Center for Dialog & Resolution, serving Mason and Pierce counties, steps in when a teenage daughter enters into conflict with her mother, who tells the story.
“You’re not meeting my needs!”
My daughter Susan was a junior at Capital High School when she started complaining that I was not listening to her requests and not meeting her needs. She said that when she needed to be picked up or dropped off for band or soccer practice, I didn’t hear her or follow through with her requests. Susan had heard about the Pierce County Dispute Resolution Center and called for information and set up a meeting. The DRC called me and I was invited to go to mediation with my daughter. I agreed. The day of the meeting I felt anxious and vulnerable, but I hoped that this might begin to bridge the gaps in our communication.
A transformative moment
The mediators, a man and woman, sat at the end of a long narrow table. They talked about the mediation process. They seemed calm, firm, and supportive. Susan and I shared our stories. Susan explained that she wanted a third party to hear her side of the story. Susan was initially taken aback when one of the mediators asked her, playfully, “And what are you doing to annoy your mother?” Susan replied directly and honestly to the question. Then the mediator turned to me and asked, “Can you repeat what Susan just told you? Did you hear what she said?” I sat in silence. Although I was facing Susan and she had spoken directly to me—I had not heard, nor could I repeat what she had said.
This was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I’d always been so certain that I, as the parent, was infallible. Susan, in her 16-year-old wisdom, finally found a way, through the DRC, to reach me. In that transformative moment, I recognized my fallibility. You see, Susan is on the autism spectrum; she is honest, concise, and direct in her communications. She told me, “I have the disability; you have the listening problem.”
Lives are changed after mediation
Now, 20 years after that mediation session, I am in training as a mediator, and Susan graduated from Washington State University after studying genetics and cell biology. Recently, I asked her if I had improved my listening skills, Susan hesitated, and then she smiled and said, “Perhaps, just a little.”
Let the power of mediation transform your life
If you or someone you know is facing a challenging communication issue, call your local DRC today and start making a change for the better.