R.e.S.T. Method: The LeaST you need to know

When you look at the play-by-play of communicating effectively it doesn’t seem like the mediator is detaching her/himself from the action. In fact, the mediator looks deeply involved throughout. Look again at the 12 steps the mediator must perform:

1. Lay down the rules: One person speaks at a time. No interruptions. Mediator has control.
2. First person tells his side of the story to the other person. (e.g. “You did this…”). Make them look at each other.
3. Second person repeats the story of the first person. Don’t let the first storyteller interrupt to correct.
4. First person explains what was left out of the re-telling of the story.
5. First person describes how he felt when the actual incident was happening. What was going on inside his head, his body? Were his fists clenched then?
6. Second person repeats how first person felt during incident.
7. First person describes how he felt as he was telling his story to the second person. What was going on inside his mind and body then?
8. Second person repeats how the first person felt during the telling of the incident.
9. Ask the first person how he feels right now.
10. Second person repeats how the first person feels right now.
11. Ask the second person what he noticed about the storyteller’s body language. “What kind of meta-messages was he sending?”
12. Ask the second person to tell his story now and repeat steps 2 through 11 for him.


When you are the mediator out on the playground, how will you remember all this unless you carry some kind of cheat sheet with you? Well, here is the very LeaST you should know. Notice the spelling of “LeaST”? That’s right, it’s a pneumonic device.

Keep in the back of your mind the goals: efficiency and autonomy. By “efficient” I mean we want this process to be one in which the mediator gets in there, teaches the process, steps back and never has to revisit this same problem again with the same two people.  By “autonomous” I mean that once the wheels of mediation are in motion, the two in conflict can finish the job themselves.

1. Teach them how to Listen:

Reflect back on the 12 steps in Effective Communication. The whole thing is about teaching the two parties in conflict how to listen to each other. And we now know that listening doesn’t just involve what is being said, but how it is being said through body language.

2. Teach them what to Say:

When two people are in conflict there is always someone who can talk better, use bigger words and can confuse the whole process by being a great debater. They are used to winning their battles with their words. Because conflict resolution is between two people, you will want to level the playing field so that neither party has an advantage. They need to learn how to communicate on the same level. One of the parties may need to be brought down a level while the other may need to be brought up.  While they are learning to effectively communicate with each other it helps if they have a template to lean on. Teach them to talk to each other like this:

“When you did this to me (describe what was done such as punched, called names, screamed, etc.)  I felt ____________ (describe or name the emotion) and it made me [want to] _________________ (describe the action that was taken or wanted to be taken).

The template above is helpful for those who may still be pre-verbal when it comes to describing what is going on inside their head. Not every person has an emotional vocabulary so this process won’t be easy for them. Giving them a template levels the playing field for the conflicting parties by helping the pre-verbal person have a voice while pulling back the reins on the person who is used to debating and winning. In addition, this template forces each to name the emotions going on inside of them, which is helpful to develop empathy in the relationship.

3. Give them a Task:

Once you have taught them how to listen and what to say, it is important that they know the reason for all of it. They have a task to perform. Their task is to come up with their own solution to the problem they have created. The solution must be such that it gives 100% satisfaction to both parties in conflict.

Given the rules of compromise, neither party may like the outcome entirely. They will both have to give a little in order to reach their unique resolution. By satisfaction I mean “settle” as the root suggests. Both parties settle on terms they have worked to agree on. Like a farm animal settling in for the night, a spot in the hay is worked into by pushing out lumps here and there so a nice nest is created. In the same manner, the two parties in conflict must make the best situation by agreeing to the terms that fit them (as one unit) best.


In summary, the very least you need to remember to effectively institute the ReST Method of Conflict Resolution, keeping in mind the goals of efficiency and autonomy, is this:  Listen, Speak, Task.



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