“I Was A Lousy Looper” by Katherine E. Miller
When I first took the Center’s mediation intensive training (and was exposed to looping for the first time) in 1998, I thought looping was . . . well . . . awkward. I appreciated the need to connect to the parties. I cared about my clients deeply and thought it important that they feel my concern. But the technique of looping did not come easily.
At the time, I thought I could connect with the clients and communicate my care through what I called, “The Power of My Personality.” This meant that I focused all of myself on the parties and held them in the center of my energy. Although as I write this that seems like it might have been a weird experience for the people, it seemed at the time to work for them. The problem was, it was completely exhausting for me.
And so, I worked on my looping.
My husband helped: whenever I looped him clumsily he would say, “Don’t use that mediation crap on me.” Perhaps this was not the gentlest or most tactful reminder that I had much to learn, it was, however, extremely effective.
My kids helped (and with 5, this was a big help). My youngest, starting at toddlerhood, would fight to the death (at least it seemed to me at the time), to make her point. When I looped her, she would dissolve in tears tell me I was right and come for a hug. This was powerful evidence that looping works and I kept practicing.
One of my older daughters provided me with some of the best proof that this is a powerful technique. When she was in middle school, she came home one day in a crisis such as can only happen at that stage in life. I knocked on her door and suggested that I come in and hug her. She told me through her tears that not only was that the worst idea on earth but that I was not permitted to even cross the threshold of her door. As a mother, all I wanted was to solve her problem. I wanted to tell her that she was perfect and that nasty little friend of hers didn’t hold a candle to her. I wanted to say, “this will pass.” But none of that was going to help. She needed me to hear her pain and so I looped her.
This went on for about 20 minutes and she told me I could come in and sit on the chair in her room. I continued to loop. She talked for another 20 minutes and I listened and looped. Then she told me I could sit with her on the bed. Another 20 minutes passed this way with me now sitting near her on the bed and then she told me I could hug her.
It was only because I could acknowledge her pain as it was and not try to make it go away or solve the problem that my daughter was willing to let me comfort her. I can’t say that it was easy. As a mother it was hard to just listen when my child was in pain. I wanted to DO SOMETHING. Ironically and somewhat poignantly though, the only thing I could do to help was to listen and let her know I heard her.
My experiences with my family and with clients encouraged me to practice and hone my looping skills. Over the years I have learned to listen in a different way. I have learned to listen for meaning not just to words. I have learned to “loop” back more fully and gracefully. I no longer have to think about it, it comes naturally. So naturally in fact, that one day last year when I came home from work frustrated about something that had happened and told my husband, he looped me. . . and I loved it!