• Karima Muhammad

How listening is an important aspect of effective communication:

Updated: 7 days ago


I am a professional mediator. I help people resolve disputes by identifying and removing issues that block communication. During my first session in a mediation, I provide the parties with ground rules for helpful dialog in an opening statement. I make sure the parties understand the goal is to assist them in communicating. I would reiterate the importance of listening and allowing each other to speak when their turn is to do so. I ask the parties to refrain from using accusatory phrases and name-calling. I educate the parties that these rules are necessary to ensure we are communicating well with each other.

After my opening statement, I ask the initiating party to tell their story to bring them into mediation today. I ask the responding party to take a sheet of paper and pen to jot notes, questions, and possible solutions. Before writing down session notes as the initiating party is speaking, I ask permission to take notes.

The initiating party begins to tell their story. In my notes, I am jotting down key phrases, events, and other facts. After the party has spoken, I understand the points according to the party's perspective. I then turn to the responding party to tell their story of what brought them to mediation today. I also ask for permission to take notes.

When both parties have given their statements on what brought them to mediation, I go over my notes silently at first. Then, I discuss the facts with both parties. I am looking for similarities in their stories. I look at body language and tonality of speech as indicators of a contentious issue. It is usually an issue that is most resistant to compromise.

If I had not been listening, I would have missed an opportunity to resolve this case. I would also try to impart that listening is the first step in resolving a dispute. You never know when you will hear something of mutual interest.

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