Building Trust Between Parties

 

Silke Hansen

CRS Mediator, Denver Office


[Full Interview]
 

Question:
What about building trust between the parties, how do you go about doing that?

Answer:
I think a number of different ways. If I can actually get them to the mediation table and get them to where they are actually listening to each other, then it is actually embarrassing how easy it is to reach an agreement among the parties. That's because in most cases, they have never really done that before. They have talked at each other and yelled at each other, and they've said things about each other to the media and so on, but they have never really listened and responded and then listened again. So once they actually hear what some of the needs and what some of the obstacles are that each of them faces, and once they talk to real individuals and not "those people" or "those administrators," it just comes to a whole different level. There are certainly cases where the two parties never get to a point where they trust each other; there are also cases where the parties agree to trust each other only because I'm there. Even in those cases, though, they each agree to do something and that is a step in the right direction. So, you know, I am not going to pretend that the parties suddenly become "good buddies" and live happily ever after just because Silke Hansen was in town. But at least they have grappled with one particular aspect of their conflict, and in that regard they have a better relationship than they had before. That's a step in the right direction.

Question:
Would you say that having trust between you and the parties is more important than having the parties trust each other?

Answer:
Ultimately, my objective is to have them trust each other, but I think it is difficult to accomplish that if they don't trust me first. I am the one who is trying to arrange the situation in such a way that they can trust each other, so I mean if I had to choose between the parties trusting me and the parties trusting each other, I would choose the latter, because that is, after all, what we are working toward. And although my ego likes being massaged as much as anybody's, I like thinking that people trust me. That doesn't do me any good, though, unless they ultimately end up trusting each other. But I think one grows out of the other.