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Martha Clarke, mediator
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a mediator

By
Danielle Goldstein
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…according to Martha Clarke, 56.

We don’t consider our neighbours’ feelings enough

‘I volunteer in west London doing community mediation between neighbours, and nearly all the rows are about noise. Often people will compromise: it could be as simple as putting a carpet on a wood floor. You’d think that’s common sense, but the problem is they’ve got to the point where they can’t communicate without shouting.’

Non-Londoners are more patient

‘I’ve worked all over the country and I would say the issues are nearly always the same: bullying, stress, racism, sexism… But Londoners are busier. They’re very time-poor and want a quick fix for their problems, whereas people outside the capital are more laid back.’

The best way to tackle rush hour is by breathing

‘Let’s say that on the tube someone pushes in front of me in a queue. I’d say to them, “I saw you pushing in front and it made me feel resentful.” I’m not saying I don’t feel like screaming sometimes, but I recognise when I’m feeling that way and try to control it. The best thing to do is breathe slowly and deeply. It’s amazing what effect that has on you.’

You should never go shopping with colleagues

‘I had a dispute between two women in an office who went out shopping together at lunchtime and one of them said in a shop, “This is a lovely handbag, I think I might get it.” The next day the other woman appeared with the handbag and they rowed about it – they didn’t want to sit next to each other. And it all stemmed from this handbag!’

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a prop maker.

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