Gender-Balanced Conciliation in Family Cases

Lucy Nichols

Lucy Nichols, Family Mediator

A gender-balanced mediating team is essential when working to resolve conflicts within families, whether the conflict involves marriage, children, eldercare decisions, estate planning or addressing probate matters within a family. In an effort to achieve this balance in the mediation, we assign one male conciliator and one female conciliator to work with families.

The two-person model for conciliation, gender aside, is a good approach to family mediation because two skilled mediators can bring better focus and experience to the table and — as one of our conciliator’s shares — “we sharpen each other and we mentor each other.”

Our conciliators share the same Biblical approach and each brings his or her respective Faith, experiences and peacemaking skills to bear in helping families have difficult conversations, restore peace and resolve conflict. Working together strengthens the peacemaking process and makes us better conciliators.

The best team is made up of a male conciliator and a female conciliator working together with the family. At the heart of mediation is a balance of power, sense of fairness, equity and neutrality. These are key ingredients to a successful mediation. The gender balanced approach is particularly important in family matters where underlying the conflict are usually a variety of emotions attached to the conflict.

Poor communication, no communication and/or toxic communication are common issues we encounter during mediation sessions. It is very common that the conflict and dysfunctional communication have assumed lead roles as opposed to the substantive issues.

Conflict tends to make folks forget that God has provided us with a roadmap in the Bible for resolving our disputes. By making God a party to the conciliation process, God’s love and his Holy Spirit can move mountains and other obstacles that are otherwise immovable.

Additionally, men and women have different approaches to addressing the breakdown in family communication. A gender balanced approach to conciliation helps both husband and wife feel heard, better understand the other party, and to find better ways to get to the heart of the matter rather than staying bogged down in conflict.

Another benefit of gender balanced mediation is the sense of fairness and neutrality. When working with a husband and wife,  the husband may feel disadvantaged if he was working with two female conciliators instead of one male and one femail conciliator.

Even when the reality is that each conciliator is neutral, the mere perception by one party or the other that there is an imbalance, unfairness or gender bias, can be the kiss of death in a successful mediation.

Most significantly, a male-female conciliator team allows us to use the unique gifts God bestowed on each of us as a man or as a woman to help families.

Genesis 1:27 reads “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Other conciliators I have worked with have shared the following: “God created us differently in our thinking, in our emotional responses, and in our psychological responses to conflict. And, we need a male-female team to balance these differences.” “A man and woman team provides a much fuller spectrum of listening, reflecting and responding productively to what the parties are sharing.”

Because we are deeply committed to this gender-balanced approach to Christian Conciliation, we are in the process of training more male conciliators so that we are able to best serve families.