Mediation: noise from neighbours' children
A common complaint received by the Mediation Service is around noise from neighbours' children playing. What happens when Mediation get involved?
We receive a referral on a case where there's an issue around children and noise from them playing. Things have escalated over three years and police have been called in at some points, though no charge has been made. One party has also contacted their local MSP and Councillors.
The first thing we do is pick up the phone to talk to those involved. This is a tricky stage since there's often resistance. The first party is deeply upset and doesn't want to mediate. The second party is also very distressed; a family member is terminally ill and this dispute is taking time away from caring duties. They don't think the other will mediate but I encourage them to meet us and make their own choice.
Individual meeting with first party
Our first appointment with the first party is intense. Slamming doors and noise from music are affecting the couple as the property has poor soundproofing. While one partner wants to mediate, the other is unsure - they are scared they will lose control and shout or cry. These are common fears in mediation, but we can work to reassure and prepare using ground rules and breaks. We talk through personal strategies to support everyone, no matter what feelings come up.
Individual meeting with second party
Later in the day we meet with the second party. They talk about how the conflict has spiralled and how their previously easy-going neighbours contacted the police and stopped speaking to them. They find it hard to believe that things can change but decide that they want to go ahead and we talk through the process. They're worried about meeting their neighbours on their own but they have a friend who is good at staying calm who could come along for moral support. Over the next week, we meet with the second party's friend to run over the mediation process and make sure they understand their role within it. We let both parties know that there is agreement to go ahead and book a date.
Joint meeting day
We prep the rooms and plan how things might go. Both parties are nervous and tense when they arrive but this is normal and things usually relax after the first few minutes. We're ready to start and bring the parties together.
Tension is high in the room. We begin by giving everyone time to talk uninterrupted about the issues and affects. The second party offers to speak first. They talk about how friendly things were in the past and describe the changes. Since things changed they've felt stressed, depressed and missed some work days.
The first party now begins to talk and very quickly starts to cry. They talk about how they want to leave their home and can't believe things have got to this stage. It's affecting their whole life.
The mediators reflect back how distressing the conflict has been for everyone and that everyone also needs the current situation to change. We have an agenda for the rest of the meeting now, a list of the issues and incidents everyone has mentioned.
Discussion and interaction
Over the next couple of hours we talk through each item. People still disagree on some points but gain a lot more information.
There are some moments of tension but we get to a stage where we can build an agreement. Over the next half hour we facilitate ideas for the future. The first party is most affected at their son's bedtime and the second party say they will work to keep things quieter at this time.
The first party say that they will stop making complaints and are willing to talk in future. We look at when and how they would approach each other, work out the details and test all the agreements. We ask questions like 'What happens if either one of you is annoyed about something next week?', 'How will you handle this?' and 'What approach will you take?' We want to help people so they can resolve their own conflict without it escalating in future. At the end of the meeting and both parties shake hands.
We will review the agreement and get back in touch in around four to six weeks. One party tells us it feels as if a big load has lifted off them as we show them out. We know the changes will affect not just them, but their families and friends. It's a good outcome.