As a mediator, I am trained to be self-aware, to understand how I may be affected by what I see or hear in my work.
This same kind of self-awareness is extremely helpful for divorcing spouses in mediation so they may focus and communicate effectively, which in turn can help them in making important decisions affecting their futures.
Relationships are filled with history—in a marriage that is ending, this usually includes repeated episodes of individual behavior or words said to or about each other that create tension.
These words or behaviors are typically described as “triggers.” They’re reminders of things that affect us negatively, causing us to react inappropriately and lose focus and control of ourselves when that focus is most needed.
In collaborative divorce cases, and in some mediation cases, I meet separately with each spouse to understand their needs, interests and expectations. We will usually discuss triggers for both of them, so that we are both aware of them. Making a list of triggers, even possible ones, is a good way to support awareness and increase one’s emotional preparedness.
Since mediation and collaborative divorce are designed to be transparent processes, sharing concerns about triggering words and behavior with the other spouse can also help. It’s so easy to be unaware of how one’s words or behavior can affect others.
During a mediation session, it’s still likely that triggering words or behavior will occur. Knowing what works best to reduce stress in the moment is essential. It could be as simple as deep breathing, taking a break, or having a safe phrase to repeat to oneself silently.
An important goal for the mediation process is for participants to be at their best under challenging circumstances. Being aware of our triggers and having a game plan to manage them is a big step forward in achieving this goal.