It occurred to me, during one of my more contentious meditations, that having a roll of duck-tape on the table might be an effective prop to encourage the parties to ‘stop talking and start listening’.
As we all know duck tape can fix anything.  A leaky pipe, a frayed wire and a broken rear window of old cars (haven’t you see those cars with duck-taped back windows?)
In mediation, the effort the parties put forth to listen and not only be heard is tantamount to the success of the mediation.  It’s hard to listen to someone who is saying things you believe are untrue, hurtful or just plain wrong!  A mediator needs to be able to have each party feel their side of the story was given and heard.  The listening process is essential in mediation because it moves each party from their position to possible resolution.
Now back to the duck tape.  Since it is hard for clients in mediation to stop thinking about their next answer while the other party is talking or interrupt the speaking party despite the mediator’s best efforts to remind all participants to respect each others right to talk, a roll of duck tape might create wonderful visual reminder for the parties to listen.  Mediation is all about having the discussion, but half of the discussion requires listening.  This might just do the trick.
I have not yet added a roll of duck-tape to my mediation table.  I do serve beverages and warm comfort foods as I find eating together brings a sense of community into the mediation room.  I use a living room setting and not an office boardroom setting where we can set up on each side of the table and glare at each other.
However, I often need to spend a great deal of time reminding the parties to wait their turn and listen without responding tit for tat to their counterparts litany of ills.
Do you think duck-tape would work?  It may send a different message than the one intended, having to do with bondage and silencing…. Yet what if I used one of the new brighter colors duck tape?  It’s no longer just the drab gray!  It can be red, yellow, blue and purple! Have the group pick a color for the table to remind them to listen as well as speak.
When I attended Susan Gamache’s program on Collaborative Team Building she said she often brings colored markers to her collaborative meetings so each party can choose to write in a color that suits their style and mood.
I might bring colored duck tape into my medications to serve a reminder to all the participants that the purpose of mediation is to enable a discussion; which requires the enabling of speaking and listening.
Duck-tape has been around for years.
It may have several connotations, some good some not so good.  Yet can it be used in a positive manner in a mediation to reminds everyone to listen.  I don’t know? Maybe I will try it out.  At the very least a mediator can keep a colorful roll in their bag to remind them to listen as well.  Listening is the key to successful meditations.
Duck-tape, that all purpose tool.
Who knew it might serve, in a light hearted way, as a visual tool in mediation to help the parties remember to listen. No bondage anticipated, rather the breaking free of the bondage caused by the conflict plaguing these parties.

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