The Problem is the Problem, The Person is Never the Problem

Aug 5, 2016   //   by Erickson Mediation   //   Blog  //  Comments Off on The Problem is the Problem, The Person is Never the Problem

Steve Erickson
Steve Erickson

So, let’s suppose you are sitting at the mediation table and you are trying to hopefully resolve the conflict in front of you and somebody says: “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.”

When I first heard this stated as it is written above, I stopped in my tracks. I said to myself, “You never met my ninth grade social studies teacher” ….but that is another story.

A good mediator truly believes that the problem is the problem and the person – although perhaps a difficult personality type or impaired in some way – is always going to be the person.

It is easier to solve the problem than to change the person.

Another statement most mediators believe helps everyone end conflict and reach agreement is: “The person who defines the problem controls the outcome.”

That statement has a great deal of truth. For those who come to Erickson Mediation Institute to resolve divorce and separate parenting problems, we try to help them work on a definition of the problem that doesn’t require a right/wrong or win/lose answer, but requires future planning and joint work. Defining the problem correctly results in a situation where on side’s efforts to resolve the problem will enhance the likelihood that the other side will also get a fair result.

Consider this example:

Which question would you rather answer?

a) “What are the future parenting arrangements the two of you can agree upon so that you can BOTH be good, loving, involved parents, even though you live apart?”


b) Which one of you is the better or worse parent, based upon an application of the “Best Interests Test” in order to determine who will be given a higher or lower level of ownership of the children?

Obviously, the task of building a parenting plan results from asking question a) and a custody battle flows from asking question b). The plenary speech by Undersecretary General

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Erickson Mediation Institute MN
Erickson Mediation Institute
3600 American Blvd West
Suite 105
Minneapolis, MN 55431
(952) 835-3688