Become the audience,
Take a break from being the actor of the story
Inspired in the Wisdom of Grace Hannoy and Simone Stadler, creators of the movie When We Grow Up 

In this exercise you will listen to the full life history or the story of an event narrated by the person that you are having difficulties with or you are trying to get to know. Before you start, read these instructions from beginning to end, then use them as a guide while you are following the practice step by step

Step 1: Have the person recording their life story or the story of the particular event that caused the issue. They must do this in private. You should do the same and give the recording to this person

Step 2: Before listening to the recording, find a place where you don't be interrupted and a time where you are not tired or experiencing intense emotions.

Step 3: Close your eyes and do some sort of meditation/relaxation exercise of your preference. Anything from counting 20 breaths to listening to the sound of water for 5 minutes. There are many online recordings and guided meditations out there

Step 4: Do the following imagination exercises.

You are in a theater

  • Close your eyes for 2 mins and imagine the following: You are in a movie theater and about to watch a movie. Imagine the color of the walls, the chair, the screen, etc.

  • Open your eyes

  • Close your eyes again and imagine the following: Somebody is watching the movie with you. This person talks a lot, he is known for giving loud opinions and making comments when he watches movies. He says things such as "I like that!", "I don't like that", "I would not do that", "That is scary!", "I could have done it better", etc. Notice what clothes is he wearing, how tall he is and any other features. Visualize this person for a couple minutes

  • Open your eyes. Now that you know this person, you are going to give this person a name. Let's say, Martin. Martin is the voice in your head that has an opinion, that likes or dislikes, that agrees or disagrees. Only for the purposes of this exercise, accept that this is not you, he is Martin and he is watching the movie with you. 

  • Close your eyes again: Imagine yourself asking Martin to please be as silent as he can during the movie. 

  • If at some point during the movie Martin starts talking, stop the recording, and tell him, "Let's talk after the movie", take 10 breaths and continue. Do this as many times as needed. 

 

You don't know the main character

The main character in the story won't be your mother, your friend or the person that you are trying to mediate with. The character is someone that you have never seen before and even if his or her voice sounds familiar you must make an effort to imagine and accept that this is the main character of the movie and you are not related to her.

Close your eyes and give this person another name, let's say Maria. Imagine how Maria looks like, give her any clothes and features you want.

You are the audience and not the actor

During the story you may remember some of the events that Maria is narrating probably because you where part of them or because she is speaking directly about you.  Remember Martin? he may start saying things such as, "She is lying, that is not true!" and you may start having feelings such as sadness, anger, etc.

 

Remember two things

 

1. Go back to your chair! you are not the actor or actress in this movie, remember that you are the audience. When you see yourself involved in the story, stop the recording, close your eyes and imagine yourself getting out of the screen and walking back to your chair.

2. Let the feelings be physical sensations: At no point during this exercise try to stop these sensations, the only thing you have to stop is Martin's voice. Just like in any other movie that you watched in the past, you may experience emotions and this is what makes it a good movie!

Try the following once or twice: Stop the recording, search where in your body you are experiencing this feeling. For example: if your eyes are watery and your chest feels heavy, feel the water in your eyes and the heaviness in your chest for 1 or 2 minutes. This may not stop the feeling but at least you will know where the feeling is located. Resume the recording.

Step 5: Write down or record how you felt. 

Step 6: If you want to find out more about the story, write down what would you like to know and set a meeting with the narrator where she can answer these questions. She may ask you the same

Step 7: Now that you both know the stories. You may meet and let each other know about how you are feeling at the moment. When you are listening to the other person, don't interrupt even if you don't agree. Remember Martin? Imagine that you are watching the movie again.

Step 8: Make compromises. Both of you have to commit to recognize these stories as valid. And make the promise of not bringing them up for a period of time (at least 2 weeks) See how the relationship unfolds if the relationship is to continue. See how you feel and give us any feedback. 

VARIATIONS TO THIS EXERCISE

Other contexts

 

Gerald Monk mentions many contexts where mediation through story telling or narrative mediation can work, such as healthcare (patients and healthcare providers), families, family businesses, educational systems, etc. 

If you are a mediator or you want to use one

 

Having a mediator could facilitate the process. Tom Stringer has a point when he mentions that a mediator can help:

Understanding how does the party tell the story

Understanding what pre-conceived ideas may be distorting the meaning of the story.

Create a story about a time when their relationship worked well

Constructing an alternative story that integrated both.

Using Storytelling for Multicultural Understanding

Chongruksaa, Prinyapola, Wadengb, and Padungponga use Strategic Story-Telling, Non-Prejudice Contact, and Intergroup Contact as methods for promoting multicultural understanding between two ethnic groups.

Alexandra Gomez 12.5.2018