In early May, I received a heads up from a dog show colleague that I’d been mentioned in the gossip column of a favorite dog periodical.  Dog News is the weekly bible of the Sport of Dogs.  Being mentioned in the gossip column of Dog News, by Gene Z, is a real coup. My solo practice, Hamilton Law and Mediation, was mentioned in the middle of his column with the advice, “to keep my information in the same place as your plastic surgeon’s, a card you may never want to use but good to have.”
I laughed.  My practice had never been compared to plastic surgery before.  Who knew?  Yet it got me thinking…do these practices really parallel each other? If so, how, and can I write about it? I love writing ‘pithy’ articles involving unexpected themes and Gene’s quip got me thinking.  So, here it goes; my take on what mediation has in common with plastic surgery.
I formulated three parallels:
1)   They both fix horribly disfigured people (relationships).
2) They both replace (alter) parts of a body (relationship) that need replacing (fine-tuning).
3) They both give all patients (participants) the ability to face the future differently.
1). They both fix horribly disfigured people (relationships).
After a fire or terrible accident, the patient seeks a plastic surgeon who will spend months, sometimes years, helping them recover from their injuries.  They work together, doctor, patient and patient’s family, to evaluate the options, discuss the procedures available and plan for the best recovery for the patient.  By having this group discussion of options, the patient is assured he/she will be returned to a life as close to normal as possible. 
Mediation works similarly when a sudden disagreement erupts, about an animal, between people. At first glance the rift between the parties seems too large and painful to be repaired via a discussion.  The parties seem destined to sever all ties.  Hope of retaining or re-establishing any kind of a relationship going forward seems remote. Yet, like a plastic surgeon, a mediator can skillfully uses his/her training to evaluate the situation, discuss procedures available for the best recovery and then apply his/her art in a way that enables each party to feel heard, understood and respected.  The mediator assists in the recovery of a relationship as instrumentally as the plastic surgeon assists in the recovery of the patient.
For the parties involved, it is simply amazing to see themselves transformed, by the work of the plastic surgeon or mediator, in situations they believed hopeless.
2). They both replace (alter) parts of a body (relationship) that need replacing (fine-tuning).
A party seeks out a plastic surgeon when they don’t like their nose, breasts, wrinkles or lips. The plastic surgeon provides a service that proactively fixes the look of an individual.  This surgery is usually elective and performed as an out patient procedure.  It recovery takes time yet it creates results that make the patient feel in control of their appearance.
Similarly, a mediator is hired to fix a small problem before it disfigures a relationship.  A nip here, a tuck there, a neutral mediator using a guided conversation can address a small wrinkle in their relationship before it gets too large for friendly communication.  Clearly, the plastic surgeon and mediator help their clients determine who they are, become the people they want to be and leave feeling better than when they entered their office.
3.) They give all patients/participants the ability to face the future in a different way.
This is the clearest parallel of all.  Clients keep plastic surgeons, when successful in meeting the cosmetic needs of their clients, on speed dial. Similarly, if using a mediator retains a relationship, these clients will make multiple referrals to their colleagues.  Another speed dial moment! 
The confidence of a person reborn via plastic surgery is enhanced.  They approach things with a renewed spirit and passion for life.  The same holds true for clients of mediators. If the mediator is successful in dealing with the conflict, ‘nipping it in the bud’, and creates a path toward resolution, the mediator and the parties feel the exercise was successful.  All parties feel redeemed, heard and understood. The parties will retain the mediator’s contact information for their own personal use and referral.
I think I have achieved what may have seemed impossible at the onset!  I compared the work of a plastic surgeon with that of a mediator.
In the dog show world, leaving small disagreements to fester until they are too large to handle alone may compromise important relationships between people about animals.  We see each other every weekend.  Leaving small disagreements go until they erupt into knock down drag out arguments is currently the norm.  We often misunderstand what is said, fail to listen effectively and so lose longtime relationships. I hope after reading this article you will take Gene’s advice and keep a mediator’s name and number in that same safe place where you currently keep your plastic surgeon’s information.  Remember, for both, don’t wait too long, be proactive and address the small wrinkles as they appear.

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