Feeling nervous and anxious before any mediation session, especially your first, is perfectly normal. You may feel that you don’t really know what to expect or how the other party is going to behave or what they will say. You may wonder if there is going to be a lot of hostility or will the mediator take sides. How are you going to feel? What if you get angry or the things being said are not correct or very unfair or biased?

Here are six ways to overcome doubt and anxiety during mediation:

  1. Remember it’s normal. It’s natural to have so many conflicting emotions around something that is an unknown to you right now. Be aware that feeling this way is normal. Keep your self-talk positive, to avoid causing yourself further anxiety and do your best to go into your mediation prepared. Being prepared will help you to feel more in control of yourself and your environment and you will feel more empowered. In saying that, it is also good to prepare yourself for unpleasant conversation and emotions as well. In understanding that these things are likely to take place it can then be easier to let them happen and you won’t get caught off guard. Let them happen and then work through them and move on.
  2. Remember the truth and stay grounded. Try to stay focussed on the issues at hand and don’t get side tracked by emotive responses, either yours or the other parties. Remember the truth of the situation and don’t get caught up in right or wrong of the past. You are looking for a win/win situation not a win/lose. It may take a little time to find what the solution might be that creates that win/win but staying on track will help you to accomplish this outcome in a faster and more productive manner than repetitively going over old ground.
  3. Find your inner confidence and trust it. Know what it is you want from your mediation. If you have thought through the outcome you are looking for and it is reasonable and feasible then trust the process of the mediation. Be assured that your voice will be heard and you will be allowed your say. Continue to search for the best outcome for everyone involved and resolve to keep searching for solutions until you find it.
  4. Make a list. This can be productive and help you to stay on track with the issues at hand. Make another list of any questions you wish to ask or points you would like to make during mediation. Often as you think through the upcoming mediation things will come to your mind. This is the time to write them down! It is very difficult to remember everything you would like to say during the mediation when many things may be said and conflicting emotions arise, which may cause you not to think as clearly as you would like. A list will also help you to feel prepared and more confident that you have remembered everything you would like to contribute.
  5. You’re not Robinson Crusoe. In other words, it is more than likely you are not the first to ever be faced with these concerns nor will you be alone adrift onto an Island in your mediation coming up against cannibals, captives and mutineers! Before your mediation, you will speak to the mediator alone, as will the other party. You will explain the situation from your own point of view. The mediator will have some idea of the outcomes you are looking for in the mediation and will be in control of the process for all parties involved as you seek a sustainable solution that will work for all of you.
  6. Finally breathe. Mediation may get tense. Difficult things may be communicated and emotions from all parties might intensify. Remember that this is okay. Your mediator will know how to deal with this. Trust the process. You can do nothing to help or control the other person’s emotions, you can only help yourself. One of the ways in which you can do this is to BREATHE. Take a moment and concentrate on your breathing. Ask the mediator for a short recess if things are getting too much and take a stroll and breathe. Short breaks like this can help to keep emotions under control and return you to the present moment and the issues at hand. Keeping you on track to finding resolution and keep the process moving forward.

Although mediation may be a daunting prospect that makes you nervous there are ways to approach it which can help to make it less so, and remember that even though it may be an uncomfortable process for a short time the positive outcome that may result could last a lifetime and will be worth it in the end.