When I first met Michael Hunt nearly 30 years ago, I was very impressed by his focus on the visual in mediation. He had white boards, butchers paper and many different coloured textas, and he used these very skillfully to support his role as a facilitative mediator. He has since then taken this passion into the digital space and has been exploring the approach of various experts in this field from around the world. I was very lucky recently to be able to converse with him about this, and he was very generous in sharing his great wisdom. Join our conversation in this Zoom Meeting to hear what he had to say!
The value of the visual
Neuroscience has shown us that human beings are hard wired to learn in a visual way. 65% of us are visual learners, and 83 % of our learning occurs visually. Research has established that we generally retain 80 % of what we see, 20 % of what we learn and 10 % of what we hear. It is no wonder that working with a focus on the visual is so powerful!
What is it to work this way
In essence, visual mediation uses graphics to explain and guide people through the unfamiliar steps of the process so that they can move forward towards resolution more easily. The mediator captures key parts of the parties’ ideas, and builds these into an evolving picture that is transparent and happening in real time. No one has to take notes or worry about losing something important that is said, as it is all there in front of them for everyone to see, and to come back to and revisit as needed throughout the process.
In this way, this is a journey rather like sitting on a magic carpet, with the mediator guiding this journey through various different spaces, capturing the important parts, and crafting a vision of a different world for all to see. It engages the parties in creating this new vision, in an active and empowering way. They have an active part to play and they take ownership of not only what is said, but what is being created. The information provided is acknowledged, validated and made sense of, in a way that is looking forward towards a brighter future which creates motivation, and promotes a sense of hope.
How does this approach help conflict
Hearing and translating into a visual representation, requires great focus on deep listening, acknowledging, summarizing, asking lots of questions, reframing and above all compassion, and patience. It is founded on the need to check in with all participants constantly and to set up a collaborative and respectful process from the outset.
This has a big impact on pace, which is often of great benefit at the start of a mediation, when participants are uncertain of what to expect of themselves, of the other party, and also of the process. Taking this time allows for parties to settle into the process, to get on top of their stress and fear, and start to relax and blend into the collaborative space that is created. The most important benefit of this, is that most clients become mindful, they are in the moment and feeling supported and empowered to participate fully to achieve their goals.
The consequence of this change in mindset, is that it is very influential in moving participants from conflict mode to resolution focus. They can let go of their stuck positions; leave their judgments of the other parties to one side; separate the people from the problem; leave the past behind and look to the future; focus on the needs of their children, rather than the competition to be the best parent.
This is a neutral space that can hold all perspectives or different world views without judgment or blame. The parties can see everything that is important to them noted before them, and they are likely to feel more comfortable and be more inclined to see the common ground, be open to different suggestions, and be more inclined to compromise and make better decisions.
The evolution of the visual in front of them allows them to see the whole journey, rather than to remain fixated on just one part of it. Seeing the panorama facilitates a shift from “my perspective” to the bigger picture. This enables greater ownership of the content of any agreements reached. The participants would then be more likely to comply with the terms of an agreement reached in this way, and more likely to be satisfied with the process and outcome.
For more information regarding visual mediation check out some of these websites: