How Deep Should You Prod?

29 Sep

Being a journalist-turned-therapist, “WHY” is one of my all-time favorite questions. It’s the fastest way to get to the heart of the matter, and it makes people think about their motivations, their feelings, and their concerns all at once.

But, I’ve also learned the downside of “WHY” and discovered that prodding too deeply into someone’s motivations may actually hinder progress, especially at the mediation table.

At a certain point, finding out WHY someone did something starts to become less productive than finding out how to resolve the problem. why

In my therapy office, this often happens with infidelity. Although it’s important to understand one’s motivation to cheat, once that motivation is uncovered, it’s important to the let “WHY” fade into the background. What starts to matter more is HOW the couple can move forward, what changes can be made, and how a stronger bond can be built.

Same thing at the mediation table: No need to spend an inordinate amount of time finding out why someone made the choice he/she made. Instead, spend your time wisely, by working toward the future and coming up with an agreement that works for all involved.

As for me, letting go of the “WHY” is a hard habit to break. After all, in journalism, we’re taught to dig until we’ve uncovered everything. But, at the mediation table, as in life, settling for a good-enough explanation will just have to be…well…good enough.


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