Sometimes, the relationships in our lives can become toxic over time. Whether it’s in the relationships we hold with our colleagues, our partners, our family members, or our bosses, toxicity can creep in and have destructive effects.
In this article, we will be sharing how mediation can help toxic behaviors in relationships so that you can find a positive and peaceful way forward, even with people you struggle with.
What Defines a Toxic Relationship?
When people think of toxic relationships, they often picture romantic relationships gone wrong. However, toxic relationships come in all forms, from personal to professional. These relationships can be incredibly destructive and can cause a lot of pain to those involved.
According to Psychology Today, “the term (toxic) was first used by Lillian Glass in her 1995 book Toxic People and was used to indicate a relationship that is built on conflict, competition, and the need for one person to control the other.” Toxic relationships are typically:
How Mediation Can Help
Mediation is a helpful and unbiased way to mend broken relationships. A mediator acts as the middle man between two parties, helping people come to an agreement that benefits both sides. Mediation is a helpful and practical way for many people to face up to their disagreements and to consider the best and healthiest way to move forward.
Many people in toxic relationships choose mediation for support as it is less formal than counselling, it’s not about judging who is right or wrong, it’s completely confidential, and it is not legally binding. As such, mediation can be used in both personal and professional environments to help individuals overcome their issues and move forwards with their lives.
Let’s take a look at how mediation can help solve toxic behaviours in relationships.
1. Reestablishes Lost Connections
So often in toxic relationships, the connectedness we form can become lost. This is the result of two people pulling away from each other, rather than closer together. This connectedness can be something that is lost slowly over many years or within a matter of days. It all depends on the circumstances that have caused such a disconnect.
Mediation can help as it supports both parties in reestablishing that connectedness. This is the vital first step in mending toxic behaviours in relationships as it helps two people connect again in a safe and supportive environment where they feel listened to and protected.
2. Promotes the Importance of Active Listening
One of the most important roles a mediator has to play in situations like these is that of active listener. More often than not, those in toxic relationships become more frustrated and upset over time as they struggle with the reality they’re not being listened to.
A good mediator is always an effective and active listener. They will not take sides and therefore they remain a neutral spectator throughout. As we shared on our blog, “Mediation is not just random talk but having constructive dialogue. Dialogues are two way conversations where one person speaks while the other listens then responds […] Mediators will find that practicing active listening and encouraging the parties to also actively listen makes a big difference both in the mediation process and final outcome.”
3. Helps Promote Healthy Communication Styles
Mediation is one of the best ways to promote healthy communication styles for those in toxic relationships. It provides a safe and confidential environment for both parties to express their feelings, share their concerns, and be honest about their struggles. As this communication is being carried out in the presence of a mediator, it is an impartial process and therefore is typically healthier and more productive than it otherwise would be.
As a result, mediation can be a positive way for those in toxic relationships to learn how to communicate more effectively with one another so that progress can be made, hurts can be healed, and everyone can move forward into the future.
4. Maintains a Sense of Calm
Mediation can be particularly helpful for maintaining a sense of calm. For those in toxic relationships, it can be easy for tempers to flare, tears to rise to the surface, and calm explanations to turn into naming and blaming. Often, harsh words are said the relationships deteriorate even further as a result.
Mediation provides support by maintaining a sense of calm during difficult times. Through strategies such as active listening and the offering of unbiased support, it is possible for mediators to help maintain calm in even the most difficult situations. This can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on those receiving the support and could teach people the benefits of maintaining a sense of calm during trying times.
Final Words As you can see, there are many ways mediation can help toxic behaviors in relationships. We hope this article has encouraged you to consider the benefits of mediation in your own life, whether you are seeking support personally or professionally.
by: Sophie Bishop from the Mediator.com
By JEN REYNOLDS
June 10, 2022
From the New York Times, a fascinating article about “prison consultants” and how they can help people heading to prison with sentencing for white collar convictions.
You’d think that the lawyer would be helping the client with sentencing. But that’s not always how things work, according to author Jack Hitt. “A lawyer is your legal guide to staying out of prison,” Hitt writes, “but once that becomes inevitable, a prison consultant is there to chaperone you through the bureaucracies that will eventually land you in your new home, easing your entry into incarceration — and sometimes even returning you to the outside, utterly changed.”
Hitt points out that the emergence of prison consultants is in part because of the prominence of plea bargaining in our system today:
Almost everyone facing charges is forced to plead guilty (or face an angry prosecutor who will take you to trial). In 2021, 98.3 percent of federal cases ended up as plea bargains. It’s arguable that in our era of procedural dramas and endless “Law & Order” reruns, speedy and public trials are more common on television than in real-life courthouses. What people … have to deal with as they await sentencing is a lot of logistics.
The idea of a prison consultant might conjure an image of an insider broker or fixer, but they’re really more like an SAT tutor — someone who understands test logic and the nuances of unwritten rules. Yet prison consulting also involves dealing with a desolate human being who has lost almost everything — friends, family, money, reputation — and done it in such a way that no one gives a damn. So they’re also a paid-for best friend, plying their clients with Tony Robbins-style motivational insights, occasionally mixed with powerful sessions about the nature of guilt and shame.
Apparently some of the parents who pled guilty in the Varsity Blues scandal used prison consultants. (Of course they did.) Prison consultants like Justin Paperny advise clients to think of their interactions with the sentencing judge as opportunities to tell their story–not to proclaim their innocence, importantly, but to set forth a narrative of taking responsibility and seeking to become a better person:
Many lawyers send their clients into this interview with the standard legal advice to say as little as possible and limit the damage — good advice during an arrest or even in the courtroom. “But this is the most important interview the defendant will ever have, and you’d be stunned at how many defendants do not prepare,” Paperny said. “This is a chance for you to change the narrative.”
Changing that narrative looks a lot like what we might teach in negotiation around figuring out how to frame your communication to be persuasive to the other side. Rather than just assemble a list of requests or insist on one’s innocence, the consultant recommends that clients write out “a full life story in the form of a letter”:
[T]hen rewrite it with editors working through every line, then ask you to read it over and over until, eventually, you sit down for a mock interview. By the time the officer is conducting the real interview, the story he hears is a full autobiography with a beginning, a middle and an end. And somewhere in there is this speed bump in the narrative — your crime.
Hugo Mejia, who pled guilty to crimes related to money laundering and Bitcoin, hired Paperny’s firm to assist with Mejia’s transition to prison. Mejia worked on his letter all spring in preparation for a pre-sentencing interview in June. After numerous drafts, he ended up telling a complex, layered story that “hints at a rehabilitation that has yet to fully manifest”:
… [H]ow the letter handles the present tense is the most vivid transformation. All the self-exoneration has been slyly edited out. The first-person confessional tone is searing. “I write this letter feeling humiliated and heartbroken,” Mejia begins. “I know now that I crossed a red line that exists for important reasons. At first, exchanging cash for Bitcoin seemed legitimate. I see now that I was wrong.” He closes by addressing the judge directly: “It was important for me to show you who I really am. I accept full responsibility for my action and will never return to your courtroom as a criminal defendant.”
To learn more about Paperny (he’s a convicted felon, as are all twelve of the consultants employed at his firm), check out this interview.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.