Humility: The Most Important Quality In Choosing A Divorce Mediator

July 28, 2019 1:55 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


When choosing a divorce mediation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, what qualities should a couple look for?

Mediators, therapists, lawyers, counselors – anyone who works with people in the helping profession, have had cause to consider their own very human impulses to judge a client when his or her attitudes are adding additional suffering to their life circumstance. After all, most of us see our clients at their very worst — in profound fear, depression and loss or fear of loss.  From that jittery place of compromised perspective, clients at times express anger, greed, blame and every conceivable painful human emotion in disagreeable ways.

In the context of Divorce Mediation on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this is very common, and I must admit that for the first ten years of my thirty-year practice, I was totally unaware of how my private judgments of a client’s expression of emotional pain could create a climate of non-safety in my office.

For the purpose of this article, I would like to propose a definition of what I mean by “judging one’s clients.” By this, I do not mean making an appropriate evaluation of a client’s personalities or emotional states of mind, maturity, or other level of discernment which would allow a mediator to tailor communications in a way which is most likely to be non-threatening, understandable and appreciated, I am speaking of that experience of the “closing of our hearts” and the palpable feelings of superiority and botherment that we might experience if a client’s behavior or attitudes are pushing our buttons. While subtly transmitting this form of insensitivity, mediators can act unawarely uncompassionate, detached, and even manipulative. What I am fundamentally speaking about here is the practice of becoming aware when our own negative triggers and our own human imperfections can get involved when working with clients who are facing challenges.

I don’t believe anyone would disagree that a mediator is less helpful to a client if he or she communicates a feeling of unkindness or moral superiority. This implies to a client that they don’t deserve compassion, causes them to feel less safe and trusting of the mediator, and thereby negates any prospect a mediator may have at offering practical solutions or attitudes which could have a positive influence on the direction of a session.

So this begs the fundamental question: How do we not judge given our life-long societal conditioning to do just that?  First, I think it is useful to recognize that it is unrealistic to release judgment 100% of the time. Mediators have just as much “stuff” as anyone else. What we offer is objectivity and a real experience in helping others navigate the particular emotional terrain of the life transition of divorce.

One of the ego’s most glaring distortions is its utter blindness in failing to recognize that it can and does act in the same fearful and unskillful ways as the behavior it judges. The very fact that a mediator is bothered or has an emotional charge around a client’s particular behavior is the single most compelling proof that the ego is running the show and that the mediator is in denial that he or she at times can behave similarly.

Think about it. If I am speaking or behaving in a kind of self-righteous “I’m-the-professional-and-I-know-where-it’s-at” demeanor toward a client regarding what he or she said or did, or even mildly judging them in any way, what purpose does that serve? None! It only diminishes the client in a way that will result in him or her perceiving me as a potential threat rather than an ally. I have very little persuasive influence on a client who is invalidated by me in this way.

So what would impede my ability to express compassion in the face of a client’s negativity? Well, that would be my inability to see that I am absolutely prone to similar behavior in this or a similar context. Acknowledging that I am capable under this or other imagined circumstances of expressing every realm of negative human emotion infuses my work with humility, softens me, and renders me more tolerant toward the human imperfections of others.

All of us suffer in our personal and professional relationships as a result of the ego’s constantly threatened world view. Fear, unhappiness, depression, and conflict are the ego’s most delicious sustenance and can and does temporarily obscure a person’s basic integrity and goodness. It is of great value for a mediator to train him or herself to interpret a client’s unskillful and unconscious behavior as deserving of compassion, rather than blame, judgment and condemnation. After all, only people who are themselves in pain create pain for others. The key to doing this is humility – seeing that as human beings we are all at times caught in the grip of our unconscious and darker selves when we feel threatened.

I am not suggesting that behavior that wreaks havoc and pain on others should be without real world consequence, I am simply suggesting the in the context of high quality mediation, that  unconscious negativity by a mediator in the form of closed-hearted judgment runs counter to the objective of pointing clients in the direction of understanding and healing.

By Attorney Michael L. Lavender

July, 2019

For more information about Divorce Mediation on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, contact Capecodmediation/Attorney Michael L. Lavender at

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