognising that individuals are stuck in the past and the immediate present with their fists in the air when they are in dispute. To some extent, those involved in a dispute tend to be operating with their own pattern of truth and facts at odds with other patterns.  One of the skills in mediation is to help those involved recognise that the chasm between them is not so large after all and will shrink with some effort on all sides.

Any resolution requires a certain act of compromise and in doing so, abandoning one’s understanding of a series of events or truth that transpired. Any resolution will have to set these differing patterns to one side or at least accept their incompatibility, and in doing so, recognising instead the essential messiness of life, whether in the workplace or at home.

 


We are excited to have recently published our second issue of THECUBE‘s magazine, with contributions from both members and friends. For this issue we have been looking at the thematic of ‘TRUTH’. This article by member John Scott, is just one of the many that can be found in the magazine. If you would like to read the entire magazine please click here. We hope you will enjoy it, and feel free to get in touch if you are interested in contributing to our next issue for more details.