Many of us will have found politics a potentially risky topic for conversation without it getting heated. The fallout between Gary Lineker and the BBC could not have been anticipated from the initial tweet. What has happened brings into consideration many things: the BBC’s modern-day role, Twitter, MP’s language… What it made me think of as a mediator was impartiality. Particularly, being seen to be impartial and when that is important.
After a rubbish weekend for football and, as a long-time Lineker fan, I’m so pleased to see that they’ve reached an agreement. It’s a victory for free speech, friendship, and football – and I am allowed to be partial on this one! But it got me thinking that there are so many parallels with mediation:
Firstly, the actual tweet wasn’t necessarily the real issue, or the only issue. Like many of the families I work with, there is often a ‘breaking point’ – one thing that upsets the whole applecart. In itself can seem relatively trivial, but it blows up because there are other unresolved issues. When clients come to mediation, often at a point of crisis, I always check what has been simmering under the surface causing this to bubble over.
I’m convinced that far fewer people would have been aware of Lineker’s tweet, if MPs hadn’t started quoting it and calling out for action against him. In family mediation, I try and work out who the other people involved are, because sometimes their influence can be (too) powerful and, left to their own devices, separating couple might reach an agreement much more quickly. I try and encourage people to avoid the search for blame and think about how they can press pause, rather than allowing the effects of escalation.
I certainly don’t advocate going through separation on a solo journey. I talk about having the right team around you; coach/counsellor, mediator, lawyer, financial advisors etc. Getting the right support is key and it gives you strength to know that you are not facing important, life changing decisions on your own. The solidarity shown by Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Alex Scott, Jason Mohammad and many more will have given real encouragement to Lineker and as well as helping bring this matter to a quicker conclusion than might have happened otherwise. (Although one might be tempted to use VAR to check for a BBC own goal, to continue the football analogy…)
It really made me pleased this morning to hear it was sorted. There is a satisfaction from doing the (W)right thing and getting together quickly to talk. The trickier the issue and the more potentially damaging the consequences of leaving it unresolved, the more important it is to come together quickly. Mediation offers that speed and flexibility. I have worked with two separated families already this year where their issue was time-critical, so I have cleared my diary or offered evening appointments etc. to make sure they got to a mediated outcome quickly. It’s not just the deadline, it’s the potential damage to the working relationship that might otherwise occur with delay.
I also noted that the BBC have announced a review will happen. Great idea. Again, we do that in mediation too – what can we learn from what has happened, to help make things better in the future. Especially where there are children concerned. We’re all learning and the paused pressed in mediation is a good space to clear the air and recommit to better working relations and teamwork.
And finally, of course, it’s about looking forward. When I set up my mediation practice, this was my clear vision – the way forward. Its horrible feeling stuck and draining when difficult relations and situations occupy too much of your head space. It is possible for things to be better than they are now if people come together to talk, listen and look for options they can both work with going forward. I can’t put it better than Lineker himself. Lineker said: “I am glad that we have found a way forward. I support this review and look forward to getting back on air.”
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