Immediate isn’t a word I’d normally associate with mediation. While they share the same Latin root – ‘mediatus’, meaning ‘intervening’ – and the idea of litigating instantly is acceptable: mediating instantly? Mediate now! No waiting necessary: Mediating instantly doesn’t sit well.
Waiting in line
I was at the reception desk of one of the UK’s largest IT business parks with my wife and business partner, Elisabet. We had an appointment with a consultancy practice. All visitors must report first to the main reception before moving on to their appointments. Dutifully, we waited in line. The first receptionist was busy. The second recpetionist eventually looked up but didn’t say a word So we motioned towards her.
Me: “We’re here to see N…. T….”.
Receptionist: “Are they expecting you?”
Receptionist: “What are your names?” She needed to print us each off a name badge to wear throughout our stay.
Me: “Stephen Anderson”
Receptionist: “Is that with a p h?”
Elisabet: “Elisabet Anderson”. And then, knowing how most non-Scandinavians find her name difficult to spell, she said slowly “That’s e l i s a b e t.”
Receptionist: “e l i …”
Elisabet: “s a b e t”
Receptionist: “s a …”
Elisabet: “b e t”.
Receptionist: “b e t. And what’s your firm’s name?”
Me: “Anderson Mediation”.
And with that, she pressed some buttons and produced two name tags which she gave us. There was a moment’s silence as we looked at her. “They’ll come to collect you”, she said. There was more silence. Having visited once before, I was expecting her to invite us to wait in the reception lounge. Instead she said nothing. “Where should we wait”, I asked “Over there”, she gestured, pointing at three seats.
So we went to sit down, with me wondering how on earth it was someone who appeared to lack the skills necessary for a good receptionist, managed to hold down a job at one of the most prominent employers in the region.
Only once we were sitting did we look at our badges. Our names were correct, but our firm’s name was recorded as “Anderson Immediation”. Is immediation even a real word? Had she never heard of mediation? Why hadn’t she asked us to spell it when she’s asked the spellings of our first names?
For a few moments I loved the word. It provides many opportunities to play around, But it’s really a paradox isn’t it? Mediations need a little time to set up. Mediators need to prepare themselves and the participants by carrying out safeguarding and other checks. Mediating instantly wouldn’t allow the time for this, and would be risky and less likely to succeed.
One of the reasons mediation is quicker than most alternatives, is because it follows the old adage “more haste, less speed”. By preparing carefully, managing appropriately and supporting participants fully, mediated outcomes take, on average, one quarter of the time non-mediated outcomes take.
So, receptionist at the business park: thank you for planting the seeds of immediation and mediating instantly, but I’ll stick to later mediation for now.
I am Stephen G Anderson. I am a professional mediator.
Stephen G Anderson, family mediator