One value in being a mediator is learning how to think outside the box: to brainstorm.  I learned  long ago that any problem usually has more than one resolution.

So… this is all about Buddy – part 2. Needless to say, Buddy  took awhile to recover from the anti-anxiety medicine and to become  his usual self again. And he was irritable as he was recovering. Which got me to thinking that I really do not want to have to dope him again  when I schedule another grooming appointment for him. So… there must be another solution.

Once again, the internet and more precisely YouTube saved the day. I googled how to put a muzzle on an aggressive animal and found lots of videos explaining the process. The essence is to take it slow and easy, acclimate the dog to the muzzle very very gradually… giving him treats constantly. For example, one first simply shows the muzzle to  the dog, gives him a treat, shows him the muzzle again, then another treat and so on for a few more time. Then the next step is to put the treat inside the muzzle so that  Buddy has to  poke  his nose inside  the muzzle to get the treat. And this is  repeated many times until Buddy is acclimated to putting his nose inside the muzzle. To get him to keep his nose in the muzzle for a few minutes, the video suggests putting peanut butter at the end or tip of the muzzle as it will take him a few minutes to lick  it all off.  And again, repeat this process until he is comfortable  with  his nose in the muzzle. And again, then slowly proceed to strap it on, very gradually, all the while giving him treats and/or using the peanut butter.  Eventually, Buddy will equate the  muzzle with a treat- a good thing- and will readily allow me to put it on him.

As you might suspect, this exercise is all about building trust. I must get Buddy to trust me, and I do this with the treats, showing him that I am not going to harm him, and he is being a good boy. Eventually,  he will come to trust me, and I will have no trouble putting the muzzle on him for the groomer.

Mediation  is all about trust and rapport. A successful mediation requires that the parties trust the mediator and build rapport with the mediator. If the mediator is unable to build trust and rapport with the parties, the mediator will not be able to help the parties.

And as with Buddy, to build that trust and rapport, the mediator must start  off slowly and gradually. Often, this is why a mediator will engage in small talk at the outset of a mediator- to start building a relationship. So that, the mediator gets to know a little bit about the parties and the parties get to know a little bit about the mediator. To put humanity into the process. And as with Buddy, many mediators have found that food and drink help; they will serve  coffee and refreshments to help the parties feel more comfortable in a very strange and difficult setting.

And when the mediation begins, the questions they ask will initially be soft balls- easy questions- again to help the parties get acclimated and used to this strange new process, to allay their fears and vulnerabilities. And only when the mediation has been going on for a while, and the mediator can sense that the parties are getting comfortable in this new environment and are trusting the mediator, does the mediator start asking or posing the more difficult questions to get the parties to realize that there is always more than one side to a story and their side may just not be the one  that a judge or jury will believe.

That is, ever so slowly, the mediator slips the muzzle on… The parties see the matter in a different light— from the other party’s perspective, realize that a compromise is not so bad …. And settle. The muzzle  becomes a comfortable fit.

…. Just something to think about.




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