Cost-Benefit Analysis and Visioning

Nancy Ferrell

Former CRS Mediator, Dallas Office; Private Mediator and Trainer

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What other techniques, frameworks, ideas, concepts, images, or pictures do you use in your work with families that helps move people beyond being threatened and wanting to walk out?

A: Cost-benefit talk. What's it going to cost you to take a certain action, to leave? Is there a common value for you? If they have children, is there some benefit to trying to work through this for the family unit's sake? Trying to get them to visualize and talk about benefits as far as the history. You've been together 15 years, 20 years, that's an investment; it's like creating a bank account. You've invested in this relationship for 20 years, is there anything back there that you can think of, can you pull anything forward to help you recapture why that has value for you. And if it does, how do you then look at the future and see that together? If it doesn't, then how can you at least preserve what was good about it and move on without destroying each other? That's the greatest challenge. Usually by the time they get to a mediator, they're ready to go, and our challenge would be to help them...

Q: By ready to go, you mean ready to...?

A: Separate. If they're not ready to separate, they're still in a counselor's office, and mediation is not counseling. So one of the benefits of the mediation process can be to help them recapture, refocus on why there was benefit there, why there was a relationship, and let go of the bad and move forward, move to the future. Otherwise they carry that for years and years. That's how people end up killing each other, is they can't let go of the past and the pain that you cost me, and I want you to hurt as much as I hurt.

That's how children get killed. This person has hurt me so deeply that I know if these children are the most important things in the world to them, then I'm going to take them. And sometimes that ends up in taking them physically. It's tragic, but that's how desperate people get when they've been emotionally killed. That's what I mean by we've got to find a better way to deal with each other than to emotionally or physically kill each other, or just X each other out.