This quote, of unknown origin, speaks volumes to anyone struggling to be heard.  As a mediator, who helps people resolve conflicts about animals, it speaks to how my clients would like to feel while working through a disagreement.

By using mediation or collaborative practice, parties write their own story, in their own words, using their own pens.  They leave the conflict resolution process feeling respected, heard and understood.  These forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) stop the cycle of misinformation or misunderstanding and support movement toward resolution.  A professional, engaged in mediation or collaborative practice, creates the space in which a party can speak in a meaningful way, at a cost several thousand dollars less than litigation. 
A good mediator does not try to solve a problem; rather, they address the emotions, by examining the facts, information and issues beneath those emotions.  They place the pen squarely back in hands of the parties.
Why is this so important? Parties in conflict, given the opportunity to tell their own story, in their own words and at their own speed, are more likely to give their adversary the same courtesy.  It is not a negotiation to find a middle ground; it is a discussion, a storytelling about how they got here.
These stories don’t always resemble the conflict at the table. In reality that conflict may be wrapped around years of unmentioned hurt or disappointment bottled up inside each party.
If you chose litigation, you may initially feel a sense of relief.  Your attorney will advocate for you and your position.  Yet, if as the conflict proceeds, new information becomes available that points to an alternate theory of resolution, will you be able to effect that change? Once litigation starts, changing course and ‘starting again’ is unlikely. Your pen is in someone else’s hand now and they are writing the story.  We stay the original course, swayed or bullied by the ‘what we deserve’ or ‘what we should get’ litigation rhetoric.
Mediation provides the parties an opportunity to go back to the beginning and start over based on facts previously not in evidence. Parties are not discouraged from changing their minds.  They can move seamlessly in the direction of an alternate theory of resolution.  The mediator reality checks the change, confirms both parties are heading in this different direction and supports the change.
This is the beauty of ADR.  It provides a venue in which the parties, despite all the past angst and anger, can explore resolutions they may never have imagined at the onset.  ADR can change the direction of resolution, if the parties so desire, with little disruption in the process.  Not so in litigation.
If you are in conflict with a person about an animal remember, hold the pen in your hand; tell the story you want to tell. You can write the story of conflict and resolution.  Be brave, “Hold The Pen When Writing Your Own Story.”

-Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

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