Active listening is a key, two-phase strategy used by trained Mediators. Between family members, active listening is more than just hearing and repeating (“I heard you say…Did I understand you correctly?”). Phase 2 of active listening is Acknowledging.

What does Acknowledging mean?

You may not like everything you heard from your parent, spouse, former spouse, or sibling. But you cans always find something in a family member’s statement that is their way of asking for acknowledgement. And then each family member should show appreciation through their acknowledgement reply.

An example:

Sister: “You have no idea what it’s like working full-time, managing my kids’ schedules AND making sure Dad gets to all his medical appointments, then following up with the doctors and prescriptions. How dare you question my judgment about the doctors! When do you think I have time to fill you in on what the doctor said, in addition to everything else on my plate?”

Brother’s acknowledgment response: “If I hear you correctly, this is a very stressful part of your day. I want you to know that I appreciate how you’ve managed Dad’s medical care and the stress this adds to your life. I live 1500 miles away so I can’t be there, but you are wonderful to do this for all of us.”

Acknowledging is a tool used by the neutral Mediator to manage tense and high conflict situations. After Acknowledgment, empathy may follow. The acts of recognizing and acknowledging family members can help shift from their firm confrontational positions (“I’m right, you’re wrong”) towards common interests, and, often are the first step to creating workable solutions.

If you would like to learn more about these self-help techniques, I recommend you read “Mom Always Liked You Best” (Elder Decisions, Boston, Massachusetts, available online at Agreement Resources, LLC).

If your family requires a neutral Mediator, please contact my office to learn about my mediation services, BPA Mediation, and visit

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