Mediation and Horse Whispering

Early in my mediation training, a mediation trainer played a video of a horse whisperer.  Mediation is much like horse whispering, she explained.  I have been pondering her message for years.

Fast forward to 2011.  If you haven’t, I highly recommend you watch “Buck”, a movie released last year during the Sundance Film Festival.  Buck Brannaman, the real life horse whisperer, uses skill, gentle but firm guidance, humanity, listening, learning, patience — to train horses.  He quietly mentions the problem often lies with the people, the owners, rather than the horse.  He is not just whispering to the horses, he is talking to the owners.  He is teaching horses to work with people and people to work with horses. He is a mediator between horses and their owners.

But, how does Buck do it?  He first bonds with the horse.  He builds trust.  He then begins to work with the horse in predictable ways.  He is patient.  He watches the horse’s reactions.  He listens.  He simultaneously works with the owner.  He asks the owner about the problems with the horse. He listens. He explains his approach to the owner.  He is bonding with the owner.  He is gently guiding the owner to train the horse differently, with guidance rather than force.  To many it appears that he is training the horse.  But, he is clearly working with both the horse and the owner.  In one instance, Buck tells an owner she has too many horses and cannot be providing a quality of life for any of her horses.  Like many horse owners, she sees her horse and the horse training process differently and feels Buck has worked a miracle.

Mediators use a similar approach to guide clients and their attorneys to work together to resolve conflict. Mediators build trust with both sides based on years of experience as professional neutrals.  Mediators listen, learn and help people process the legal arguments and the various ways the court could rule. Mediators reframe the problem so both sides see it differently.  Force is not helpful; straightforward analysis is helpful.  The clients begin to form solutions.  With proper timing and careful presentation, mediators deliver hard messages about the problems with their case.  Cases often settle, and people feel the mediator has done his or her “magic.”

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About kshobbs

Karin has mediated over 3,600 disputes in her 14 years as a full on professional mediator.
This entry was posted in Difficult People, Emotions, mediation, Settlement and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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