Developing understanding systematically, authentically, and compassionately is core to our approach to mediation and the loop of understanding is central to that effort. Looping is a technique that helps focus the dialogue and develop understanding throughout the mediation. Although the approach is similar to and borrows much from what others refer to as active or reflective listening, looping captures a fuller sense of the challenge. There are four steps to the mediator’s loop:
1. Understand each party
2. Express that understanding
3. Seek confirmation from the parties that they feel understood by the mediator
4. Receive that confirmation.
This last step is crucial. Confirmation completes the loop.
The Loop of Understanding is more fully described in our trainings and in Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding
(When to Loop)
Many people in our program wonder whether or not they should loop everything a party says, as it would be extremely arduous and even patronizing for the mediator to loop everything.
We think that looping is most essential when it is apparent that there is either a lack of understanding or a misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up, as well as when the mediator senses a party needs the kind of affirmation that comes from the demonstration of understanding. It is particularly important when people disagree to be sure that there is understanding of the difference between the parties’ views and looping is a very effective way to clarify the disagreement. In addition, when someone repeats something several times, particularly if it’s with feeling, it can be very important to fully loop what that person is saying as well as the feeling that accompanies it.